I’m Italian. Not part or even half, but 100 percent. Growing up, we rarely ate Italian out because no one could cook as well as my mom or grandma. My school lunches consisted of veal cutlet sandwiches or left over ossobucco. Regardless of the situation, sauce never came from a jar, breadcrumbs were always scratch and grating cheese had to be imported from an Italian grocer. I still follow these guidelines ingrained in me from an early age, and thanks to the Italian women that had such an impact on my life, I’m still fussy about where I go for Italian.
Since Battuto sadly closed, I haven’t been to dinner anywhere in Little Italy. There are places there we visit frequently, like Presti’s and the galleries, but truthfully, with the exception of Baricelli’s (specifically the patio in the summer); I’m not overly impressed with any of the restaurants. That is, until last night.
I just knew we were going to love Michaelangelo’s. Our good friends ate there a few months ago and raved about it, and my folks liked their dinner so much last weekend, they went back after the play for drinks and dessert in the bar.
The restaurant itself is slightly too traditional for my taste. While there are touches I enjoyed, like the ornate mirror, wine coolers in plain view and crown molding, overall, it’s not my ideal décor. The bar area was more my taste, with darker wood floors, fireplace, and a few oversized chairs to enjoy the fire. On our next visit, we’d much prefer to sit here or on the patio, which also looked promising.
For appetizers, I bypassed the passata soup, a puree of barlotti and cannellini beans with cured pork and pecorino Romano, for a half order of cured meats and cheese. Jamie couldn’t resist and went for the soup. For dinner, we did the usual and agreed to share entrees. I had a half order of the veal and ricotta stuffed tortellini with prosciutto, peas and Parmigiano Reggiano. Jamie went with the braised short rib special, with asparagus and roasted red pepper polenta.
Since I ordered a half order of the antipasto, I was expecting just a few pieces. Instead, it was easily enough for say a table of four to share. I enjoyed all the meats, especially the sopressta, and was happy with my decision. That is, until I tried the soup. Jamie basically shut down all communication while eating the soup. He saved me a little and I was immediately kicking myself for not ordering my own in favor of the salumi. This might have been the best soup I’ve ever had. I was scraping the bowl and staring at it as if more would magically appear.
Before our dinner came out, we enjoyed the fresh warm, crusty bread with olive oil, balsamic, thyme and rosemary. Give me a loaf of bread with that olive oil mixture, good cheese, salumi and wine and I’d be the happiest person. In fact, sometimes in the summer, we’ll sit on our patio and that’s all we’ll have for dinner.
For my meal, I absolutely loved my pasta. The sauce was creamy, but not too rich. The peas and prosciutto were cooked perfectly. And the size was equally as impressive. For a half portion, it was easily enough for us to share and would have been too much if it was just for me. This dish was just one of about five pastas that really stood out and I can’t wait to go back and try the others, especially the pappardelle with veal, duck and tomato-Barolo ragu (you just know anything with Barolo is going to be good!).
When the server brought out Jamie’s short ribs, it resembled something out of Bedrock. The bone was easily 10 inches long and two inches thick. The presentation and aroma from the dish was so good, other diners turned their heads. Unfortunately, the taste didn’t match the presentation. He said it wasn’t bad, but definitely not great and not even close to our favorite short ribs at Crush. He felt it was a little dry and was surprised he needed a knife to cut the meat and that overall, it tasted more like good roast then what he was anticipating. After I tried my portion, I had to agree. I enjoyed it, but did feel it was a bit uneventful and that I’ve definitely had better. The polenta, however, was very good, especially after it soaked up the nice veal demi-glace.
For dessert, I had the peanut butter gelato with strawberry jam. Jamie, a self-proclaimed tiramisu expert, not surprisingly didn’t hesitate to order this.
Great presentation with the tiramisu, served on a mini wood serving board. It was light, fluffy and very enjoyable. He finished every bite and was definitely satisfied. My gelato was also very satisfying, although the consistency was more like custard. I liked the strawberry jam and felt that made the dessert.
I tried to get Jamie to try a bite, but he wouldn’t budge. This is one thing about him that dumbfounds me: he almost never feels the need to try a bite of something I am enjoying, unless we agree to swap dinners. I’m the exact opposite. If I had a go-go-Gadget arm, I’d be sneaking a bite of someone’s dish five tables over. I like to try just about anything and after five years, am still perplexed that he can sit across from me and not want to try my dessert, appetizer, or whatever it may be, no matter how hard I keep telling him you HAVE to try this.
While I still miss Battuto and constantly think about their bucatini all amatriciana and anise breadsticks, we definitely found a favorite Italian spot in town and will quickly head back for more contemporary Italian fare. I might even have to bring my gram.