May 20, 2006

Further adventures in the eating local challenge - Piatti Locali (Danville)

Just in time for May's Eat Local Challenge, Piatti in Danville's undergone a bit of a makeover. Long an Italian food favorite in my household (a feat - I'm picky about Italian restaurants), they've "gone local". The marketing spiel on their website touts: "Italian Inspired - Locally Grown... We cook in the style of the Italians, creating simple, flavorful dishes from the day's freshest ingredients. We think you'll agree; it tastes better that way." Mid-way through my local challenge I was eager to trade a skillet for a fork and let someone else do the cooking. A quick visit to Open Table garnered us a table for two at 8, and we were set.

Or we thought we were. After a shaky start waiting with twenty-some other eager diners in the rather crowded entryway for twenty-feels-like-forty minutes and then being briefly abandonned by the hostess mid-restaurant while she searched for a table at which to seat us, we studied the menu, not sure what to expect out of the remainder of our evening.

We started with the Wood-Fired White Prawns wrapped in Proscuitto di Parma over creamy polenta, stuffed with Cowgirl Creamery cheese. Yeah, Proscuitto di Parma's not local by any stretch -- but Cowgirl Creamery cheese *is* -- and damn, do they pair wonderfully together. Slightly crispy, salty Prosciutto, creamy rich triple cream-style cheese, with fresh moist and tender jumbo prawn. Yum.

My Spring Salad with Farmer's Market Strawberries, while a bit more local, didn't tip the wow meter as much as I'd hoped it would. Composed of baby spinach, pistachios, "Easter Egg" radishes, red onion, Sonoma goat cheese and a citrus-mint vinaigrette, it was delightfully fresh and a wonderful balance of textures -- but the onions, marinated in something very Asian-tasting, overwhelmed many of the other more subtle flavors. So I scraped them onto my bread plate and enjoyed the remainder of the salad.

John chose the Fontina Cheese and Prosciutto Ravioli (pictured above) garnished with sweet butter walnuts and fresh thyme. The ravioli were sublime in their simplicity -- premium, local fresh ingredients *do* make an incredible difference. I opted for the Niman Ranch Flatiron Steak with roasted red and white spring onions, buttermilk mashed potatoes and salsa verde. I ordered it rare -- the only way worth eating steak in my not so humble opinion -- and cut it with a butter knife.

butter. knife.

To pair with our meal, we chose Folie a Deux Zinfandel from St. Helena -- special to us because the winery was founded by a dear friend's brother in the early 80's. Red wine. Rich ravioli. Tender steak. Local ingredients. Recipes inspired by the old country. Good food *is* happiness.

And then there's dessert. Fiorello's addictive Caramel Balsamic Gelato. Farm-fresh strawberries. A crisp-buttery cookie container. I invite those of you who don't get the good food like good sex connection to check out Fiorello's gelatos.

Pick your favorite flavor. Add a basket of fresh berries, cherries, stone fruit -- whatever's in season and catches your attention NOW. Pop open a bottle of champagne. Light a candle. And use your imagination...

A shaky start to the evening -- an earth moving ending. The new Piatti will be the latest addition to our regular rotation.

Piatti Locali Danville
100 Sycamore Valley Road West, Danville

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