It’s tough out there for a blogger. You visit a restaurant in the opening days, you’re a glory-seeker and the pros roll their eyes at you, especially if you pan the place. Wait a few months, and those writing for a living have already provided their official starred review.
It makes me wonder about the value of my blog; if it’s already been thoroughly covered by the press, what can I add to their generally excellent summaries?
Besides being a source for early intel, I like to think a blog can survey a more casual approach, without word count limits and maybe a few more photos than a newspaper can provide. One can also begin to associate with a blogger, identifying with their habits and tastes, and maybe learn a few things. Are these assumptions delusional?
Though I, myself, am still on an educational culinary journey, I do receive a fair amount of inquisitive emails and I do my best to respond. I’ve learned a considerable amount about cooking pizza from Jeff Varasano’s website, and about fried chicken and Sichuan cooking via emailing back and forth with Rowdy Food. The first time we were introduced, I left Rowdy’s home with an armful of Jacque Pepin cookbooks, Sichuan peppercorns, and Maldon salt. There are lots of kind people eager to talk about what they’ve learned, and a blog is just a different form of that. Sharing the gospel, according to Escoffier.
I do wonder if people associate with my eating obsessions, if they find themselves at a similar point on the learning curve. More than likely they just want a few sometimes-pretty pictures. Either way, it’s still fun for me, I just feel dumb when posting on restaurants that have been reviewed and blogged a dozen times over.
If I haven’t lost you yet, onward with the post!
A couple of weeks ago was my first visit to Double Zero Napoletana, where I was especially nervous about taking good photos as our dining cohorts were the uber-talented Scobey wedding photographers. Unfortunately it’s somewhat dark in the unexpectedly large restaurant, and I don’t have the bucks for a big boy blogger lens yet. You know, one of those that make everything look ridiculous even with it’s pitch black.
It’s been routinely chronicled that one of the biggest issues with Double Zero is that they over do it. Too many elements to the dish, too many sauces, just too many conflicting or cloaking flavors in general. I found that the service was the same. Numerous people came to our table to chat (whether we were talking or not), including the owner, and our waiter was of the super stoked “Hey guys and gals! What can I do ya for?!?” varietal. Of all the things to gripe about, overly attentive service isn’t really a big deal, but it’s noticeable and sometimes broke conversation.
We started with arancini, fried risotto. A good place to start. They lack the finesse of the light and aromatic version at Cakes & Ale, but they weren’t too heavy or full of mushy rice, the only way I can see screwing this up, save for burning them in the fryer.
The octopus definitely succumbed to the habit of over-doing it. I could barely taste the arthropod amongst the red pepper sauce and the white bean pureee. It was also a smaller piece than expected for $12.
The pork belly with polenta and egg was everything it should be – gluttonously rich and full of calories. It’s heavy, but when sharing it’s very manageable. It’s not a must order for me as I don’t want an appetizer to put me down for the count, but I was happy to try it.
Our first pizza, the classic Margherita, arrived quickly. Basil, sauce, and cheese coverage were proportionally excellent, and the crust was sporting a very promising set of leopard spots on the crust. We cut our pizza with the scissors provided to us and dug in. Except for a slight gumminess in the interior of the cornicione, and a dough flavor that doesn’t quite compare to the sourdough I’ve come to love at Varasano’s, I found it to be delicious. It wasn’t soggy, or soupy, though it could have probably used another 10-30 seconds in the oven to finish off that crust. The toppings and the sauce (my favorite part other than the crust), were quite good.
We were having no problems attacking the first pizza when the Affettati with soppressata, sausage, and pancetta arrived. This one was even crisper, with just the right amount of salty cured pork on it. Though at $17 I think it’s priced $2-3 too much for the size.
I shared the rapini and sausage pasta with Katie, though I was directed to eat all the sausage. It’s not the prettiest of pastas dishes, in fact, I might call it homely, but I mean that in a good way. It felt like how I’d make this dish at home. Not perfect, but satisfying.
The Scobey’s paglia e fieno (“straw and hay”, so named for the colors of the tagliatelle) had a similar rustic look, and while I didn’t taste it, they seemed to enjoy it.
I was quite full at this point, but when the ladies insisted on dessert I didn’t put up much of a fight. I just had an espresso and pushed through. The Nutella terrine was easily my winner from the dessert flight. The hazelnut rich chocolate flavors with banana gelato are right in my wheelhouse.
Truly, I don’t remember much of my one bite of the ’00’ chocolate cake. Though, I do know it satisfied the cake/chocolate tooth in one gal.
They brought us a few cannoli, either because we spent a bunch of money, or because I was taking photos, moving dishes around to stage shots and what not. They also waived the $15 corkage fee for the two bottles that I brought. Blogger benefit? Maybe. But I also ensured to share my wine with the wait staff, and I’ve found providing alcohol to weary (or overly excited) waiters is a sure way to earn some brownie points.
We had a very enjoyable meal overall. A few misses that I wouldn’t expect at this price point, and the staff is a bit too chummy for my tastes, but we had a lot of fun and I left full and happy. The menu is large, and having a selection of cheeses, meats, pastas, and pizzas that range from good to very solid is going to please a lot of people. Their location on the edge of the ‘burbs (but still only 15 minutes from my house on the Westside) is sure to attract both ITP and OTP crowds, so it’s easy to see them being a success. I’d like to see them nail down a few dishes and maybe adjust the price point on a few items but I’d definitely go back.