Monthly Archives: February 2015

Cucina Pazzo

Cucina Pazzo 7 I will admit that I am not the biggest fan of Italian restaurants. While the food is almost always delicious, tradition seems to be a point of intense pride and I tend prefer a little more creativity to my meals. Normally the idea of spending a date night at an Italian restaurant would do anything but excite me but hearing buzz around this week’s restaurant, I was willing to have an open mind.

Cucina Pazzo is a cozy little romantic restaurant located in the Central West End serving Italian food with a modern twist. While the menu is based on typical traditional dishes, this menu is anything but ordinary. For example, the Maine lobster risotto is served with a fried egg while the fettuccini alfredo comes with spicy Italian sausage. Our meal started with drinks and I chose the Frutta martini made with vanilla vodka, peach liqueur, peach puree, cream, and cinnamon. This sweet drink tasted just like a dreamsicle and went down easy. We were also presented with rosemary focaccia served in a hot cast iron skillet served with a sweet and tangy dipping sauce. For an appetizer we went with the Sicilian style artichoke stuffed with Parmesan, seasoned bread crumbs, and lemon (crab can be added for an additional charge). Although there was not a lot of meat on the artichoke leaves, the real treat was the artichoke heart at the bottom of the dish. The seasonings were great and the dish was perfect for sharing.

I felt like I needed to try one of the fresh fish options on the menu for my main course so I chose the pistachio crusted barramundi served with garlic broccolini, butter poached potatoes, and a spicy lobster sauce. The light, flaky fish was fresh and the broccolini was nicely cooked but the star of the dish was definitely the lobster sauce. I could put the sauce on almost anything or even eat it with a spoon and I would be happy. My husband chose the chopstick pig pasta served with pancetta, Kalua pork, pork belly, bacon, Brussel sprouts, wok vegetables, and a butter sauce. This hearty pasta dish was served with an amazing Asian inspired sauce which was quite a nice surprise given that we were at an Italian restaurant.

 

Although all of the food was delicious, the highlight of the meal was dessert. We chose the freshly baked cookie which came out in a hot cast iron skillet since it was highly recommended by our waiter. This warm, half-baked cookie was topped with ice cream and almond whipped cream mousse and was a great way to finish the night.

 

If you are looking for a unique dining experience be sure to ask for a seat at the bar of the open kitchen so you can enjoy a little show while you eat, reservations not required. I can’t wait for the weather to warm up so I can come back to enjoy a meal on the nice sidewalk patio out front.

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Grapeseed

IMG_3245Thanks to a suggestion I received, I decided to head to the Southhampton neighborhood to check out Grapeseed. Being a Friday night, I reserved my place in line with my favorite app., NoWait. I was able to hang out at home and then head to the restaurant to be seated as soon as I walked in the door. If you arrive and you aren’t willing to wait, you can snag a seat at the bar where you can still order all food items of the menu.

IMG_3248As the name suggests, the restaurant features an extensive wine list and American style food made with seasonal, local ingredients. The majority of the menu is served as small plates ranging in price from $5-$16. There are also reasonably priced sandwiches and a small selection of entrees, several of which are gluten free. I started off with a Macklind Mule made with vodka, ginger beer, lime juice, and grapefruit bitters all served in a traditional copper cup. In addition to wine, there is a selection of local draft beer and a wider variety of bottled beer.

Based on our waitress’s suggestion, we started with two small plates. First was the gnocchi made with brown butter, brussel sprouts, and pecans. I could have eaten this yummy dish for my dinner alone. I loved the subtle nutty flavor and crunch that the pecans added to the gnocchi. My only wish was that there would have been just a few more gnocchi (but maybe that is just because it was so delicious). Our second starter was the flatbread with spiced cauliflower, ham, white bean puree, and mozzarella. The cauliflower had a great cumin flavor with just a little kick to it and was cooked so that it had a nice crunch. This is a great dish to share and they were able to make half of it without ham to be more vegetarian friendly.

 

I ordered the salmon burger with ginger slaw and molasses for my entree. I eat a lot of salmon burgers but this was easily the best one I have ever had. I love when salmon has a subtle sweetness and the molasses is what set this burger apart. The large burger was served on an incredibly fresh, simple bun and topped with the slaw which added a little texture. The burger did not come with any sides but fries were available as a small plate.
Based on another recommendation from our waitress, my husband ordered the shrimp and cheddar grits topped with apple, pepper pesto, and bacon. The shrimp are served with the heads on which can be a little intimidating if you are not used to this. Although I do not love to see the face of food I am about to eat, my husband didn’t mind other than the little bit of extra work that it required. The grits were rich and creamy and this was the perfect dish for a cold winter night.

 

Grapeseed was packed the entire evening which leads me to my only complaint of the night. The restaurant is loud! Our server had to keep repeating herself and we had to shout just to hear across our 2 person table. That being said, with great food, reasonable prices, and a relaxed atmosphere, Grapeseed is everything you hope your neighborhood restaurant will be.

Grapeseed is located at 5400 Nottingham Ave. St. Louis, MO 63109

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