by Elissa Karg
We had a cozy table by the window on a blustery night. A candle flickered under a beaded shade. The young waiter practiced his Italian. It felt like a date.
A basket of crusty Italian bread arrived as we studied the menu. It was served with butter whipped with olive oil and spiced with parsley and garlic. So far, so good.
I ordered medaglioni de vitello sautéed with brandy and port. Two medallions of veal tenderloin were served on a platter ringed with braised vegetables. The sauce pooled under the arrangement and flavored every bite.
It was all good, but my favorite by far was a tiny head of radicchio, its purple leaves browned in butter. I had never pictured radicchio outside of a salad bowl; it is delightful when cooked.
I stopped my date from explaining why the veal did not have the pale color of veal in this country; I already knew it is achieved at great personal sacrifice to the calf. However, every bite was so tender it seemed to melt. Listed on the menu at $26, remember to convert to U.S. funds (currently about $17.16) before you decide to pass it up.
Just as good was the fettuccine alla pescatore, homemade pasta with a spicy tomato sauce laced with wine and loaded with mussels, scallops, shrimp and calamari. Every morsel of seafood was perfect, absolutely fresh and not overcooked.
Dinner comes with a plain salad of romaine, dressed with balsamic vinegar. Suddenly a simple salad acquires depth.
The wine list is short, and offers only a few choices by the glass. It is arranged by region, and includes accurate descriptions. We chose a crisp white wine from northern Italy, reminiscent of lemons, which complemented our dinner of shellfish and pasta.
Only the desserts were disappointing. I asked, as I always do, which were made in-house. Only the tiramisu, the waitperson said. When he brought it to the table, he apologized for its appearance. It was a bit lopsided, something we probably would not have noticed. But I did notice that the lusciousness of the mascarpone cheese was somehow diminished. Tiramisu is not difficult to make if you start with fine ingredients it is a no-brainer.
Elsewhere on the menu, fine ingredients, creatively prepared, are the order of the day. On a subsequent visit we shared an appetizer of antipasto freddo, a mixed cold appetizer plate with marinated eggplant, roasted peppers, prosciutto, artichokes, olives and tomatoes. The strong flavors played well against the crusty Italian bread that comes with dinner.
The menu suggests that pasta be ordered as a "primi" course with a more substantial "secondi" to follow. But most diners will find either to be plenty.
The Fettucine con Salsa di Pomodoro e Melanzane featured tiny eggplants stuffed with herbed bread crumbs, tossed with a light tomato sauce. Another dish we tried was Penne e Tonno, made with chunks of fresh tuna and asiago cheese.
When you walk down Erie Street in Windsors Little Italy, there are so many restaurants, its hard to know where to stop. Now you know.