I would describe the food of chef/owner Allan Philip Russo (check out his bio on his website) as refined and elegant Italian peasant food. Every dish I have ever had here has been a combination of fresh ingredients in harmonious balance that create fantastic flavors and textures on the palate. On this occasion, we put ourselves in his hands regarding the menu. He did not disappoint us.
Many Italian restaurants start their diners of with a complimentary platter of Bruschetta, sort of a tomato and onion salad atop toasted Italian Crostini. It is a starter I routinely pass on as it is usually devoid of flavor. The version served today may well have been the finest example of the dish I have yet to taste. It is hard to improve on a fresh NJ summer tomato…that is unless chef Russo uses it for his Bruschetta. Perfectly seasoned and dressed, I found myself wishing more would materialize on the plate. He followed this with a delicious Antipasto of fresh Burrata, Prosciuto di Parma, grilled Zuccchini & Roasted Peppers bathed in a delicious extra-virgin olive oil. I was too busy stuffing my face to take any photos.
We sipped a delicious bottle of 2012 Venica Ronco delle Mele Collio Sauvignon that Chris brought along. 13.5% alcohol and crafted from 100% Sauvignon Blanc it was a great complement to the Bruschetta and Antipasto with its focused crisp acidity, stony minerality and beautiful balance. While this was a new producer for me, the white wines from the Collio in Friuli are amongst some of the best whites I have tasted and this bottle underscored that claim. The grapes are macerated (crushed) for the last 12 hours at low temperature then pressed under CO2 to prevent oxidation. 20% of the juice is fermented in big French oak casks (27 hl) and aged there for 6 months. "Batonage" (stirring the wine with a metal rod) once a week for two months improves the body. $42.50. 56º Wine.
Our antipasto plates were replaced with an appetizer portion of Ricotta Stuffed Gnocchi with Cherry Tomato Sauce. Light as a feather, these soft pillows were deftly stuffed with fresh Ricotta Cheese, topped with barely cooked cherry tomatoes and served atop a light and ethereal tomato sauce. It was outrageously good and a dish that would be hard to beat…or so I thought, until the main course arrived.