Early in our relationship, before we discovered Jojo, Melissa and I celebrated special occasions at Oliveto, but it always seemed too expensive for the food. I know the cooks have mad charcuterie skills and the wine bottles talk to the food, but the bill never jibed with the meal.
Things have changed. Melissa and I decided to give the restaurant another chance on our fourth anniversary (having been to Jojo twice in the previous three weeks), and we were happy we did. Oliveto delivered a meal that seemed worth the money we paid, though the meal wasn't cheap. Raucous crowds on both ends of the restaurant kept it from being an intimate experience, but the food was good.
When we dine out, Melissa plays a game where she predicts what I'm going to order. Even on a large menu such as Oliveto's, she almost always wins by spotting the offal dishes and any duck or rabbit. Sure enough, I started with the trotter, a rich patty of ground-up pig's foot that the kitchen had breaded and fried. From there I moved to the Piti with pigeon livers, pancetta, and Madeira, a pasta dish with udon-esque noodles and a-tad-too-big chunks of pigeon liver. I finished the meal with a juicy, spit-roasted loin of rabbit for which the meat had been flattened, stuffed with bread and rabbit livers, rolled, and skewered on a spit.
Melissa went a lighter route. She started with a pretty spring bouquet of purple asparagus, mint, fava beans, and pecorino. She opted for a silky tagliatelle dish for her pasta, one dressed with peas and black trumpet mushrooms. She recalled our wedding day menu with a lightly smoky spit-roasted leg of lamb accompanied by a rich and creamy green garlic and potato gratin. She ended the meal with a bit of framboise sherbet.
Oliveto's food takes its cue from Italy, and so does its wine list, though you can find California and French bottles. The restaurant organizes the list by style of wine—"Crisp & Dry White Wines" and "Medium-Bodied Red Wines in New Wood" for example—and then by country. I like wine lists organized this way, because you don't have to know the details of one Dolcetto producer over another to know the style. We asked our waiter for advice on the wine, and started with a minerally half-bottle of Villa Sparina's Gavi, a Piemontese white, before switching to a full bottle of Brovia's flavorful and fruity "Vigna Villej" Dolcetto d'Alba, a Piemontese red. And of course we ended with a taste of the Cocchi Barolo Chinato.
While I felt like I got my money's worth this time around, Oliveto is a pricey outing, and Melissa and I will keep going to Jojo for our special dinners. But we don't need to be wary of Oliveto anymore.
Labels: Restaurant Reviews