Posts Tagged ‘risotto’

A Night of Great Food and Great Wine – Arezzo in Westport, CT

April 17, 2014 8 comments

DSC_0277Have you ever been in the situation where you read about the restaurant and look at the menu, and your first thought is “ahh, it’s that same thing again…”? Continuing the situation, how many times did you actually still ended up going to the restaurant, and afterwards were glad you did? My personal account – more often than I care to admit! My latest experience – the restaurant called Arezzo Ristorante & Bar in Westport, Connecticut.

Arezzo is located at the intersection of route 1 and Riverside Ave, with its patio overlooking Saugatuck river. While restaurant had been in the same location for a while, you can consider it brand new – Juan Ceballos and chefs/brothers Llanos are the new owners of the Arezzo restaurant.

What I really like in the restaurants is the diversity of the setting – this is when the restaurant inside doesn’t look “uniformly the same”. Arezzo has a number of different areas – a spacious bar, almost as a separate room, a “foyer” with soft and comfy chairs, the main dining room, huge patio – you can come to the restaurant many times and every time discover something new.

Open kitchen and huge wood-fired oven, imported directly from Italy, are definitely creating the next level of excitement for the guests – I don’t know about you, but I can stare at the tamed flames for a very long time…

We started our evening in the bar. I personally made a rookie mistake of ordering Espresso Martini as my first drink – while very tasty, this was definitely a drink to have after the meal, not before. Well, I’m still working on my cocktail culture…

As usual, a few words about the wine list. May be only two words – Very Good. While the list is not big (which is a good thing in many cases – flipping through 50 pages looking for a bottle of wine is not the fun for all), it is modern, attractive and not boring, sporting a number of unusual wines by the glass together with some safe choices. Bottle selection is also very good, and reasonably priced, which for me is always important.

The wine list is focused on the Italian wines, with some California and France. After the fiasco with espresso martini, I needed to refresh my palate, so I started with 2011 Donnachiara Irpina Coda di Volpe DOC, Campania (13% ABV), the wine made out of indigenous Italian grape from Campania, Coda di Volpe. Bright golden color in the glass, inviting nose of white stone fruit and perfectly vibrant acidity on the palate, paired with dense and round, medium to full body mouthfeel – just what I needed (Drinkability: 7+).

The red wine, suggested by Juan, was an absolute favorite of the group. Renieri is an excellent producer, making the wines in the number of regions in Italy. While I was somewhat familiar with their Brunello wines, this wine was new to me – 2010 Renieri Invetro Ross Toscano IGT (14% ABV),  a super-Tuscan blend of 50% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet and 25% Merlot. Dark ruby in the glass, clean nose of dark red fruit, very inviting, and beautifully refreshing palate – ripe raspberries, cassis, plums, warm spices, touch of minerality, full bodied and perfectly balanced with tannins and acidity in check. Great wine overall. Drinkability: 8+.

And then, there was food.

A number of appetizers were served while we were at the bar.

Pizza Margherita ( fresh tomato, basil, homemade Mozzarella) – fresh, sweet tomato, basil – always a winning combination.

Focaccia Robiola di Arezzo (white truffle oil) – this was sublime, as anything with the right amount of truffle oil.

Lobster Arrancini (saffron aioli and Lemon) – absolutely delicious, very tasty bites!

Rosemary Marinated Shrimp Skewers – one of the group favorites – incredible balance of flavors.

Italian Sausages Skewers with Roasted Peppers – simple and very well executed. Also a pleasure to look at.

The rest of our dinner was served at the table. First, a trio of pasta:

Risotto (fresh porcini mushrooms, truffle oil) – incredible, simply incredible. If you like mushrooms, I’m sure you are not going to leave a single morsel on the plate, no matter how big the portion will be. The umami factor simply doesn’t let you put the fork down.

Short Rib Tortellini (braised us jus sauce) – why all the braised, slow cooked meat invokes such a homey feeling? This was delicious.

Cavatelli ai Piselli (home-made pea-ricotta, how and sweet sausage ragout) – this was perfectly on par with two other dishes – savory and satisfying.

Pan Seared Pink Snapper (caponata purée, fregola, vegetables) – one of the best pieces of fish ever – flaky, perfectly seasoned and cooked.

Roasted New Zealand Lamb Chop (spinach, tomato, Yukon gold potatoes) – to tell you the truth., I’m extremely picky about my lamb chop – I don’t want any fat on it, I want it to be perfectly seasoned, so it will not have that unpleasant lamb flavor – yes, I’m high maintenance when it comes to the lamb chop. So what can I tell you about the lamb chop which was served to us? In a word, wow. In another word – delicious. Seasoning, texture, taste – wow.

For dessert we had Pannacotta and Nutella Pizza – yes, it was very tasty, and I will spare you my lame attempts to describe it.

And we are done here. The only thing left to do, as usual, is to thank Juan Ceballos and Executive Chef Vinicio Llanos for the wonderful food and wine. Whether you are living in the area or visiting, Arezzo will be a perfect dining destination for you. Cheers!

Disclaimer: I attended the restaurant as a guest of management. All opinions are my own.

Arezzo Ristorante & Bar
5 Riverside Ave
Westport, CT 06880
Arezzo Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Messa, Chef Restaurant

January 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Once again, I would like to state the obvious – it is great to have friends. I’m in Israel again, and thanks to my dear friend Kfir, the culinary journey continues (I already wrote about few of my favorite places in Tel-Aviv, and you can read about it here and here). The new discovery – Messa, Chef Restaurant in Tel-Aviv.

Few years ago, I was quite lucky to visit (well, the right word is “to experience”) restaurant called Orca in Tel-Aviv ( lucky simply because the place is now closed – and it was on the list of 100 best restaurants in the world). This might be a bit far fetching, but Messa reminded me of that Orca visit. May be in ambiance, may be in food presentation and quality, may be in expectations – but I found some resemblance between the two.

For wine, we decided to go with Judean Hills Har’El Syrah 2008 from CLOS de GAT, one of the boutique Israeli wineries (it also represented very good value at about $55 on the wine list). This wine was round and polished, with hint of spices, leather and dark red fruit, complemented by soft tannins.

Messa doesn’t offer tasting menu, however, a lot of appetizers and main dishes are offered in small and large sizes, which essentially allows to create a tasting menu – this is what we decided to do. We had three different appetizers – Purple Calamari, Veal Sweetbreads and Foie Gras, out of which the Foie Gras had the best balance of flavors:

Purple  Calamari with lemon cream, eel and goose liver

Veal Sweetbreads with sweet potato tortellini, sunchoke cream and pearl onions

Foie Gras


For the main dishes we decided on Black Truffle Ravioli, Seafood Couscous in Crab Lemon Broth and Mushroom and Goat Cheese Risotto.  The first two dishes listed Lemon among the ingredients – and it was A LOT of lemon in those dishes. To be more precise, it was too much of it, so the winner of the entree taste contest was Mushroom and Goat Cheese Risotto, which had amazing earthy and heart warming taste profile. And of course, with the pictures:

Black Truffle Ravioli

Seafood Couscous in Lemon Crab and Thyme Broth

Risotto with Mushrooms and Goat Cheese


Dessert? Of course there was dessert – your waistline doesn’t take priority when you in a restaurant like this. We ordered one dessert, Valrhona Chocolate Delight, and got a nice surprise in a form of Strawberry Banana Crumble desert “on the house”. There was no competition here – both were great:

Valrhona Chocolate Delight

Strawberry Banana Crumble

Israel is growing at tremendous pace as a country, and its culinary landscape is getting better and better all the time. I wish all of us many pleasant discoveries along this culinary journey…

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