Sunday, January 8, 2012

Il Pittore, Grazie

Il Pittore was a delightful choice for our final restaurant review meal of 2011.  Its exposed brick walls and beams, sizable skylight and wide planked wooden floors give the place a clean, modern air of rustic elegance.  The food echoes this trend.

We received a friendly greeting from our server, with whom we generated a cheerful rapport throughout the evening, ultimately trading trivia questions--he was a Physics guru owing to the fact that his dad taught the subject for years and he had an impressive knowledge of force, motion, and the conservation of angular momentum.

We started with a tryptic of crudos--which our waiter wryly clarified was served raw.  The tuna jalapeno was the highlight of the trio. 

Tuna Crudo

We are big fans of octopus and rarely resist it on a menu (save those fried teething rings that pass for bar food, which we strenuously avoid).  Il Pittore's version did not disappoint.
Braised Octopus with pickled peppers, potatoes and arugula
And we also tried the foie gras, which was excellent, uniquely paired with savory jams and crackers.
Foie Gras with savory pizzelles and lambrusco jellies

We split two pastas as an intermezzo--the duck agnolotti (pictured below) and the corzetti ("pasta coins") with braised goat, mint and chili oil Loved 'em both.
Duck-filled Agnolotti with juniper berries and duck proscuitto

We went 3 for 4 on our mains. While this would be a stunning stat for, say, Ryan Howard, we expect 4/4 at a restaurant of this quality, and if we can be a bit indelicate, price. The swordfish with chick peas and pearl onions in a smoked tomato broth was a treat. The braised veal cheeks (chosen by 2 of our group), were a special that evening. The veal was epic; melt-in-your-mouth tender, flavorful, and utterly transcendent. The one dark mark on the evening was the dourade, which our server described as a mild, flaky Mediterranean white fish similar to halibut. Alas, this description was inaccurate. The dourade was more similar to mackerel in flavor--which is a far oilier and strongly flavored fish than I would have ordered.  I consoled myself by tasting everyone else's main courses, and the waiter was supremely apologetic when I gave him my honest reaction. 

We enjoyed the brussels sprouts side,

Brussels Sprouts with pine nuts and burrata.

and always suckers for a cheese course, we didn't even try to resist the selection of Italian gems offered here....

We showed remarkable restraint on desserts, only sampling 3.   The creme brulee napoleon with pistachio tulles combined 'a few of our favorite things'--well, it was something of a holiday celebratory dinner, after all, even if we were working.  The gingerbread pear crisp was sufficiently sweet and gooey so that I did not have to deem it "breakfast", which is an insult I often hurl at desserts that pair fruit and crust but don't top off the meal with enough decadence. 
Pear Crumble

And the chocolate bomboloni, bittersweet chocolate fritters stuffed with nutella and served with vanilla sauce, well, what's not to like?

Applause to the rapidly expanding Starr Restaurant Organization for creating another jewel in the crown. We have to admit, though, that Il Pittore is an occasion restaurant, not a place you'd pop into after a movie for a quick bite. With starters in the $10-$17 range and main courses around $28, this is a special night out. The good news is that you won't be disappointed. The contemporary elegance of the food and the decor make a visit to Il Pittore most memorable.

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