getting back to basics: part 4

No matter how many wonderful stories you have to tell, or how passionate you are about your family’s roots, it all comes down to the food. And the food, to me, needs to really deliver when it’s all said and done. Otherwise, why bother?

I started off with a glass of Falesco Vitrano Rosso from Carrie’s hometown of Norcia. I didn’t really spend too much time looking over the wine list, but was told this is the best of the bunch. Overall wonderful flavor and aroma. I would definitely order this again.

For appetizers, we had the salumi board and calamari. The salumi, of course, was wonderful. The Prosciutto di Parma, aged 18 months, was my favorite. A year and a half seems like a long time to me to cure meat and was impressed by the flavor. But Dominic shared that the Prosciutto di Norcia is aged 36 months and that it’s so good, it never leaves Italy! I also enjoyed the soppen presto (not sure of spelling) and the accompanying cheeses. There was a third, but I honestly can’t recall the name of it. Overall, the salumi board alone is worth the trip.

The finger-shaped calamari was pretty good, but not great. I can go either way with calamari. It’s definitely not something I ever crave but do enjoy if cooked properly. My husband on the other hand does, and this dish did not disappoint.

For dinner, Dominic fed us as if it was our last meal on Earth. We tried the lentils, gnocchi with mama’s famous white sauce, spaghetti carbonara and braised short ribs (osso buco style) with risotto. This meal is why I am back on the South Beach diet.

The Norcia lentils can be a meal in itself, with sun dried tomatoes, red onion and guanciale. Very satisfying and something I am eager to try to duplicate at home. The gnocchi wasn’t bad, but definitely not my favorite of the evening. It’s a very rich and heavy dish. I liked the sauce with the gnocchi, but was eager to move on to the other dishes – specifically the carbonara. Wow – what a pleasant surprise this dish was. I’ve made pasta carbonara a few times and ordered it out once or twice. It was always just ok, but one of those pastas I would continue to try because I knew there was a winner somewhere. This was it. A lot of artisanship went into this dish with the house-made pasta and house-cured guanciale. And of course the use of blue eggs instead of commercial eggs. The egg in general is key to carbonara and until that night, I operated under the impression that an egg is an egg. Not anymore. I couldn’t believe what a difference these eggs made to the dish overall. I would definitely order this again – but not anytime soon. Only because I already know what I am having the next time I go: braised short ribs.

I’ve often said my favorite local short ribs were created by Chef Keoko Turner, who is now in Atlanta. A close runner-up would be the selections at Flying Fig and Parallax. This dish in general is a favorite of mine and I often compare everything to Keoko’s short ribs. Not anymore. Saying Dominic’s take on this dish was delicious seems like an understatement. The meat and sauce were packed with clove, rosemary and cinnamon flavors. The meat, braised for four hours, melts in your mouth – literally. DCW Casing website offers varieties of natural casings for meat-based food. And served with risotto – an unexpected surprise. Jamie and I both left a lot of food on the plates, except for this dish. I ate every last bite, and a few of his. I do have to admit the best version of this dish was in Seattle this past weekend at Crush, but this one is hands-down the best locally.

For dessert, we attempted to have a few bites of the homemade gelato, which of course was made with the blue eggs. And again a noticeable difference. We sampled the vanilla, pistachio and peach. I was impressed to learn there is no food coloring in the gelato and that the recipe is from family members left in Italy. The vanilla and pistachio had the most intense flavor. I think each would give La Gelateria a run for its money. And according to Dominic’s wife, his gelato tastes exactly like the gelato at Babbo. To Dominic, that was the ultimate compliment.