by Todd Abrams
About four years ago, when Chef Jerald Widman, his wife Donna, Tracy Parlangeli and her husband Jon decided to open a restaurant, they were looking for a catchy one-word name to draw attention to the place. Just because they settled on the word "frittata" doesn't mean they were completely enamored with the Italian egg dish. But the funny thing is that, after sampling his creations, you might think Widman has spent his career refining the omelet's open-faced Mediterranean cousin, which is finished under the broiler and served unfolded.
Take the $7 house frittata for instance: a blend of three eggs, caramelized shallots and white wine topped with Asiago cheese and roasted potatoes — simply delicious. For a bit more zest, try the delectable honeybee frittata filled with chunks of chorizo sausage, strips of roasted poblano peppers and cactus, then topped with a salad of cilantro and fresh greens in a small tortilla bowl, with a side of crème fraîche. Foodies and vegetarians will adore a combination of chèvre, sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts topped with fresh greens and plated with a thick, tangy balsamic vinegar sauce.
There are several more "house built" frittatas to choose from, or you can create your own from a long list of optional ingredients. And then there's always the daily frittata special.
But it's not all gourmet frittatas. According to Tracy Parlangeli, there are plenty of what she calls meat-and-potatoes dishes, like a $13 char-grilled beef fillet with scrambled eggs and herb-roasted potatoes. One enjoyable weekend special was composed of smoked country ham, two eggs fried sunny-side-up and a dense barbecue-style sauce with roasted potatoes. We'll take these versions of meat-and-potatoes every time. And, frankly, Frittata's tender roasted and brilliantly seasoned red-skinned potatoes merit their own specific praise.
From the griddle come apple-walnut pancakes and French toast filled with chocolate-raspberry ganache or marscapone. Another breakfast special deconstructs traditional eggs Benedict and remodels it with a fine salmon mousse and a sprinkle of caviar. We were only mildly uncomfortable as a fellow diner and self-proclaimed salmon lover moaned loudly after every bite. Not only do all these breakfast plates come with tasty food on them, they're artfully presented.
Indeed, art suffuses the small dining area. Large, vibrant canvas paintings reflecting the mood of cheerful dining adorn two orange walls. Two cozy oversized chairs and a reading table are set in front of a plywood collage on bright red wall. Above the amber ceramic floor tiling, the dining tables are clothed then papered and stamped with Frittata's unique signatures. Drawing on the table is encouraged. Or use one of the child-friendly chalkboard boxes provided. This is a neighborhood, family restaurant — albeit one slightly upscale.
That doesn't mean you have to clean up too carefully for breakfast. The idea is "gourmet without pretense." Frittata is typically populated with families, hipsters, hipster families, professionals, club kids nursing hangovers and the chance woman in sweatpants and a ball cap sitting at the three-seat counter reading the Sunday papers. An outdoor patio with a view of Main Street adds tables during the warmer months. Only the chronically paranoid would feel uncomfortable here.
The children's menu is no afterthought either. Oats are steel-cut and flavored with real maple syrup. Scrambled eggs come with a slice of fried pancetta. Fresh fruit is a common garnish. For drinks, Frittata offers quality coffee, soda, milk, fresh-squeezed juices and an assortment of tea including a wonderfully creamy hot chai. In season, fresh juice is worth the premium cost, though you wouldn't know the cost unless you asked first. There could be more clarity in the menu with drinks and sides priced along with the other items.
The lunch menu offers salads and sandwiches made with many of the same quality ingredients as the breakfast dishes. The enticing "farm and field" salad tosses dried cranberries, walnuts and gorgonzola with baby greens and raspberry-maple vinaigrette. The grilled chicken sandwich becomes special with the addition of brie and roasted red peppers. Check your watch. Frittata closes when lunch ends at 2:30 p.m., so leave time for one of the house-made desserts.
The partners like Frittata small and manageable. They like their convenient schedules and the fact that they can spend the time required to ensure that every detail of the service is covered. They like the idea of watching the regular diners' children grow up, and they are certainly glad to be part of the community they also live in. They have spent a good deal of energy creating the restaurant as an extension of their own home — and you can feel it when you dine there.
Open 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday; no smoking.