Friday, January 11, 2008

I had too much to dream tonight

After stopping by Page Bond Gallery for a great opening featuring Alyssa Solomon's salt prints, we had a nice meal at Gary York's Enoteca Sogno. I am embarrassed to admit that it was my first visit. Gary studied with one of the masters, Ed Vasaio of Mamma Zu, and learned his lessons well. It's a simple space with a simple menu, and that's the beauty of it. I have to stop for a moment of self importance- as I was giving my last name to the hostess for the waiting list, a woman sitting at the bar turned around and said, are you "the John Haddad?" I wasn't sure what to say- did I owe her money, or was I responsible for something I didn't know about? And then she said- see... capers... (and I noticed some capers on her plate.) I was telling my husband about your caper story in Style Magazine. It was a strange moment. I didn't know what to say. So I smiled and said "enjoy your meal." I am not used to this kind of paparazzi.

So back to dinner. It was a good meal. The Petty's joined us for a tasty dive into an antipasti platter ( a nice combo of grilled vegetables, artichoke hearts, prosciutto, mortadella, warm pecorino, roaasted red peppers) and white bean crostini. We enjoyed a few bottles of an Italian Barbera and Johnny and I both had a tasty ox-tail ragu over fresh tagliatelle- a rich sauce with deep flavors ( By the way, oxtail is no longer the actual tail of an ox but rather the tail of a cow or bull-its kind of a bony & tough piece of meat that needs to be cooked for a long time) Syd enjoyed pasta with ricotta, rapini and spicy italian sausage while Susannah was so-so on her bolognese- it lacked much body and had almost no tomato or veggie presence. A panna cotta for the table finished off the meal-rich and smooth while not too heavy.

I'll be back. Dreaming of the simple foods of Italy. Well done Gary.


Anonymous said...

Admittedly, I think I'd be proud to point out the fact that I tried something new as well if our paths were to cross. Better get used to being idolized by your adoring, hungry public.

Anonymous said...

It's true that Gary worked at Mamma Zu, but it is dismissive to attribute his talents solely to this part of his life. Gary has traveled to Italian yearly for 10 years to attend VinItaly and locally pioneered the SlowFood movement. While MZ might have mentored Gary in some ways, his experiences there were some of many. It is sort of a chicken and an egg thing--perhaps he worked at
MZ because of his love for Italian cuisine instead of culling his love from there. MZ is excellent and unique Italian (for Richmond, Va) but it isn't a tastemaker, nor does it try to be. I wish people would stop acting like it's a benchmark for Italian cuisine. The menu similarities between MZ and Enoteco Sogna exist because they both do basic Italian casual fair, sort of like the similiarites between steak house menus.

Anonymous said...

Mamma Zu is just OK other restaurants in this town are so poor that it seems awesome in comparison

Anonymous said...

I first met Gary at Mamma Zu, so that is my main point of reference. I didn't mean to be dismissive of his culinary travels/influences etc. As for Mamma Zu- I think it does stand head and shoulders above a lot of others in town for its food- i think that Ed has great suppliers and I enjoy the simplicity of his menu. I think there are a few other good Italian places in town- Tony Capece does a nice job at La Grotta, and I have had several nice meals at Little Venice.

So, I ask you, what is your benchmark for Italian food?

Anonymous said...

It seems we agree that in Richmond there aren't many choices for Italian. My point was that it is a shame that something as basic as using high-quality ingredients from good suppliers isn't a given, It is applauded like it's genuis. Ed's butt must be shiny from all the kissing it gets for what would pass for average in LA, DC, NY, Chicago or even Philly.
Benchmark for Italian food is my house. I honestly can't name one local restaurant I'd choose to go to. If forced, I'd agree on Mamma Zu. The food is good, but the place is filthier than a prison toilet.