Sunday, December 9, 2018

Review: North Italia

As the family's restaurant concierge for Sunday lunches, I always find it hard to pick places that balance everyone's preferences: Somewhere interesting, not far away, a sit-down place, reasonably priced, not too brunchy... and, of course, somewhere with great food. When places like North Italia open up, it makes my job just a little bit easier.

Walking into the place felt immediately comfortable; tons of natural light pours in to illuminate the warm wood tones. We ordered drinks right away. Amy's Julietta was a light fun cocktail, bright and floral from the elderflower liqueur and slightly fizzy from the prosecco. There was a hint of ginger infused in the vodka, but nothing too assertive. My dad and I both gravitated to the apple bourbon sour—he takes after me, I guess. It was tart and delicious, an apple-cinnamon treat with a light bourbon bite. I savored every drop.

To start we shared what turned out to be a very elegant take on calamari. The thick crispy batter would make it a heavy appetizer, but it was tossed with peppery arugula and lightened considerably by the grilled lemon and vinaigrette. It was almost more like a citrusy salad punctuated with rings of tasty crunch. A definite winner.

The Caesar was one of the best I've tasted. A combination of romaine and pleasingly bitter radicchio was tossed in garlicky dressing that didn't shy away from its anchovy pungency. Best of all were the croutons, which managed to remain light and crunchy despite being soaked in the dressing. It was topped a liberal shaving of grana padano to drive home the richness of the salad.

I got the prosciutto pizza as my entree, which had a fig base as its "sauce," and was topped with arugula, goat cheese, mission figs and a bit of parmesan. All of this made for a lot of delicious sweet and salty elements. The goat cheese had a creamy, almost burrata-like consistency, and the prosciutto... well, prosciutto is always great. However, the double dose of fig did make the pizza a little too sweet; either the sauce or the topping would have sufficed. I also missed the acidity that comes from something like a classic tomato sauce.

Dad's bacon and egg pizza was the quintessential great breakfast pizza. Though though the bacon could have been crisped up a bit, it was pleasantly creamy, with some nice earthy asparagus to make everything officially Healthy. Others at the table concluded this was the best entree of the four; I'm hesitant to give it that title when there's pasta in the running.

On that front: My mom got the radiatori—so named because they literally resemble miniature radiators. The shape, it turns out, was perfect for capturing the delicious parmesan cream sauce, which was rich but tempered a touch of citrus. It came with tender short rib meat to round out a wonderfully comforting dish. Amy's chicken pesto was also very tasty, though not too unusual. Although it was cream-based, the taste of the basil, herbs and toasted pine nuts easily shined through. The chicken would have been a bit dry were it not for the extra sauce to smother it in.

There were a lot of successful dishes here, and only a few missteps. Maybe the most telling detail, though, is that my dad—the choosiest member of our Sunday posse—gave it his blessing. With that crucial endorsement, I've officially added North Italia to the Sunday rotation. Maybe I should send them a plaque or something.

Score: 8 out of 10 (Superior)

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