January 10, 2008

Dining Around Dayton: Pacchia

Turns out the pizza might have been the *best* lunch we're going to see in Dayton. It's gone steadily downhill from there. Tuesday I had my first experience with mystery meat; I truly have *no* idea what kind of protein was suspended in the gelatinous brown sauce. I skipped it, but a more adventurous colleague described it as a peculiar experience. Not one he wished to repeat. I had a pile of iceberg lettuce (sans nuclear lime green gloppy dressing), two bananas and a handful of mixed nuts. And spent the afternoon dreaming about dinner.

I'd found our dinner venue on Open Table and based on 20 minutes on the Internets, I was fairly confident we'd eat well. The executive chef's a native of Dayton, and an honors graduate of the CIA with an impressive resume. A seasonal menu of New American cuisine, Mediterranean-style had my attention. So after six hours studying statistics, four of us piled into a rental car and headed for Pacchia in the Oregon District of downtown Dayton.

Parading through the espresso and panini bar on the way to the main restaurant was a bit odd, but I can see how the former would appeal to the college and the early after work crowd. The look and feel of the restaurant is very contemporary, very hip. It would fit just fine in many bay area neighborhoods (though the rent would probably be prohibitive... the space is *huge*.)

My dining companions chose the salmon and the stuffed fillet of beef. I'd spent the previous evening salivating over a fish I'd never heard of as Mario Batali bested Jamie Oliver on Iron Chef America... and here was the mystery fish, on the menu in Dayton. I'll have the Grilled Fillet of Cobia (with roasted fingerling potatoes, petite carrots, and mango Maltese orange and mint salsa). With the "Fifth Street" salad. And a glass of Sketchbook Pinot Noir. Please.

Memories of mystery meat fade into the distance...

The salad proved that you *can* get something other than iceberg in the Midwest and that a sweet tart dressing in the supporting cast rather than grappling for the lead is a wondrous thing. And the cobia. An intriguing combination of firm and buttery with a rich tender flavor, cobia will be my entree of choice any time I see it on a menu. And unless something I eat in the next two days is earth-shattering, Pacchia will go down as the culinary hit of this trip (and possibly the Denver > Dayton > Denver circuit).

Worth the drive, even in the rain.

Pacchia Restaurant | 410 East 5th Street, Dayton, OH | 937.341.5050

Other opinions on Pacchia:
A 20-something sales rep and student had a less-than-stellar experience.
Sue of Rabbit Run Cottage gives me a list of must-try experiences in Dayton, including both Pacchia and another restaurant on our radar later this week.

From the archives: A year ago today, I played with puff pastry.

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glamah16 said...

Poor thing. I'm glad you found a great restaurant after the bad experiences.