Friday, September 21, 2012

Dining Under the Stars: Spasso Italian Grill

Dining at Spasso Italian Grill last night was an awesome decision. As part of Media's ongoing theme of Dining Under the Stars, all the restuarants dine and wine under the open sky. The roads on Olive and State streets are cordoned off for vehicular traffic. The crowd starts to trickle in slowly after 6.00 pm. While my original choice was Fellini Cafe - Trattoria, they were booked for the evening. Teddy suggested Spasso as a great dining experience and he was right. I have passed by Spasso a dozen times on my way from work and every time, I used to wonder what the dining experience would be like and yesterday, I lived that moment. I was excited.

Just walking down the streets was such a pleasant feeling. The tables had been set up. The hosts were ready with their menu and the crowd was strolling by. I could have captured a dozen dizzy moments on my camera, but I also chose to enjoy the surroundings as I saw them.  

At Spasso, Justin attended to our table for the dinner service. He was pleasant, knew his menu upside down and gave me some good vegetarian recommendations. 

I started with cold water with a wedge of lemon before I graduated to the white sangria which was good. I still rate the Sangria at Grace Winery the best. Maybe, I can pick up a bottle or two for folks back home. Teddy had three glasses of Pinot Grigio, a white wine which I guess he enjoyed through the entire course of the meal. 

For the antipasti, I decided to go with the Arugula Salad, overriding Justin's recommendation, the Bruschetta, which is basically crostini topped with tomatoes and olive or onions. I gave it a miss since I have had it way too many times. 

I was ready to try something different. The Arugula salad seemed like a natural choice since I have seen this particular ingredient used by all the chefs in most of the culinary shows. I gave in to my temptation and ordered the salad. I was also on a guilt trip since I have not been doing my 45 minute walk after work and had been binging on vadai and payasam I had made the day before. 

Teddy warned me that the portions will be huge. I did not take him too seriously over the salad. I mean, after all how much leaves can you mount on my plate? Needless to say I was mistaken, which was evident because my eyes popped out when Justin brought out the salad. I was a little overwhelmed looking at my colorful plate. 

I thought I was done for the day if I had to get through this course. It was a smart pairing of the colors of the cuisine to the color of the plate. The blue rimmed plate heightened the arugula greens and the cream color of the cheese with the red tidbits of tomato were an excellent culinary painting. It conveys the amount of detail and thought that has gone into each of these courses. What really impressed me was the crunch of the arugula, the shine of the dressing coating the salad, the fresh green texture, softness of the tomatoes and the tangy, but firm crunch of the cheese and each of these aspects were brought together in a neat heaped up plate of juicy salad. The dressing was spot on and did not make the salad soggy. I was able to enjoy the true nature of the arugula with a little help from the wine and cheese.

Teddy ordered his favorite calamari, fried squid which needs to be fried under a few minutes to prevent it from getting tough. I believe the calamari was grilled and the texture was excellent. He polished it off along with the Pinot Grigio. 

We were also served a complimentary bread basket with roasted zucchini and eggplant in olive oil. It was divine and quite the favorite of a few who frequent Spasso. 

When it was time for the entree, I decided to go for the Penne Spasso, which is pasta served with bacon on a bed of pink sauce, as opposed to the usual tomato based sauces.  The pink sauce was made with tomato and cream, but had a more lighter, fresh texture giving it the pinkness in the sauce.

Justin accommodated my vegetarian palate and ensured I had an ample serving of brocolli, peas and greens. T had the same pasta, but served in its original form with bacon. We also had the choice of extra grated Parmesan over our pasta which we readily agreed to. We were both bowled over the texture of the pasta, which was cooked to perfection, firm and soft, al dente in short. The vegetables, especially the peas were crunchy and not overcooked. Given the chill in the air and a terrible drop in temperature, the Spasso team did an excellent job of retaining the freshness of the dish, serving each dish at the right temperature, whilst retaining or maybe even heightening its flavors.

Service was excellent. With four glasses of wine, two antipastis and entrees, at USD 83, it was worth every penny. The weather was really cold; nevertheless dining under a blue sky during the middle of a week was a knock-out bargain. It was an  unforgettable evening. Hopefully there is more to come.


Jay Talkin' said...

Looks like you had a lot of fun and it shows!

Anonymous said...

Yeh! I'd like to taste a Sangria !! Pls get one for sure and we cud share it when we meet :)
And the food!! God, they look sooo damn delicious. Its really sad that we dont get such authentic food in India.. and even if we did its pretty expensive.

AquaM said...

Jay, yes it was rocknrolla time!

Jans, it is expensive with the wine, but worth the trouble :)