Saturday, June 7, 2008
Do you cook at home? Do you make risotto? It's a culinary challenge, involving lots of chopping, stirring, pre-measured ingredients, pots & pans for the base, the stock, the flavorings. Guys say that making risotto with their girlfriends is the ultimate aphrodisiac: there's lots of stuff to do and taste together, with a lush, aromatic payoff.
Risotto in a restaurant, on the other hand, is all-too-often hit and miss. At best, it's sublime, but at worst, it's an excuse to dump leftovers into boiled rice. At La Fontana Siciliana, there's no question: it's an unqualified hit.
In the cozy, low-ceilinged room overlooking a courtyard fountain, under banners of the Sicilian flag, dinners are served at antique library tables set for two. Opera music plays discreetly. The owner's daughter takes your order. Start with a bruschetta, perhaps, or a caprese salad (the mozzarella served on orange slices rather than flavorless tomatoes).
The special's a risotto with chestnuts and sausage, not to be missed. In the kitchen, owner-chef Mario Fuenzalida prepares the risotto to order: arborio rice, chestnuts, sausage and truffle oil, topped with shavings of parmigiano-reggiano and garnished with an ornamental swoosh of balsamic. The flavors and textures come together effortlessly, as they should: Mario's been cooking for decades and has nurtured a whole school of Italian restaurateurs (La Vita è Bella, Mondello and Enza Cucina Siciliana to name three).
No one else in town even thinks of putting pasta con le sarde on the menu. It's a traditional Sicilian dish: spaghetti with a sauce based on sardines, fennel, pine nuts and raisins, too time-consuming and complicated for most kitchens. Even Mario doesn't have it every day, so call ahead.
La Fontana Siciliana, 120 Blanchard Ave., 206-441-1045