Lucky me – I was treated to not one, but two birthday dinners this weekend! Both restaurants were Italian, so I guess that’s a telling sign of where my taste buds gravitate to.
On Friday night my parents came down from Wilkes-Barre, and we headed to Melograno, a BYOB near Rittenhouse Square. Chef Gianluca Demontis was born in Rome and his wife Rosemarie runs the front of the house. For starters we shared mussels with white wine, garlic & fresh diced tomato, (I thought it could have used a little more flavor) and grilled octopus with cherry tomatoes and potatoes. I liked the lightness that the tomatoes and herbs brought to this dish. For dinner, I tried the hand cut pasta with asparagus and almond pesto– a combination I had never encountered before. I really enjoyed the sauce, but the pasta not as much as I had expected. They were like thick squares of dough, and I think I would have preferred the dish with a different cut of noodle, such as fettuccine. Practically stuffed, we shared the panna cotta and a ricotta pine nut cake, both to our liking.
On Saturday, it was just Matt and me. He wanted to make a reservation and surprise me, but since it was done on my OpenTable account, I immediately received the e-mail confirmation for a table for two at Amis on Saturday, March 26 at 7:45. One of Marc Vetri’s restaurants, it’s hard to snag a table at there, but upon arrival we were seated right away and began perusing the unusual menu. A few weeks ago I wrote about some adventurous eating, and Amis was another one of those places. Sweetbreads (edible thymus glands), tripe stew (stomach lining) and veal tongue (speaks for itself) are some of the Roman delicacies you might dare to try. We took the plunge and opted for the grilled veal tongue, served with a pepper relish. It had a nice, smoky flavor, but I couldn’t really get past the spongy texture. The good thing about this restaurant is that all of the dishes are small portions for sharing, so we weren’t committed to a giant plate of veal tongues! The other small bites we ordered included: arancini (rice balls), grilled quail, gnocchi with oxtail ragu, and grilled tuna steak with fennel and citrus. The highlights for me were the rice balls, the tuna, and the scrumptious dessert of pistachio profiteroles with bittersweet chocolate.
On top of all of this, Matt gave me a really cool gift: a ceramic knife, perfect for me to experiment with in the kitchen. I’ll let you know how it works out.