The morning of my birthday was a Wednesday. As I was driving to work, I was thinking that the only place I’d really love to go for dinner was Nonna. We had not been there in a while and I was craving some real Italian food. A few hours later, Hubbard called to tell me he had made reservations for that evening at (where else?) Nonna. What a good husband. I didn’t even have to ask.
This was a an evening like we spent in Rome. Eating course after course. Sipping wine. Lots of sharing of plates. In fact, the only thing we didn’t share was dessert. Nonna doesn’t frown on this practice. It’s a perfectly acceptable way to dine in Italy. Just let them know and they’ll serve the dish appropriately with extra plates, etc.
We started with a bottle of Falanghina, Terradora Dipaolo, Campania ’08. I love white wine and this one was priced right. A small plate of olives and some lovely flatbread arrived at the table. I’ve talked about this bread before. It’s a big round puff. When you cut into it, the interior steam escapes and it becomes flat. Very yummy.
For the antipasta we chose the sformatino of roasted cauliflower with sunnyside up quail egg. This is like an Italian version of souffle. Excellent. Nice and light, with two cute little fried quail eggs staring up at us. Hubbard said, “How can I not order something with fried quail eggs?”.
We moved on to a white pizza of cherrystone clams, sweet onion and fresh herbs. This is one of the few dishes that remains on the menu every night as Chef Barsotti changes the menu daily. We order it every time. No cheese. Just a cracker-crisp, insanely thin crust, slathered with a layer creamy sauce, sprinkled with clams and herbs. It’s fantastic. I could eat it every night.
For the pasta course, I hesitated before I ordered the gnocchi with camelized chanterelles and telleggio. I knew Barsotti was a great chef, but I’ve had a lot of unremarkable gnocchi. In fact, before we went to Italy, I didn’t think there was good gnocchi. I thought I didn’t like it. I was wrong. The tender little potato gnocchi were sitting in a light cream sauce, flavored with the chanterelles and the talleggio cheese that was melted into the sauce. The gnocchi themselves were heavenly. Soft and almost fluffy instead of the dense, dry potato dumplings that you find in so many Italian places around Dallas.
I told our server that this was the best gnocchi I had tasted since Rome. She told the chef and what did he do? Came to our table to talk gnocchi. He told us the secret was in the pasta flour that he used. We told him about the gnocchi we had in Rome in a butter sage sauce. We agreed that his was just as good, maybe even better. He was so pleasant and fun to talk to. Before we left, he came back by the table with a plastic bag containing a sample of this special flour for me to try at home. He didn’t have to do that. Isn’t that nice?
Before the next course, our server came by to drop off a complimentary taste from the bar. A milky yellow drink, served in a cordial glass. Tasted just like lemon pie. Such fun!
Our final course was the Maine sea scallops with salsa verde and artichoke mashed potatoes. It was exactly that… three huge scallops topped with a chopped herb salsa sitting on a mound of mashed potatoes with little chunks of artichoke hearts mixed in. Simply delicious. Not over-sauced or cooked. Just lovely. A perfect way to end a meal if we didn’t have to have dessert.
The dessert is always the same for us. Another item that stays on the menu, the praline nougatine semifreddo with pistachios and acacia honey is not to be missed. Semifreddo is a frozen dessert. The name means semi-frozen. This one is almost like frozen mousse or something. It’s hard to describe and easy to be wild about. We sometimes stop in after a meal elsewhere just to have this dessert and a coffee drink. Mine arrived this evening with a candle in it for my birthday.
What a sweet night. Sweet husband. Fabulous food. What more could a girl want?