Archive for April, 2012

Hail Mario!

I feel like a princess whenever I set foot in one of the castles of the Mario Batali/Joe Bastianich empire. And it has absolutely nothing to do with prices because comparatively speaking, these restaurants are very inexpensive with the exception of Del Posto – and with very good reason. As soon as I sit down on a Batali chair, I feel like I am being waited on hand and foot. A certain magic wand is waved upon each dish before it is delivered.

So I was in the mood for some dishes that we don’t typically order. Don’t get me wrong – the house-aged prosciutto is a fantastic staple, and the gelato desserts at Otto are a light and delightful way to end a meal, but it was time to head back to Lupa. The prosciutto popped off the menu, and I gritted my teeth when the waitress came over, so as not to say “prosciu…” No, I’m going to try something that I would never order elsewhere because, frankly, I don’t really care for mushrooms, unless it’s portabella. But with Mario, it doesn’t matter if you don’t like a particular food. You could order poop on a platter, and somehow you’ll be fantasizing about that delicious platter for weeks to follow.

I said it: “I’ll have the roasted mushrooms with the cavolo nero and shaved ricotta.” The cavolo nero, we were informed, is a type of kale, but not as bitter. Did I really order that? Oh, and thank goodness I did! It was hen-of -the-wood mushrooms, fully of earthiness, and the greens were shredded and also roasted, giving them a little bit of a crisp. All that was topped with a hard ricotta, adding a bit of saltiness. Wow.

Then, the seafood spoke loudly to us off the menu: Red Snapper with Sunchokes, Grapefruit & Rapini (broccoli rabe) landed in front of me. The skin on the snapper..oh yes, crispy again..was balanced by the soft sunchoke puree and the refreshing, cool citrus. There was zero bitterness to the rapini. It was like fresh greens from the garden.

 

In front of him swam in the Fluke with Lentils, Bitter Greens & Agrumato, which is an extra-virgin olive oil pressed with lemons. Without wanting to interpret the flow of taste and the perfectly crafted combination coming off of my plate, I waited until I was finished to taste the fluke. It was another winner but a close second.

Finally, the dessert round was nearing. Unlike Otto, Lupa offers more than gelato. And while Otto’s gelato combinations are works of art unto themselves, I needed something a little more solid. The olive oil torta and roasted pears fit that criteria. I immediately recalled the first time I heard “olive oil gelato” at Otto and cringed until it touched the tip of my tongue. There was no cringing this time when I heard “olive oil” as an adjective to torta.

The Apician Spiced Dates & Mascarpone was a healthier choice, but three dates instead of two large ones might have made it a more worthy contender. I leave the Batali/Bastianich abode smiling once again. More to follow on Otto.

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