Monday, July 11, 2011

Osteria Madama Do Rè

Address: Via Marecchia, 49 - Novafeltria (RN). 0541.926369 or 339.769107.

Review: I heard good things about Osteria Madama Do Rè from a local, so we decided to give it a try. It did not disappoint.

The proprietor, Danny, took our order. We began with the antipasto madamadorè, which as you can see is loaded with all sorts of goodies.

Here's what we got, starting on top and going counterclockwise: green salad with local strawberries, salami, prosciutto crudo, soppressata, a farro salad with fresh vegetables, mushroom crostino, bruschetta with tomato and arugula, and, in the center, a mushroom souffle. Highlights: the meats, especially the prosciutto, which had a mild flavor and quite a lot of silky moisture to it; the souffle, which had a great mushroom flavor; and the strawberry salad (more on the strawberries later).

We also had beef carpaccio with formaggio di fossa, olive oil, and a splash of lemon.

The beef was of the chianina breed, which is the largest, and one of the oldest, breed of beef. Chianina is raised just up the hill from Novafeltria. Formaggio di fossa is a local cheese aged in underground pits surrounding Novafeltria, is semi-hard, and has a quite aggressive taste. It all went together swimmingly. The beef was among the most flavorful I've ever tasted. It alone would have made the dish. The formaggio di fossa added that great local flavor combination Italian food is so famous for. (Italians try to pair items from the same locale because in dishes because these items come from the same ground, and tend to share similar tastes.) And while I could have done without the lemon, it was a nice thought to cut through the richness of the meat and cheese. Absolutely superb.

Next came the primi piatti, or the pastas. I had the spinach ravioli with artichokes and dried pieces of chianina beef.

The most pronounced flavor here was the artichokes. I could have done with some more spinach taste, but the dish worked on the whole. The use of dried chianina beef was a nice touch that added some texture. Good.

And then there was what my wife ordered: tortelloni with ricotta and parmigiano filling and a butter, sage sauce.

I know, it looks completely innocuous, sort of blah even. Don't let looks deceive you; it was incredible. The light green hue to the pasta is spinach incorporated in the tortelloni dough. And the dough was soft and tasty, and just barely thick enough to hold the filling without breaking. The filling was a mixture of house-made ricotta and parmigiano. The parmigiano added salt and depth, but the ricotta's small curds were supple and creamy. The sauce was simple, just as it should have been. The sage complimented the spinach and ricotta, and the butter added body and a coating of fat that brought everything together. These were, arguably (and very probably), the best filled pasta I've ever eaten. Simple. Brilliant.

And for dessert there was mascarpone with strawberries.

Mascarpone with a sweet dessert cheese, and you might be inclined to think this dish is too simple, and heavy, to be good. On the contrary, the hose-prepared mascarpone was light and almost frothy. (Danny shared the secret to the texture after I finished, and it is exceedingly simple, as are all good things Italian.) The strawberries were locally harvested and were not very sweet. In fact, they almost had a savory component to them. Ultimately, they were perfectly ripe and wonderfully complex. Together with the mascarpone, it was a great experience of sweet and light.

And, because we engaged Danny about his food (where it came from, how it was made, etc.) he charged us a total of 33 euro for the meal --- a ridiculously minimal amount. Honestly, just a great dining experience.

Rating: 8.5/10 (5/10 is average).

P.S.: I don't normally compare restaurants to each other because I think each should be rated on its individual merits, not how it compares to another joint I might happen to like. That said, I will now suspend this rule to make a point. I went to Cucina Toscana in Salt Lake City on my last birthday. I gave it a rather high mark of 8/10. I now realize that rating was a mistake and must be lowered. Cucina Toscana publicizes itself as a high-class Italian restaurant making high-class, authentic Italian dishes. It does okay, but Madama Do Rè --- a little nothing osteria in the middle of a small, nondescript town in the middle of nowhere Italy --- is a far superior establishment in every conceivable way. For one example of a possibly many, the beef in the beef carpaccio at Cucina Toscana lacked flavor. While the meat was nicely marbled, it was rather tasteless. In contrast, Madama Do Rè's beef was very well sourced and bursting with flavor. Additionally, Madama Do Rè's dishes utilized ingredients that were (1) unrefined, and (2) unabashedly local. This allowed them to fit together seemlessly in dishes and create an amazing experience. And all this was accomplished for a third the price of Cucina Toscana. Thus, is the magic and beauty of true Italian cuisine.

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