My husband is constantly threatening to take me to a local all-you-can-eat Italian place here in Austin called Cannoli Joe’s. Don’t get me wrong – I love Italian food. But once I got locked out of my car at the farmer’s market nearby and I went to call AAA from Cannoli Joe’s. As it was a typical Austin summer day, it was about 120 degrees – so I decided to walk around and check out this Italian buffet. It was rooms of food. Not just one room – rooms. I think they might have had cute names, like the Venice room or something, I can’t recall. But walking through the whole space, made my stomach hurt. There were many vats of pasta with melted cheese or alfredo sauce and pieces of breaded meats in tomato sauces. I just keep waiting for a Sunday when I am really hung over and starving. While this used to be a common occurence, it is now seemingly rare. Please, do not take this as an attack against Cannoli Joe’s, it’s just the thought of ALL that food that stresses me out.
So for Chris’s birthday I asked him what he wanted to eat. “Cannoli Joe’s,” he said. I, of course, did not listen. Instead I made reservations at one of the best Italian dining experiences in Austin – Andiamo. We had been there before, but I heard their Chef’s Menu was divine. So I picked that and just hoped it would work out. If he did not like it, I had promised Chris we would go to Cannoli Joe’s the next day.
Well, I was worried at first. For those of you who do not know Andiamo, it is in a strip mall off of Burnet. So from the outside it does not look like much. But I forgive it for that because the food is so impeccable. So this did not bother me, what was worrisome initially was that they appeared to have lost my reservation. The hostess kept scanning and I am guessing never found our name. But she recovered quickly and pretended to know exactly where to seat us. Crisis averted.
Our waitress came out and took our drink order. We asked her to pick out for us a good wine – red, that was not too expensive. She recommended the Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. It was fantastic. But I will say the wines at Andiamo are on the expensive side.
Quickly, after we sat and our wine was out, our server delivered our first course. And what a first course it was – veal ravioli in a cognac truffle sauce topped with Parmesan-Reggiano cheese. Every bite was incredible. I love truffles, so it’s kind of unfair to review. You could put truffle oil on my ice cream and I would love it. It was the perfect size and packed a wonderful, decadent punch that kicked off our meal nicely.
As an American, I always start my meal with a salad. I want to be European and eat my salad at another point in the meal. But I just really, really like it at the beginning. So I was less blown away by the salad. I might have liked it better had it been first. I mean it followed veal ravioli with a cognac truffle sauce, how is it supposed to compete??? But I will say, it made a valiant effort. The salad consisted of arugula and fennel (two of my favorite things) with sunflower seeds, apples and it was topped with a lovely and light Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette. It did provide a nice, light interlude before the next course.
This course blew my mind. I really love food, but I can be a little boring in terms of some seafood. So when the server brought this dish out and said it was scallops in a calamari broth I was nervous. But I had no reason to be. It was so tasty I gobbled it down in record time. This was a beautiful course. The scallops – perfectly cooked – not rubbery and not gooey, just flavorful. And the flavor of the broth was exceptional and enhanced by capers, tomatoes and celery. There was absolutely no fishy flavor at all and the calamari rings were perfect.
So, I do not love duck. I think it’s okay. But I have never had it done well. This dish changed everything. It is now on my top five favorite dishes eaten at a restaurant. And it was not just that the duck was perfectly cooked – crispy, with just a hint of fatty flavor. It was not just that the cherry and wine sauce tasted like it was meant to be eaten with the duck. Nor, was it that I love mushrooms and underneath the beautiful duck breast was a bed of the best and yummiest Morel mushrooms ever. It was these things together that made this dish spectacular. I can still taste this dish. It is making me hungry as I type.
For dessert I was hoping it was not going to be a Tiramisu or something typically Italian. Well, I was pleasantly surprised. The server brought out one of the coolest desserts I had ever eaten. It was a homemade sweet ravioli with a filling that was quite surprising. It had chestnut cream, honey and chocolate. I absolutely loved it. It was inventive enough that I believe the chef was trying and tasty enough that I ate it ALL.
The verdict on the Chef’s Menu at Andiamo was a two thumbs up. The total for the menu is $55 per person. We did buy a bottle of cheaper wine, but it still cost us about $35 for the wine. Andiamo also has a four-course vegetarian menu for $43.
And if you were wondering, we still have not gone to Cannoli Joe’s. Chris is now trying to get me to take him for Valentine’s Day. I will keep you posted.