Sunday, August 14, 2005



The word on the street about Asti Trattoria is that it's decent Italian food (unless you're a hardcore Italian food fan), but probably not worth the price ($10 - $15 a plate). I'd been there once before when I was vegan, and this assessment seemed true back then.. though it can be harsh to judge the quality of a restaurant just based on the vegan options. Unfortunately, Asti starts with points off for being the favorite restaurant of the woman at my title company who did the closing of my house. She was rude in so many ways, it was unbelievable. Ok, that was unfair. Sorry.

I went to Asti (named after an Italian town) the other night for a friend's going-away dinner. Just FYI, the friend treated us all. Free food! Here's what I got:

- Champagne
- bread
- mushroom thing (appetizer)
- Tomato Risotto

Allow me to expound on the "mushroom thing". Well.. let's do that later. Allow me to expound on the champagne. First and foremost, it went straight to my head. I'm no Mr. Champagne, but it was very tasty... a rosé Champagne to be precise. Yeah... don't know too many champagne-related adjectives. Hmmm... well it's not as if Asti made their own champagne, so perhaps it should not have been included in this review. Ah well.

The bread was kind of funny. They gave us this "bucket o' bread". Totally plain looking bread. No olive oil for dipping. No butter for spreading. Not even little herbs at the bottom of the "bucket". Nothing. Just bread. Turns out it was trick-bread: it had some invisible source of flavor, such that it was something like garlic bread. It was pretty good, but vastly more impressive was the sneakiness of it. Makes me want to give little pieces of it at Halloween. I'm sure kids would love that!

Tomato Risotto. Meh.. it was good. Not worth the extra Asti-tax. But good. I took a bit of it home. Basically it was risotto rice (slightly undercooked perhaps??), within a tomato-based sauce, upon which a small nest of delicious mixed vegetables was resting. Once I got to the mixed vegetable section, the quality increased five-fold. Though I didn't finish it fully, it was the kind of meal that left me hungry almost immediately after leaving the restaurant. This is just another example of the fundamental flaw in Italian vegetarian food that doesn't have cheese: it's not a complete source of protein, unless they add a lot of pine nuts. Craig O's is the same way. Before I forget: Asti had five vegetarian entree options, as well as a few appetizers. Not too shabby.

Speaking of appetizers, let's get back to the "mushroom thing". "Mushroom thing" was *amazing*. It was definitely the highlight of the visit, yet it was also a sad moment... for there were six people at the table, and only six "mushroom thing" items. So I had to limit myself to one. Sigh. Anyway, I shall now reveal the full text that was on the menu for "mushroom thing":

Stuffed Mushrooms with Fried Breadcrumbs & Truffle Oil, stuffed with Goat Cheese, Ricotta and Pecorino Romano with Sage

If you like all the constituent ingredients, I can't see how you wouldn't totally worship this item. Also, this is one of the few things I've eaten where the texture is something I actually care about a LOT... I think it was the fried breadcrumbs. They gave a snappy little crunch at the very end. Excellence.

So that's the story.. appetizer was absolutely incredible, and everything else besides the champagne was just good. Also, the service was of expected quality from a place like that. Again, the food was not enough to fill me up properly, but in this case a quick trip to Mozart's, involving a piece of Strawberry Cheesecake, solved that problem. So, I would say, Asti's a good place to try out... get the "mushroom thing" appetizer, and maybe you'll have better luck finding an entree of comparable quality.

Totally agree with your assessment about the stuffed mushrooms and the champagne at ASTI. However the food on the whole does seem a little over priced for the quantity and quality too. Maybe the excellent wine selection makes up for it :)
True... there does seem to be a good wine selection there, at least in terms of sheer quantity. Especially cool is that the wines are all displayed on a large wall. The Great Wall of Wine.
Risotto is suppose to be slightly undercooked. Otherwise, it'll taste like mush.
Ah.. Good info. I could see that. I guess I have to try more risottos. Still though, I wonder if, even given that, it was still a bit undercooked.

My mom used to make Brazilian-style risottos regularly, and they weren't like that... So maybe they weren't following the authentic Italian way.
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