Saturday, June 27, 2015

CENTROLINA will carry you to cielo (that's Italian for heaven) 7-25-15

We have known Chef Amy Brandwein for decades since she started at Galileo with Roberto Donna and it is such a treat that after years with Roberto and at other fine establishments in the DC area, she is now in her own place. Osteria CENTROLINA opened just weeks ago at 974 Palmer Alley ( in the new elegant CityCenter DC complex which is gorgeous.
The fact that earlier in the week, the Zagat guide listed Centrolina as one of the 15 hottest new dining spots in the entire USA made the place booming and I am sure it will continue to do so, as the food is simply superb.
It's not huge and shares space with the Centrolina Market selling some excellent foods, drinks and treats. I will state up front, that the space is noisy, but I took three performers (a pianist and two opera singers) as well as two dear friends/clients (after a recital they gave at the Phillips Collection) and we were so involved in conversation all night, the noise didn't bother us.
We sat down and right away bumped into friends Wendy Rieger and Jim Handley from NBC dining at the next table!  It's definitely a fun place for everyone.
I perused the not too big wine list and decided on two reds, a huge Barolo for later and a Bastioni Chianti to start. After a while our server, Steve returned to advise the Chianti was out, but that they had a superb Tascante, Ghiaia Nera 2012 from Sicily which we all agreed was superb with black cherry overtones and lush flavor.
The menu has starters/pastas/mains and is very simple and straightforward. I suggested we each choose a starter and main and split two pastas.
Steve began to scribble our choices:
Burrata came with Zucchini Scapece
Crudo was tune with yummy beets, first tomatoes and lemon
Pulpo was seasoned amazingly with paprika and came with potato confit, cotechino and celery salad.

We enjoyed the Tascante so much we asked for another bottle, but they were out of that, so we were offered a Zisola Nero di Avola from Sicily 2011 made by Mazzei that I said was like black chalk. Not bad chalk, yummy earthy, deep black wine, that was super with our pastas.
I had asked for one order of Reginette which is Quid ink with black cod, crab, morels and chanterelles, but they were out of that (already three down!) and I know I will have it next time and arrive earlier!
We ordered the table's choice of Pappardelle with Rabbit Ragu (an old favorite of Roberto Donna) with black olive and Nebbiolo which was good, but the
Ceci e Tria was a spectacular buckwheat with chickpeas, anchovy and garlic that packed a superb spicy kick.

As I mentioned I ordered a Barolo earlier and you can imagine my face when the sommeileuse came over to say they were out of that. She offered up a divine Situ Moresco 2011 "Barolo-style" wine which ran much higher, but for the same price. I was a happy camper.

Almost all of us ordered the same main course, Tonno or rare tuna with a huge bone marrow (my FB page has a photo of the singers with the bones in their mouths--as well as the dish itself) on the plate, charred onion, snap pea and a rich pinot nero sauce.
Across from me, piled high so I could almost not see my guest, was Fritto Misto of chicken, lamb, veal, sausage, zucchini, onion and just about anything that can be fried. I don't see how one person could ever eat this. Veggies available as side dishes included my favorite Rapini with Garlic, Anchovy, Hot peppers and lemon zest. The Farro comes with wood roasted mushrooms, peas and peas shoots and is also quite filling and tasty and the Asparagus are roasted perfectly with green garbanzos and citrus zest.
We were all full, but could not resist dessert or cheese and agreed on two desserts to share as well as one cheese plate. It was a brilliant choice.
Torta di Limone is ricotta, pistachio, lemon and is scattered with black and red raspberries. The Pignoli is ike a pecan pie but richer with a pine-nut honey crostata and a parmesam puff as well as chocolate drizzle and gelato.
The cheeses were all tasty and varied and came with superb crisp fruited crackers that were very very thin as well as mostardo, pear jam/mostardo mix and some fresh currants.
Molaterno is a sheep cheese from Puglia that is akin to parmesan
Truffaldino is a British truffled cheddar
Jershire is a Pennsylvania cow
Gorgonzola Dolce (super with the pear jam/mostardo)
We were all thrilled with the food, the service and offer our sincerest congratulations to DC's newest hottest Chef Amy Brandwein and her entire staff.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

AL DENTE always a treat (less so with 6 twelve-year olds) or Samuel's super celebration (6-14-15)

Samuel decided he wanted a birthday dinner with some of his best friends and what better a place to choose than Roberto Donna's AL DENTE just around the corner.
The evening started off with massive downpours, so we were happy not to have to go more than 3 minutes by car!
Once ensconced the boys seemed to commence tearing each other apart verbally; isn't abuse great:-))....
The bread came with olive oil and all the boys got soda (more!) as we ordered a bottle of Vermentino "I Fiori" 2013 (menu says 2011) from Pala in Sardegna which was refreshing and delicious and would work with our seafood to come.
The boys all ordered pizza, pasta Bolognese, gnocchi or such and some of them even split a Caesar Salad.
Ali, our server, was patient as could be with this crowd as he recited the specials and out eyes lit up.
I knew I was starting with The Fried Soft Shell Crab with Tomato & Potato Puree and a Ramp Pesto which was out of this world; the best soft shells so far this season! Will went for the Grilled Octopus with Fennel, Orange, Black Olive Salad & EVOO....yum. These two were divine with the wine as was Will's main course, Spaghetti alla Chitara with sautéed Soft Shell Crabs, Tomato, garlic & Basil. I went for the special Roasted Quail with Braised Leeks and a reduced red wine was divine and perfect with a glass of Baby Amarone Cantine di Ora 2012 from Veneto suggested by the chef himself, who was gracious enough to come over and greet us all a couple of times.
At the end of the meal, he even surprised us with a superb chocolate birthday cake with a hint of apricot filling. Samuel loves chocolate and this was indeed a superb cake, and I am not a cake fan!
We took the boys home so they could tear up the house some more and run in the torrential downpours; I never did this!
Well, we all ate well and had a super fun time.