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Italian

Bar del Corso – Seattle, WA

If I lived in Beacon Hill I’d probably frequent this spot more than I’d like to admit.  It’s got that laid back neighborhood feel while serving food that proves why it earned the title as one of the best new restaurants in Seattle.  Jerry Corso uses his impressive pizza oven to fire Neapolitan style pizzas with seasonal ingredients that will have you not wanting to share.  It’s a popular spot and because they don’t take reservations, don’t be surprised if there’s a wait but just get a glass of wine and be patient…it’s worth it!

I love octopus and tend to order it whenever I see it on a menu.  This version was well done except I felt the peperonata overwhelmed the dish, not letting the octopus stand out.  But…it was still a great dish and sopping up the leftover sauce with bread was amazing!  Our salad was perfect…there was a great balance of sweet and acidity that made all the ingredients work together.  And the pizza!!!  SO good!  I’d love to go back and try all the others but I have a feeling I would probably want to get the fungi again it was so good:)

Grilled Octopus - with heirloom peperonata

Arugula & roasted sunchokes - Pink Lady apples, pecorino, agro di mosto & extra virgin olive oil

Funghi pizza - crimini mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, housemade sausage, pecorino & fontina

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Uccello – Sydney, Australia

With the nice warm weather Uccello seemed like the perfect lunch spot, especially considering it’s on the top floor of the ivy overlooking the rooftop pool.  Eugenio Riva’s restaurant reminds me of mid-century Palm Springs (there are a number of Jonathan Adler pieces accessorizing the space) mixed with rustic Italian.  I loved how open and airy it felt and how relaxing it was.  I couldn’t help but notice all the other diners there in suits.  Talk about a great business lunch spot:)

The food was vibrant in color and taste and everything was so seasonal and fresh.  My snapper was perfect for lunch – light, perfectly pan fried and seasoned and the accompaniments paired with it weren’t fussy or overwhelming, simply great texture and taste to go along with the star of the plate.

I highly recommend this place for lunch or dinner.  I’ve heard that the pool bar can get quite busy at night along with the restaurant so unless you’re planning on a big night out lunch might be the better option.

San Daniele prosciutto, heirloom tomatoes, figs, marinated Spanish onion salad

Roasted Spatchcock, corn and basil risotto, marsala reduction

Roasted snapper fillet, giardiniera and octopus salad, salsa verde

Broccolini, cherry tomatoes, chili, garlic, parsley

North Bondi Italian Food – Sydney, Australia

Owned by the same people as Icebergs, North Bondi Italian Food (located in North Bondi:)), doesn’t take reservations and is very popular so you need to get there early to put your name in.  But it’s worth it!  The restaurant itself is lively, young and a fun place to end the day with drinks and yummy Italian food.  And let’s not forget about the view…stunning beach view, toned surfing bodies, sunset…doesn’t get much better than that!

To start we got the Beet Salad with goat cheese, spring onions, and beet juice…deilcious!  I’d love to recreate this at home for guests.  The beet juice drizzled on top was so pretty and accentuated the distinctive beet flavor that I love.  For my entrée, my eyes immediately caught the Spaghetti “Arrabbiata” Crab – cooked in a paper bag…what?!  Arrabbiata is one of my favorite Italian pastas and overall I was just curious.  I have before and after photos below of the presentation…clever.  It was interesting eating out of a bag but the flavors were there and I loved the addition of crab…yum!  I would definitely get this again.  My mom got the Pork Schnitzel which was incredible.  So tender and juicy.  The breading was crispy and not too heavy.  If you like schnitzel, this is a winner!

For sides we got the crispy garlic and rosemary potatoes…whoa…those were good!  And the steamed broccoli with garlic and chili.  I always have to have some green in my meal.  It wasn’t anything crazy but exactly what I wanted and very good.

Overall I really liked this spot and if I lived there I would go here often, assuming I could get in:)  I think this restaurant is perfect for many occasions and situations – birthday get togethers, girls night out, date night, etc.

Madeo – West Hollywood, CA

This was my first time dining at the popular Northern Italian restaurant Madeo and I can tell you that it won’t be my last.  It was one of the best Italian meals I’ve had.  I normally opt for fish dishes (and I still did this time) however I always rely on my husband for a bite of pasta.  He chose wisely and went with the classic Spaghetti alla Bolognese made with a veal meat sauce and honestly…it was probably the best we had both had.  Simple and far from fussy, the tender meat and perfectly cooked pasta intensified with every bite.  It was sad when it was gone.  My sister-in-law went for the special Veal Meatballs which I think we all assumed would be coming with pasta however it didn’t BUT, these meatballs were melt in your mouth good.  Perfect from start to finish.  They were delicate and soft not over mixed, hard or dry.  They (aside from my Cafe Lago meatballs) are the best meatballs I’ve ever tasted.  Next time I go if these are on the menu I’m getting them!  Another dish in the mix on our table was the Osso Bucco which was also to die for.  The veal shank was cooked the way it was supposed to be with the meat falling off the bone.  Absolutely delicious.  I guess what I’m getting at is that you can’t really go wrong at this restaurant, or at least that’s what my first impression has led me to believe.  The ambiance won’t blow you away but there’s something nostalgic about it and you’re bound to find some famous faces in there which is always fun:)

Carciofi e Parmigiano – baby raw artichokes and Parmigiano cheese and rucola  *SO good!  A light dish that got eaten quickly…everything about it was well balanced and seasoned perfectly.

Prosciutto e Melone – Parma ham and melon  *Classic Italian dish…how can you go wrong?

Fagioli e Aragosta – Italian Cannellini beans with diced lobster and Rucola salad in a lemon dressing  *This was such a beautiful flavorful starter.  Plenty to share but honestly something I could eat everyday.  DE-lish!

Calamari Affogati – sautéed squid in tomato sauce  *Some of the best calamari I’ve ever had!  you need a spoon to get some sauce with every bite:)

Branzino di Mare al Carciofi – filet of wild sea bass baked with white wine and artichokes  *On the special menu…VERY good!

Vitella Arrosto – sliced roasted leg of veg from the cart  *We didn’t order this but as we were paying our bill…STUFFED…we all salivated while the chef started carving this beautiful meat and then carefully coated each delicate piece with some au jus.  Thankfully our waiter saw our oh-so-descreet drooling and had the chef make us a plate.  I can’t describe how flavorful this was.  It was on the special menu but seriously if you go and it’s on there and you have enough people to share with…GET IT!!!

Cook – St. Helena, CA

With so many amazing, credible restaurants in Napa Valley…how do you choose?  I’ve only been to Cook twice (once for lunch, the other for dinner) but both times left me wanting to go back.  Located on Main Street in St. Helena it’s a small, quaint place with great decor inside.  They pride themselves on using local and seasonal ingredients and showcasing simple yet elegant North Italian food.

I highly recommend making reservations for dinner since they get full fast.  Lunch on the other hand I would say you have a much chance of just walking in.

The burger on a ciabatta roll with aged cheddar and grilled onions…yum:)

Braised Short Rib Pasta

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

I found this recipe by watching Giada’s show on the Food Network one day and have loved it ever since.  It’s hearty and perfect for any winter night.  It’s also great for informal entertaining and will please any crowd.

YIELDS 4-6 SERVINGS

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds beef short ribs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 5 Roma tomatoes, cut into eighths
  • 1 cup red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • 1 pound penne pasta (*I use fresh and local Lagana Foods strozzapreti pasta)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Place an oven rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Season the ribs with salt and pepper. In a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or ovenproof stock pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. In batches, add the ribs and brown on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the ribs and set aside. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, wine and mustard. Bring the mixture to a boil and scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Return the ribs to the pan. Add the beef broth, cover the pan and place in the oven for 2 1/2 hours until the meat is fork-tender and falls easily from the bone.

Remove the ribs from the cooking liquid. Using a large spoon, remove any excess fat from the surface of the cooking liquid. Using a ladle, transfer the cooking liquid in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth. Pour the sauce into a saucepan and keep warm over low heat. Remove the meat from the bones. Discard the bones.  Using 2 forks, shred the meat into small pieces.  Stir the shredded meat into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and place in a large serving bowl. Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat from the sauce and add to the pasta. Pour 1 cup of the sauce over the pasta. Toss well and thin out the pasta with more sauce, if needed. Sprinkle the pasta with Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley before serving.

Bon Appetit!!!

Cafe Lago’s Spaghetti and Meatballs

Cafe Lago is actually the closest restaurant to our house in the Montlake neighborhood.  It’s a great neighborhood spot with dependable food.  They make their pastas in house and also have a wood fired pizza oven which turns out amazing pizzas!

Last year Bon Appetit published their recipe for spaghetti and meatballs and I’ve been in love ever since.  Actually my good friend Jamie aka JOAT – jamie of all trades first posted this recipe on her website and inspired me to make them.  Excellent recipe!  I’ve even gone so far as to say that this is the best recipe I’ve ever had for spaghetti and meatballs.  I’m obsessed and think it’s worth trying!

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2010/10/spaghetti_and_meatballs

6 MAIN COURSE SERVINGS

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes in juice, drained, juice reserved, tomatoes finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions, peeled, halved through root end
  • 1/2 teaspoon (or more) salt

Meatballs

  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French or country-style bread
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 8 ounces ground beef (15% fat)
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • 1 cup finely ground (not grated) Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (for serving)

Combine tomatoes with juice, butter, onions, and salt in large wide pot. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard onions. Using immersion blender, process sauce briefly to break up any large pieces of tomato (texture should be even but not completely smooth). Season sauce with more salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove from heat.

Combine breadcrumbs and milk in small bowl; stir until breadcrumbs are evenly moistened. Let stand 10 minutes.

Place beef and pork in large bowl and break up into small chunks. Add 1 cup ground Parmesan, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Whisk eggs to blend in small bowl; whisk in garlic. Add to meat mixture.

Using hands, squeeze milk from breadcrumbs, reserving milk. Add breadcrumbs to meat mixture. Using hands, quickly and gently mix meat mixture just until all ingredients are evenly combined (do not overmix). Chill mixture at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Moisten hands with some of reserved milk from breadcrumbs, then roll meat mixture between palms into golf-ball-size balls, occasionally moistening hands with milk as needed and arranging meatballs in single layer in sauce in pot. Bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until meatballs are cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm before continuing.

Cook spaghetti in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain.

Using slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to platter. Add pasta to sauce in pot and toss to coat. Divide pasta among 6 plates. Top each serving with meatballs. Sprinkle meatballs with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve.  Bon Appetit!


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