Sunday, October 4, 2009

Anniversary dinner at Mi Scuzi

For our 5th anniversary, Darling Husband and I decided to try Mi Scuzi, an Italian restaurant in a very unassuming location. It's a converted house near the corner of 26th and Myrtle Streets. Fortunately they have valet parking, as there's not much around. It's a residential area right near Saint Vincent hospital; I wonder where they put the cars. (As a side note, I enjoy handing a standard transmission over to a valet. It's silly, I know, but I feel like they have to reevaluate what they think of me. Plus, I think it's good to hone their driving skills.)

The restaurant was lit with a bunch of white Christmas lights in the bushes and such, which is always fun. There's an awning over the walk ways leading up to the door, which unfortunately was populated by several large, creepy spiders. Gladly, I didn't notice until we were leaving. Ewwwww.

I had a terrible dining experience once at The Crazy Parot, which is at the North East Marina. We were seated outside on the covered porch area and I noticed the ceiling struts were populated with hundreds of big, fat spiders. Darling Husband convinced me to stay and I tried to relax. That is, until I felt a tickle on my neck and swatted away a huge mother of a spider. I remember screaming and jumping up and smacking at myself, then excusing myself to the ladies room to have hysterics. We were reseated inside and I got a huge, ridiculous, blue mixed drink to calm myself. I will never go back there. In addition to the arachnic attack, I remember the meal itself being a bit "eh." It would have to be pretty amazing to get me to go back and it was merely fine.

But back to Mi Scuzi.

Reservations are pretty much a must, and even so it was busy enough that we needed to wait at the bar for our table to be ready. When we made the reservation, the gentleman I spoke to made a point to ask us not to come early due to their business. He wasn't just whistling dixie. The dining area (formerly livingroom type area) was crammed with tables. I'm sure that's because they want to accommodate as many people as possible, but it seemed challenging for the wait staff.

While we didn't have a ton of elbow room, I also didn't feel super crowded. Perhaps that's because we were against a small partition instead of just out in the open. I did have to be careful not to put my chair too far back, lest I trap the woman seated behind me at her table.

We had a coupon for a bottle of wine with the purchase of two entrees. We chose the red, a very pleasant concha y toro blend. They seem to have these coupons a lot and I recommend them. You're already splurging on the meal; it's nice to have a bottle comped.

To begin, we shared a "grilled pizzette" appetizer with caramelized onions, pears, gorgonzola and mozarella. Oh, yummy yum yum yum! It was crusty, sweet and wonderfully gooey. The gorgonzola provided a fantastic bite and kept it from being too sweet. It was so magnificent, we're planning on making something similar for dinner soon just to get to taste it again.

We also shared a salad, which was HUGE. It's a good thing we shared it, because it was not a little side salad. We chose the fennel, arrugula and citrus salad. The fennel was paper thin and in a wonderfully fluffy mound. It was adorned with ribbons of aged provolone, which I thought was a slightly moist parmasean until I looked up the menu to write this. There were supposed to be black mission figs, but the figs we got were golden and round... which was fantastic, but not a black mission fig unless the fresh looks much, much different from the dried. It was drizzled with a raspberry vinaigrette, which was very subtle in flavor but robust in color. The salad also had big slices of orange, which was nice but I feel the execution could have been improved by removing the pith and taking the slices down from 1/2 inch to 1/8th inch. Darling Husband would have preferred the oranges cut into supremes, but we both acknowledge that we're splitting hairs at this point. The salad was refreshing, flavorful and crisp.

For the main course, Darling Husband and I both ordered off the daily special. Unfortunately, they had run out of scallops and so I had to choose another dish. Darling Husband had crusted Chilean sea bass over Parmesan scallion risotto with an anisette cream. I had the cioppino, a traditional Italian pasta dish with various sea foods in a tomato sauce.

Darling Husband's dish was phenomenal. The fish was flaky and had the taste of butter--perhaps butter poached? And yet the outside had a crispy sear to it. Hmmm. The risotto was so decadently rich, I could've cried. There must've been some sort of mascarpone or something in it. It was ridiculously tasty. On top of the fish were shoestrings of zucchini and carrot, just perfect for dragging through the anisette cream. What can we say about the anisette cream? It rocked. I'm at a loss for words.

My cioppino had delicate calamari, not even a little overdone. Perfectly tender. Joining the calamari were huge shrimp, ruffly clams and Sicilian muscles that tasted like the ocean. I ordinarily am not a fan of the thin, almost tomato juice style of sauce. This one, however, changed my mind completely. Much of this probably had to do with the homemade pasta under it. Home made pasta is the sort of thing you think isn't that big of a deal until you have it and realize it really does matter.

It was a fantabulous meal and a wonderful celebration. The very fact that our criticisms were so small is evidence of the level of culinary skill. I don't know who the chef is. The co-owners are Barry Grossman (the one from all the political signs in all the yards) and Rick Scalise. Barry actually seated us and seemed quite the presence in the restaurant, sitting with various diners and sharing their wine, their limoncello or just their company. It seemed their were several tables of regulars. Good for them. We could never afford to be frequent fliers there, but the next big event we need to celebrate, I'm there.

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