Monday, March 31, 2014

Chef Roberto DONNA does it oh-so-deliciously at AL DENTE in DC (3-30-14)

At last year's March of Dimes we purchased a set of dinners to share with our dear friends Mel & Juan. The first of these occurred last night at AL DENTE where Chef Roberto Donna has re-created
his old tasting venue, LABORATORIO in a more casual setting now called Roberto's 8. While we did this on a Sunday, anyone can attend AL DENTE's tasting evenings (of 12+ courses for $85 each!) and sit facing the kitchen at a counter while you watch all the food being prepared just feet away. These are done most Tuesdays-Thursdays (info at
Our dinner is a mere sampling of the wonders you might encounter, and I guarantee you that we shall return again soon for this tasting extravaganza!
A glass of CLARA C Fiori Rose Prosecco came first and we sipped as the various amuses appeared.
BURRATA came with a  cherry tomato and Ligurian EVOO, but the treat here was the crystallized BASIL that gave the dish a slight sweet crunch. When I aksed Chef how this was made, he basically said, it is a very long process! There was wonderful focaccia to mop of the oil as well as all the other sauces that were all spectacular.
We switched to a superb white TREBBIANO Spolentino 2008 from Novelli in Umbria that would be great on any warm day and was superb with amuse #2: Poached ASPARAGUS and Nuts atop Whipped Olive Oil.
This oil was like whipped cream and buttery, yet something so fresh as well.
Braised PULPO (Octopus) was super tender and served with greens over Homemade HUMMUS and a bit of Balsamic. I love Hummus, but this was an Italian and wonderful take on the middle-Eastern treat.
Next came FIOR di ZUCCHINI, gorgeous deep fried zucchini flowers stuffed with an Herb RICOTTA over a Beet Puree with Dehydrated Tomato on top. This was one of my favorite dishes and is indeed a herald of spring, even though it had just stop SNOWING outside (at least it will be 65 degrees today!). The ricotta had a hint of lemon and the flowers had been deep fried to a crispy crunch in beer batter!
My favorite wine of the night was the Percchenino 2012 San Luigi Dogliani DOLCETTO which was as smooth as silk and simply divine with the POTATO GNOCCHI that came with delightful chunks of perfectly seared  FOIE GRAS (In Marsala Wine) over Caramleized Onions with Parmeggiano Reggiano. New places may pop up in DC or elsewhere where pasta is on the menu, but there is no question that the best pastas
and risottos have always emerged from the kitchen of Chef Donna.
Our just as impressive second pasta was a DUCK RAVIOLI (the raviolis were elongated and rectangular for a change) with Rosemary, Porcini Mushrooms, Duck Jus and of course, Parmeggiano Reggiano!
Our second red wine of the evening was a much bigger Super Tuscan 2009 AL PASSO from Tolaini which went beautifully with both huge meat courses:
Crispy BABY PIG SHOULDER with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Pickled Shallots and Orange Reduction. This meat just melted in your mouth and being a pickle fiend, I was totally amazed that anyone would even think to pickle a shallot. Why not, we do garlic all the time?!
More melt-in-your-mouth meat arrived in the form of Braised LAMB SHOULDER with Fried BRUSSELS SPROUTS that were crispy and crunchy for texture and another wonderful treat for the tongue.
We were nearing our limits and happy to see the Moscasto d'Asti from Falchetto (del Fant) arrive in small glasses to cleanse our palates for dessert which was a superb trio perfectly sized:
FRITTOLE are fried ricotta-filled balls (like bombolini) with Sour Cherries (although I could not taste the cherries, everyone else did) next to a Vanilla Nut Gelato and a BOUGIA or fried dough like funnelcake drizzled with honey. All three sat royally atop a swatch of dark chocolate that we had to wipe up every last bit of.
Now you know why we will be back at AL DENTE and seated at Roberto's 8 (there are eight seats only for these evenings) as well!