Monday, November 21, 2011

To Burger Or Not To Burger? That Is The Question

Brooklyn continues to amaze me.  Just a literal subway stop away from my office, Court St and Montague St is a place that I should visit more often. Today, the occasion for the visit was to have lunch with an old friend and colleague whom I shall call Zeltser.  We had originally planned to meet up at Five Guys Burgers for some fries and, what else, a good burger, but instead the venue changed. And it was well worth it.

I consider Montague Street the centerpiece of the historic neighborhood of  Brooklyn Heights.   This enclave has been home to many an artist - including literary biggies the likes of Capote, Miller and "The" Walt Withman - and continues to be a well sought out area by New York's latest generation of young mobile professionals who can appreciate its charm and the convenience of a one stop hop from Manhattan's financial district.  A tree-lined street, Montague - just love the way it sounds - offers up, in its own unpretentious way, a glimpse into the world of Brooklyn's past. Not a grandiose split-drive boulevard, but a quaint place, that bustles yet without auditory offense. Turning your glance off the street and pointing your eyes towards the surrounding buildings, you will easily see the many elegant signs of architectural comfort and affluence,  and feel a village-like atmosphere that makes you want to sit, sip slowly and take it all in from the many cafes that line the street. This emotion is particularly strong in the fall, when the red and yellow hues of vibrantly shining foliage project an additional degree of warmth to all those who amble down its blocks.  What else could you expect from a place with French name?

But let me get back to food, the reason why I chose to do some writing this late evening. "To Burger or Not to Burger", that was the question as Zeltser and I met up.  And we took no time changing our plans. A sign "Oh, My Pasta"  caught our attention. It was a restaurant just off the street, located on the second floor of clean , bright - almost radiant building.  Gentle yellow awnings decorate and shield the front large windows from which patrons get to people watch from above while they dine. The establishements's theme: "Fresh pasta", "produzione pasta fresca" as they say in Italian. So we climbed up a charming set of stairs, and entered the restaurant.  We liked it.  Inside we found "A clean, well lighted place", I thought to myself just as the outside facade was hinting. We sat down near a window, and started to people watch as lofty spectators.

Zeltser and I, both of us being bit-heads, started talking about our work, a world immersed in the constant excitement of information technology. But that did not last long,. The venue was just way more inspiring. Vivid pictures of grand pasta dishes covered the walls of the restaurant and amazed us.  Focusing on computer science was just too hard. Personally, I had a great looking portrait of Orecchiette directly staring right at me.   Wish I had my "Geometry of Pasta" book just to identify the ones that I had missed.  Strozzapreti or Triofie pasta? "Was I getting them right ? " as I studied each of the photographs.

Oh My Pasta - Dining Area

I took a quick glance at the menu and easily convinced my friend that I should order for both of us  He knew that I would pick good plates. He did not know how authentic they would be. And neither did I. This was "forgetaboutit" Brooklyn after all.  We started with some brushetta al pomodoro ed arugula, followed by an ultra-delicious bowl of pureed fava beans topped with some frisee' endive (Fave e Cicorie).

When eating Italian, I am fan of delicate tastes based on a simple combination of a few seasonal ingredients, well balanced contrasts and natural flavors . Oh My Pasta, followed these norms.  The tomato Brushetta , unlike the garlic-infested impostors that I frequently come across in other establishments, was the perfect starter for my version of a working "power lunch" . No fear of scaring way vampires, co-workers,  or clients a few hours later.  The fava bean "zuppa", was equally as surprising as well as uncommon. This was one of the dishes where the flavor continued to improve we spooned it out of the bowl. Zeltser and I thought we would pop a vein , it was so good.

As we waited for our main courses, we were very privileged to meet the somewhat shy, executive chef, Steven Lecchi. Brooklynite by birth, Italian by nurture. Chef Lecchi made us feel at home, and very welcome in his kitchen and restaurant.

Fave e Cicorie / Brushetta

But let's talk about the stars of the show. Pasta, Pasta and Pasta. I recommended that we order order Strozzapreti al forno for me, and Pappedelle ai Funghi for Zeltser. Both dishes proved themselves as winners.   I felt very much at home with the gentle, two tomato sauce that coated the strozzapreti and was pleasantly surprised to see and taste the toasted breadcrumbs topping. I knew that in Puglia, where the owner of the restaurant was originally from,  often a few spoonfuls of fried pasta are added to pasta dishes as a topping to add a dimension of crispy crunchiness.  The breadcrumbs here added a second experience to the sauce itself. Great touch !

Strozzapreti al Forno

When I sampled the pappardelle, the perfect tenderness of the pasta immediately jumped out at me.  I knew I was no longer in Kansas. I knew that we were eating freshly made pasta, not a dry pasta. As my teeth bit into its texture, I immediately recognized the balance of semolina flour, an element of regular flour and a small quantity of egg. Eggs are my enemy, as you might know, so when they are used in excess, I will know and my palate will reject.

Pappardelle ai Funghi
So we ate, and ate, and cleaned out plates as the music from an Italian radio station - Internet based , I presume - streamed gently throughout the dining area.  Then just as we thought we were ready for a shot of espresso coffee,  Chef Lecchi, offered us one last treat. A sampling of freshly made ravioli, elegant, exquisitely savory and once again, a perfectly balanced experience of textures.  The juxtaposition of hints of balsamic to sage butter told us that we need to return to this new Brooklyn Heights real soon .

Fresh Ravioli with Butter Sage Sauce

Now what remains is to meet my semi-paesano and Italian expatriate like me, Marco Lasala, Oh My Pasta's owner. Maybe we will click, and exchange a few Calabrese and Pugliese recipes.


Buon Appetito e Buona Notte !

Full menu - www.ohmypasta.com/pdf/menu.pdf

2 comments:

  1. Beautiful article... It's like reading poetry -AN

    ReplyDelete
  2. Flattered, thanks for putting up for the initial typos

    ReplyDelete