That was, until tonight. My close friends had been in a similar predicament, yet decided that for the birthday boy (Happy Birthday Jeff!), we would make the trek down upon opening, take our chances, and hope for the best.
Little did we know the endeavor for which we were in store....
Or, just call us fat. We don't really care.
Three pasta dishes and two pizzas for four people. Was it a lot of food? Sure. Did it all get consumed happily? Save for two slices, you bet your ass.
Before we go any further, I'm going to qualify all of the pasta dishes with one vital detail - the noodles were cooked to perfection. And I'm not talking pretty good, and I'm not talking great - I mean dead-on-balls accurate. A dreamy al-dente with enough texture to make your mouth realize it had solid food and yet a smoothness that brought you back to the days of eating comforting childhood staples.
The scarpinocc look like shallow bowls, or deeper plates, with handles on either end. This creates a tiny well in which the sauce or topping can rest, yet not overpower the pasta itself. Because this dish was simply topped with tallegio and a drizzle of balsamic (30-year aged, I believe she said), it was the perfect vessel to be filled. Tallegio is a milder cheese, yet still lent the essential saltiness, while the aceto balsamico was the ideal counterbalance for sweetness - almost syrupy. The combination, and more importantly, the proportion of salt to sweet that filled those tiny plates, made this dish a winner.
The unsung hero of this dish, however, was the preserved meyer lemon. In gathering all the components, it contained a good amount of grounded flavors: the favas, the cheese and whey, even the dough. But the lemon elevated the dish with a spark of brightness. Without it, the plate would have been all earth tones, yet when I bit into that tiny lemon nugget, I could taste the dish being lifted (quite literally) up to where the lemon was hanging from the tree, higher and higher, until a harmonious balance existed between the minerality of the legumes and freshness of the citrus.
As I gazed upon the beautiful, black pepper-specked sheets of parppardelle, I knew I was in for something special. Again, texture was on point, but I really wish the black pepper kicked me in the throat. It was subtle, which is normally a huge plus for me. Though with SO much else going on, I think they could have punched it up a notch. Had this been a more simply topped dish, I think it would have been right on the "dough."
Our pizzas arrived swiftly after our pastas disappeared. First up was the traditional margherita:
Well, way to prove me wrong, F+W (can I call you that now?)
How they did it, I just can't fathom. They managed to have the basil permeate the entire slice, not just the bite with the leaf itself. Every single bite had fruity olive oil, creamy fior di latte, and a leafy basil slap in the face that had me do a double-take to make sure there was no pesto on it.
Second, we went for the maiele:
Additionally - for 99% of the crust on each pie, it was spot on. A great cracking thin crust with a little chew before you hit the sauce and cheese. Yet there was just one spot in the dead center that was just thin enough that the sauce/olive oil/cheese made it soft before I could get that same crunch as I did everywhere else. But again, pretty damn near perfect.
And what birthday dinner would be complete without dessert?
A bad one.
So, we got the ever-popular chocolate budino:
Start with that as a base, and top it with a fluffy coffee and caramel flavored whipped cream. If that weren't enough, sprinkle some flaky sea salt on top to really bring out that sweetness. Now I know that the "add-salt-to-sweet" thing has been around for a while. But my biggest pet peeve is that people are still generally afraid to take full advantage of the extreme benefits to be had. F+W doesn't F around with the salt. It was generous and there was no doubt about the fact that they added it liberally to the top to ensure you got a few flakes in every bite. For me, that threw this dessert over the top and made it a home run.
As for the "worth the wait" issue that is constantly raised. Trick question. I would absolutely wait 30-45 minutes for a table here for a bunch of reasons: I love the cozy, homey atmosphere, you can easily grab a glass of white and chat while gearing up for the experience head, and, well the food is worth that type of wait. But here's a little secret:
You don't have to! If your plans allow it, just show up early. While the space is on the small side, they reserve roughly half the tables for walk ins. Plan this strategically, and you'll be well on your way to a delicious, flavorful Italian food experience.
A special thanks goes out to our server, Sam, for an incredible wine recommendation, a delightfully jovial demeanor, wonderful smile, good conversation, quick service, and a candle in Jeff's dessert.
Birthday dinners are supposed to be special, and this is surely one we won't forget.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY JEFF!