Posted 06 July 2007 - 09:29 PM
I returned tonight for dinner at Locanda. (It turns out this is only their second night open; Tuesday was a soft opening for friends and family.) At 6:15 I was the first person there, but by the time I left at 7:45, it was 2/3 full and turning folks away because of reservations. As I mentioned in my previous post, they offer a small list of charcuterie (a la carte, or $15 for 3) and cheeses (3 for $14), some antipasti and other small plates, a few salads, about 7 pastas (mid-teens), and 5 entrees ($20+). There is also a wine list of around 30 (?) wines, about half of which are available by the glass or half-liter, glasses ranging from about $6 to $11.
Started with the stuffed squash blossoms ($6) and the gambeni ($14). The former were nicely battered and perfectly fried, but it was hard to detect the promised mozzarella filling (maybe I was expecting it to be more obvious than it was). That said, the serving had two tasty and good-sized blossoms with an unassuming fresh tomato sauce. I'd order them again. The gambeni consisted of five modestly sized shrimp in garlic-red pepper oil and a bit of cheese. These were served piping hot--really too hot--and while the rendition was fine (with perhaps too much oil), it was hard not to compare it to the garlic shrimp at Jaleo, and come out in favor of the latter (not least on price). The negroni I ordered to go with these was just okay--it tasted slightly watered down.
Moved on then to a very nice maccheroncelli and cheese with finely minced, crisply pancetta ($15), which gave it a wonderful smoky flavor. The tubular pasta was perfectly al dente, and while at first sight the portion seemed slightly small, I was stuffed by the time I was finished. The glass of Carpazo Sangiovese was a nice accompaniment, and a reasonably sized pour for $6.
The room itself is nicely decorated, though I hope that they eventually adorn the bare walls a bit. A long upholstered banquette lines one wall, bare wood tables and upscale hard orange chairs make up the rest of the seating, and the floor is also bare. I wonder how loud the place will be at full capacity. Nicest touch was a couple of Italian cookies with the bill, including a wonderful pignoli. Overall, it was not bad for so early in its tenure--the slips weren't disasters, the best things were very good, and I imagine the cooking will get more assured as they go along (I'd like to see more evidence of the Turkish influences). I suspect that this will be a popular success--it offers something quite different from anything else in the Eastern Market neighborhood.
(By the way, Locanda and what's going into Ellington's share only the same landlord. The proprietor of Locanda is only advising the person who is developing the other site, who he tells me is a restaurant neophyte.)
"There's no need to get snippy. I'm just doing my job here."--Marge Gunderson, Fargo