Best Italian - 2005
Everything is top-notch at this 15-year-old Italian restaurant: the serene setting (a spacious, calm, and grown-up room with a striking vaulted wood ceiling); the professional, knowledgeable, and caring service; and the exciting cooking, high-style Italian food created from the best seasonal ingredients. Begin with a simple, exquisite Parmesan budino topped with a tangle of julienned zucchini and sauced with puréed spinach, or a chunk of Hawaiian butterfish in tomato-fennel sauce and seafood stew; move on to an amazing pasta (perhaps lobster panzerotti or eggy pappardelle with rabbit ragu); and continue with seared branzino over artichokes, olives, potatoes, and arugula or pepper-crusted pork loin with braised mustard greens and polenta. Desserts include a rich chocolate cake dusted with edible gold powder and an all-Italian cheese plate. The servers can suggest wine pairings from the eatery's long and interesting list. The $100 chef's tasting menu, which includes a wine pairing for each of its five courses, is an extremely good value and an excellent introduction to the house style.