Ristoro Olivio

Our first meal in Italy. I don’t know what it is about the menu, but something is throwing me off. I feel like there are too many pages for what is being offered. Another problem… wines by the glass are not shown on the menu (something that I’m really not used to). Nancy directly handles the issue of BTG wines by asking (God bless her). She gets the house red ( a Barbera d’Asti) and I get the Dolcetto d’Asti.

We order the risotto al funghi for our main course, and order appetizers as well. Nancy, a sautéed gnocchi with pancetta and some greens (arugula?) and I get the Tartare di Tonno. All dishes are preceded by an aparatif (passion fruit and blood orange juice with grappa on the rocks) and an amuse of sorts (a diagonal half of wheat bread topped with cheese and salami, served with strawberry jam and dried oregano on the side). The first, delicious and palate-whetting and the second, odd but yummy.

The appetizers arrive. The gnocchi looks good , and smells better. It tastes good, but I’ve had better sautéed gnocchi in Sonoma county at Monti’s. The flavor is pure, however, and the pancetta is welcome and the greens refreshing.

The tartare di tonno (tuna tartare) is a different matter. It looks great and tastes great. As you would guess, the tuna is fresh tasting and tender. It’s served in the trendy cylindrical format, but it is topped with three types of sprouts (onion, frisée and bulls blood beet) There’s a nice decorations drawn with molasses in one quadrant of the plate, and I’m instructed to pour a liquid served on a side dish over the top. The liquid reminds me of tea with honey in it. Honey is the only ingredient that I can readily identify, but Nancy seams to think that some sort of vinegar was involved. The taste of everything was wonderful. Clean, refreshing and reasonably light.

Nancy was full by the time our main course arrived, but she still managed to make the large circle of risotto into a Pac-Man by eating a quarter of it. The risotto was full of mushrooms (porcini?) and perfectly al dente (not a hint of uncooked centers of the grains anywhere). It had the perfect amount of sauciness to it, and the flavor was great. However, that didn’t stop Nancy from telling the Italian couple next to us (Anna and Maximo) that my mushroom risotto was better (much to my simultaneous pleasure and chagrin).

With Nancy stuffed and me with a quarter of my dish left (also stuffed), we skipped dessert. I did order an espresso, however.

I’d been waiting to try coffee in Italy since we started planning this trip about a year ago. Perhaps I was expecting too much, but it didn’t live up to the hype. It smelled strong (expected), but it was thick (unexpected). It was strong, almost harsh, and had an ok finish. It wasn’t like the espresso that Nancy’s sister brought back from Rome (which had a wonderful nose, strong flavor and was slightly acidic, resulting in a terrifically clean finish). I’ll be conducting more research in this area over the next two weeks. :)