Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ristorante Saffi

Address: Via Saffi, 61015, Novafeltria (RN), Italy.

Review: Today's lunch was taken at what my wife referred to as the "hidden restaurant," and it turns out that name is pretty accurate. Here's the front door.

(Note: as you can tell, advertising in Italy is all about word-of-mouth, not mass marketing.) See the little sign to the left of the "ristorante" lettering? That's where the name of the establishment is located. It's Ristorante Saffi (named after the road on which it is located: "via Saffi"). Saffi is ten or so meters off the main piazza, and is only open for lunch.

I began with the maccheroni with meat sauce.

Pasta was al dente and the meat sauce was rustic with a meaty texture, although it didn't actually have that much meat in it. It was a little more watery than I'm used to, but it was quite pleasant.

My wife had the insalata di riso, a summer rice salad filled with ham, olives, squash, tomatoes, and some other ingredients I am undoubtedly forgetting.

This is an Italian summer staple since it is (1) cold, and (2) contains all the vegetables you need for a day. For whatever reason, I'm usually not the biggest fan, but this was a treat on a hot summer afternoon. The meat is countered by the acidity in the olive and the tomatoes, which made the dish feel lighter than it was. The flavors worked nicely together. Good, solid stuff.

Next came the spiedini and bietole. Spiedini are kabobs of meat, in this case pork and sausage.

Bietole (bietola in the singular) is a member of the chard family. It is often used instead of spinach in ravioli stuffings.

The spiedini were perfectly cooked. The pork was cooked to a nice medium, with some beautiful pink still in the middle of the meat. (Yes, pork should actually still be pink in the middle when cooked. If followed, the US government recommendations for cooking pork make it dry as a bone and tough as leather.) The sausage was salty but not much spiced, which is good because the pork flavor shines through.

The bietola was something I had never tried before, and it was very pleasant. It was a less aggressive flavor than spinach, and I was informed by Saffi's proprietor that it has less iron but more vitamins than spinach. Its water content is a bit higher, and you end up eating quite a lot of the long stalk attached to the leaves, but that's fine. The stalk breaks down and is not fibrous. It's just a lovely, mild, green leafy taste. With a lemon juice, it's a great side dish.

After the meal, I talked to the cook. She is an old Italian woman in a small kitchen filled with fresh pasta and long-roasted dishes of meat and potatoes. Home food made by a home chef. Nothing better.

Rating: 7.5/10 (5/10 is average).

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