Warning: to those who are dieting, do NOT read this when you are hungry!
As the "last hurrah" of the holiday season, we attended a "Chef's Table" 7-course dinner at Firenze Osteria. We were greeted by Fabio, and soon settled with our drinks, and much anticipation of what was to follow. We did a quick overnight from the desert with friends, Jan and Les, to try this new location. A two and a half hour drive means nothing to a foodie!
Meet our Executive Chef:
Co-Executive Chef, John Paolone, prepared our dinner. He is the son of Italian parents from Abruzzo, and makes all of his foods with the freshest and highest quality ingredients. Besides his training at the Santa Barbara Culinary School, and Le Cordon Blue Culinary Institute, he also studied in Florence to expand his expertise in italian cooking. Chef John enjoys making braised meats in rich sauces, and we look forward to another visit to sample his Osso Buco and the short rib ravioli!
Our first course was creamy, fresh burrata cheese, topped with duck and some shaved truffles. Oh my, it melted in your mouth!
Next, were "Malfatti Ricotta e Spinaci", or naked ravioli with brown butter, sage and shaved parmesan. I called them Strozzapreti. They were light and delicious, with a generous helping of fried sage leaves! Wonderful!
When our third course was placed in front of me, I wasn't too sure about it. It turned out to be my favorite! The Calamari Salad with roasted cherry tomatoes on a crostini was bold and flavorful with lots of garlic, peperocino and black pepper. FABULOUS!
At this point, we were all full, and wondering how we were going to eat 4 more courses. The wine was flowing generously, and don't forget those martinis I wrote about yesterday! Chef John delivered a special pasta, that was new to all of us:
ravioli with sweetbreads, potatoes and mint! All the flavors were subtle, but you could taste each of the ingredients.
Oh but we still had entrees to eat! Course five was a suvee pork, tender as butter, with roasted brussles sprouts and pancetta. Where do I get one of those suvee machines? This was SO good! We ordered another bottle of wine and kept eating!
Course 6 made me feel like I was in Italy for sure! Filet mignon tagliata on arugula with shaved parmagiano. No knives required!
Time for a walk outside, a big cup of coffee before managing to eat dessert: a lovely little limoncello cheesecake with raspberries. We finished everything!
I need to tell you about our FABULOUS waiter, John! He was so nice, knowledgeable, and attentive. It was really great service, and we hope to see him on our next visit!
Finally, FABIO! He was gracious, and busy most of the evening. Se seemed somewhat distracted, and spent lots of time with what looked like a VIP table. I brought him a bag of freshly baked taralli (hope he shares them with Jacopo and both Johns!). Fabio visited our table several times, and then after dinner, said how tired he was. Not my best shot, ever, but here he is at the end of a long day.
Fabio has a new TV series beginning in Mach 2010, showing the challenges of the restaurant and catering business he and Jacopo deal with in Los Angeles. I wish these two hard-working Italian guys much success!