Saturday, June 7, 2008

Fountain of Delight


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 รจ 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

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