Italy

Archive | July 23rd, 2009

Tre Trattoria: Italian Done Well, Casually

Tre Trattoria: Italian Done Well, Casually

tre5We headed over to Tre Trattoria, Jason Dady’s family-style Italian restaurant on Broadway, after an evening concert last weekend. They were obviously closing up shop. But seeing our apprehensive faces, the hostess took pity on us and let us in for dinner.

The fact that we actually found a good restaurant that would feed three of us at the hour of (gasp) 10 p.m. was as positive an experience as the food that followed.

So, for a moment, let me call out to restaurateurs: Draw straws, take turns, or do a rotation — but lots of us would give a great big cheer if a few good restaurants in downtown or close to it would stay open for late diners, especially on weekends.

Food: 4
Service: 4
Value: 4

Rating scale:
5: Extraordinary
4: Excellent
3: Good
2: Fair
1: Poor

As I ask this question, I know the likely answer — if the business isn’t there, they can’t afford to keep the doors open. I like to think, though, that San Antonio’s culinary growth might soon translate to better options for late-night dining. The key is support from customers.

Happy to be seated, we quickly decided on small plates of salads and appetizers.

The house-cured pastrami and prosciutto, accompanied by long, crisp grissini, were freshly sliced. The flavors were as porky, nutty, mellow and salty as we’d hoped for. On the side we also shared a plate of cannellini beans, tossed in olive oil and the lemony gremolata, as well as bits of diced salami. An order of roasted golden beets offered a respite of sweetness from all the salt and oil.

Two of us ordered Tre’s green salads, looking for a fresh counterpart to the sliced meats.  A special salad, though, most impressed us. It was a mix of fresh fruit — melon, pickled peaches, Rainier cherries and sliced cucumber. The coolness of the fresh fruit, the basil and mint in the olive oil dressing, worked well together. A crowning touch of sour cream added a smooth finish to this refreshing creation.

tre2The appeal of the family-style meals called to us. We’ve always enjoyed the Tuscan rib-eye and the fish selections. But this night the pasta called with a louder voice. The tagliatelle with wild mushrooms satisfied two of us.  There were plenty of mushrooms and homemade pasta in a flavorful but not overly assertive sauce. Another order, the gnocchi, had a crisply fried outside coating, but the center was tender and creamy.

Tre’s dense pistachio gelato was dessert. No green food coloring or almond flavoring here — the gelato is pure pistachio and cream. One just needs to slow down, savor and enjoy the unadorned flavor.

On a busy lunchtime a few days later I returned. The parking lot on the south side of the restaurant was filled, as was the parking lot on the other side of the Boardwalk facing Broadway.

If this has happened to you, here’s a tip. If you drive all the way up to the northern-most side of the lot (going toward Hildebrand Avenue), take a left, then drive back. Usually there is plenty of parking. A short walk up to a boardwalk behind the shops will take you right up to Tre’s side patio.

I met two friends and we agreed that it was hot enough that we could easily sit there in air-conditioned comfort and drink icy mojitos the rest of the day. We didn’t, but I did order an Italian mojito. Basil and mint worked just fine together with the rum and lime and the sugar level was appealingly modest.

We supplemented our cold drinks with appetizer olives, then moved on to one of the chef’s pizzas. The ultra-thin crust was perfectly crisp, contrasting with the topping of house-made ricotta, sharply pickled onions and prosciutto. It was just about perfect.

tre7A salmon fillet was a special of the day. I loved the salmon, which was very well-seared, but I was completely seduced by the taste and texture of the creamy risotto it rested upon.

No cans were opened for a friend’s order of linguine and clams. The homemade pastas with the butter sauce was topped with fresh clams in shells. This dish is something to come back for.

Dessert was the Nutella x 3 and the lemon parfait with berries and almond clusters. The latter is a whimsical take on a breakfast product, but the similarity ends with the creamy, rich lemon parfait, the generous amount of fresh berries and sweet almond crumbles.

All we can say about the signature chocolate dessert, Nutella x 3, is that it will take care of that chocolate craving. A dense chocolaty cake, covered with chocolate sauce is served next to a mound of cool, creamy chocolate mousse. That’s a dessert.

Tre is modestly expensive, but the quality of food and service, the drinks, wine menu and setting, make it worth a visit. I can almost guarantee you’ll go back.

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tre1Tre Trattoria
4003 Broadway
(210) 805-0333
Lunch, dinner: Mon.-Sat.
$$-$$$

$ = $10 and under for 1 entrée
$$ = $10-$20
$$$ = $20-$30
$$$$ = $30 and more\

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Daily Dish: Restaurateur on Hunger Strike

Daily Dish: Restaurateur on Hunger Strike

You don’t often hear of a restaurateur going on a hunger strike. Yet what happened in the wake of the elections in Iran is something so important to Rashin Mazaheri that she’s joined a three-day hunger strike outside the United Nations building in New York.

Sympathizers from across the country have joined the strike, organized by the Green Movement of Iran. They are for calling for the release of political prisoners while proclaiming their support for the Iranian people.

It hasn’t been easy, as Mazaheri wrote in a humorous note on her Facebook page Wednesday: There’s a “farmer’s market next to (the) hunger strike site. What a test. As if not eating in NYC isn’t bad enough! I’m committing far too many culinary sins.”

Best of luck, Rashin.

Meanwhile, Shiraz at 4230 McCullough Ave. remains open. Call (210) 829-5050 or click here.

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French Sandwiches: Trendy? No. Good? Yes.

French Sandwiches: Trendy? No. Good? Yes.

frenchsandwichFrench Sandwiches has been serving up breakfast and lunch to the Med Center crowd for 19 years now. I doubt much has changed with the place since its opening, from its plant-filled ambience to its small yet varied menu.

That lack of interest in pursuing what others deem trendy has been a part of its success, for the people who run the modest restaurant know exactly what they’re doing. And they do it well.

Each of the sandwiches comes with a choice of soup, salad or chips as well as a cream pastry. So that paté sandwich or French Grilled Tuna priced at $6.25 is what amounts to as many as three courses. (Chips do not a course make unless they are hand cut and fried to a deep brown.)

The spread impressed a friend of mine on a recent visit, so much so that she was happy to return the following week.

Food: 3.5
Service: 2.5
Value: 3.5

Rating scale:
5: Extraordinary
4: Excellent
3: Good
2: Fair
1: Poor

On her first visit, she had the Fajita au boeuf avec fromage, which is French for beef fajitas with cheese. They arrived melted into a buttery croissant with everything, stir-fried onions included, coalescing into a juicy whole.

She also had the soup that day, a chicken corn soup that was pleasant, but not as rewarding as the salty French Onion with a large cheesy crouton floating on top.

I opted for the Chef’s Continental sandwich, a careful layering of paté, chicken and sausage with cucumber and cilantro adding texture, a welcome freshness and a well-chosen layering of flavors.

I ordered it on the French bread, which I prefer at the restaurant. It’s a little sturdier and has a heartier crust, which makes biting into the sandwich more of a European delight.

On our next visit, I opted for my usual order, the roast beef sandwich, which comes with more of those silky onions and the bite of horseradish to give it extra oomph.

An omelet from the breakfast menu with bacon, bell pepper, garlic and two cheeses was good, but somehow failed to measure up to the sandwiches.

Yet one bite of the tiny cream puff made all well. It’s a nice touch, and I’m sure it keeps many coming back to French Sandwiches.

French Sandwiches
8448 Fredericksburg Road at Wurzbach
(210) 692-7019
Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday
$

$ = $10 and under for 1 entrée
$$ = $10-$20
$$$ = $20-$30
$$$$ = $30 and more

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