Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tuesday, 3/16/10 - Ciao Lavanderia

Date: 3/16/10
Restaurant: Ciao Lavanderia
Location: 226 E Olmos Dr, bordering Alamo Heights again. When McCullough does the crazy circle thing, go about 3/4 through and turn right into a very busy cluster of restaurants with very insufficient parking.
Executive Chef: Chef Damien Watel, who we will also see in Bistro Vatel and possibly the Bistro Bakery. Hey, I've never been one to turn down desserts!

The second half of my two-fer Tuesday was another round of Italian food. I had been invited out by a buddy so promised Tavis a doggy bag and struck out solo. For shame, I neglected a shot of the outside! I blame it on the agitation of trying to find my way into a parking spot that wouldn't get my car towed.

The interior, in which you can sort of see in the distance the open kitchen. I always like seeing chefs at work; any connection between front-of-house and back-of-house only makes for a more cohesive, satisfactory dining experience in my opinion. Hi chefs!

The menu was sort of small and had lots of terms that you'd probably want to understand Italian food to visualize. After listening to our nice and friendly--but occasionally absent--waitress's recommendations, we both made our selections.

Caesar salad, and yes indeed those are anchovies. I really enjoy anchovies. No shame in my game! *ahem* Also marinated artichoke hearts. This salad was salty and full of delicious flavor.

Caprese salad, which was actually a salad with some elements of the tomato, basil (in pesto form) and mozzarella. If you're looking for a classic caprese setup (i.e. slices of tomato, cheese and basil) then you may be disappointed. However, this was a solid chunk of eats on its own and I heard no complaints about the variation.

I was still pretty stuffed from lunch so I opted for a simple dish of penne, pancetta and peas in alfredo sauce. This was so comforting and delicious. My one complaint would be that the pancetta was too limp; if it had been crisper, the contrast between chewy and crunchy would have been more enjoyable. But the flavors were all that I would want.

Trout al pesto over angelhair pasta with more alfredo. The trout was lacking zing. A squeeze of citrus would probably have elevated it to delicious; I had a bite and was as unthrilled as my buddy. Also, he found about 6 bones in it which is rarely a good sign.

Was it a good day for dessert or what? I got the house panna cotta with raspberry and orange grappa reduction. Grappa is the "wine" that is made from the skins, seeds and stems of grapes left over after winepressing. At some point they added orange in there too. The resulting sauce was deliciously tangy and tart, perfectly contrasting the silken panna cotta. My sweet tooth was temporarily assuaged again.

If tres leches were made with coffee, it would probably result in this tiramisu. Absolutely tender, moist and flavorful. (Granted, that flavor was "coffee" which meant that I didn't care for it, but I appreciated the texture and my buddy went nuts over it.)

Returnability: somewhat. The menu didn't really seem to have a lot of stand-out appeal. If I were closer, I could see it becoming more of a fall-back Italian eatery since the prices were fair and the salads and desserts were very well done. But if I'm comparing Italian to Italian, lunch to dinner, I think this round goes to Tre Trattoria. We'll see how Ciao lines up against its big brother Bistro Vatel in a later review.

Good Tuesday, good eats, good night!