Baltimore Restaurant Week started on Monday. So, clearly, my duty as a food blogger was to get out there and eat at as many participating restaurant as my stomach (and wallet) would allow! Monday night my friend Matt and I had reservations at Pazza Luna, a little Italian place in the Locust Point neighborhood in south Baltimore. When I say "in the neighborhood" I am not kidding-- the place was literally on the corner, in between a couple of cute little row houses. I love places like this-- makes me never hope I never eat in a strip mall again!
Once inside, the place was casual but cozy. There were a few tables and a large-ish bar downstairs, but we were brought upstairs to a cute, airy dining room. A friendly busboy came by to fill our water glasses ("Sparkling, still, or Baltimore's Finest tap?") and to deliver a basket of assorted bread, some olive oil, and a head of roasted garlic. I thought this was a great touch, one of those things that will stand out in my memory, potentially longer that the meal itself!
Our waitress came to the table promptly and we ordered off the Restaurant Week menu, which was a Prix Frixe $30 three-course dinner. Hard to beat that! But we had a tough choice ahead of us. The menu was as follows:
- Crab Salad with Cucumber and Yogurt
- Asparagus Salad with Grilled Peach Vinaigrette
- Yellow Tomato Gazpacho
- Chicken Risotto with Romaine Lettuce and Lemon
- Pan Seared Branzino in Orangecello Sauce
- Vegetarian Lasagna
- Veal Marsala in a Porcini Mushroom Sauce
- Semi-freddo Triple Chocolate Mousse
So many good choices! But we had to make a decision, and after nibbling (ok, devouring) the bread and ordering a bottle of Italian red wine, out came the first course.
I ordered the yellow tomato gazpacho, which was a stunning gold color, and had a fresh, tangy tomato flavor (of course as I ate it I was wondering where I could get my hands on some delicious yellow tomatoes myself!). It had a drizzle of olive oil on top (hard to see against the yellow soup) and a crispy bacon garnish in the middle, the saltiness of which really helped bring out the sweetness of the gazpacho. A delicious, refreshing summer starter.
Matt got the Asparagus salad, which he was kind enough to let me taste. It was excellent. The greens were tossed with a delicious peach vinaigrette, the asparagus were served warm but were perfectly cooked to tender-crispness, and the grilled peach half (that's blue cheese on top) was awesome. I would absolutely steal this idea and served grilled peaches with blue cheese as an appetizer (or dessert!) on their own. All the elements of the dish worked well together-- again, good summer fare.
For the main course I chose the veal, and Matt had the Branzino. Both were served with a vegetable medley of zucchini and squash, which was quite tasty (can you believe it, Mom? I like zucchini AND squash now! I'm all growns up). My veal was very good, the rich sauce had lots of fresh mushroom slices, and then meat was pounded thin and well-seasoned.
The Branzino was very tasty-- I loved the orangecello sauce which gave it just a bit of sweetness, but not too much. The fish was very moist and flaky, not at all dry. Our one complaint about the main dishes was that the portions were fairly small. It would have been perfect with a little side dish of homemade pasta.
Finally, dessert. Matt got the tiramasu which I tired but honestly it is not one of my favorites. There is something about the coffee (or rum) soaked ladyfingers that I am just not a fan of. Also, "ladyfingers" makes me think of this song by Tom Lehrer that my Dad used to play for us on the piano when we were little-- NORMAL! Anyway, I got the triple chocolate mousse which was rich and lovely. In fact it was SO rich, I couldn't even finish it! I know, I know, I just complained that the portions were too small; I'm a high maintenance diner. Sue me.
Semi-Freddo Triple Chocolate Mousse
I will definitely visit Pazza Luna again. It seems like a great place to get a casual, but not TOO casual, quality Italian meal, and its right in the neighborhood. What a great start to Restaurant Week! More to come...