Oretta: The Importance of Auditory Authenticity: Madonnaism vs Real Accents

I’ve only come to realize recently the important role that accents have on pop culture.  The attention to detail and need for authenticity has often required actors to hide their native tongues to better represent to the role they assume.  Actors like Charlie Hunnan and Hugh Laurie fooled us for years by Americanizing their voices to play the leader of a Charming biker gang and a Jersey cocky doctor respectively.  Most recently I’ve heard interviews from the cast of the Walking Dead only to realize that both Rick and Morgan among others are from across the pond and their American grunts and mumbles amidst the zombies are just part of the act.  It’s not always English to American either;  I recently binged watched season 1 of Fargo and  listened to hours of Californian Colin Hanks and Texan Allison Tolman speak in Minnesota and surrounding accents.

On the other hand, bad accents can counter attempts at authenticity.  For example, shortly after marrying Guy Ritchie, Michigan native Madonna felt the need to let the world know that she became English overnight driven by a lukewarm British accent. The act was deemed rather inauthentic and lead to a good amount of backlash.

The need for some degree of authenticity seems to exist in the restaurant business.  In addition to a decor which reflects a restaurant’s overall concept, some insist on ensuring that the staff are equipped with a lexicon synonymous to the overall theme. It makes sense; I love to grab a Guinness from an Irish barkeep or listen to the proper pronunciation of a great Asian dish. Although the logic and emotion behind this is obvious, I think a couple of rules need to be established:

  • Let’s avoid Madonnaisms. If you are not from the country, don’t use the accent. A crash course using Rosetta Stone won’t fool anybody except the hipsters who did exactly the same thing to create the appearance that they are more intelligent consumer.
  • If you are fluent in the language, don’t be arrogant about it.  If I order rigatoni, I don’t mind having it repeated back to ensure accuracy but don’t need it done to correct my pronunciation. I’m North American; rigatoni is the same as Reeg-a-tow-naaay.
  • Make the menu authentic but readable.  I can figure out that secondi means second but let’s draw the line at having the ingredients listed in a different language along with a 4 page glossary in the back.

I suppose at some point I should get back to reviewing a few restaurants so this may be a good segue.  I went to Oretta a while back.  I was looking for a semi-quiet Italian place downtown that didn’t have the name Cibo, Terroni or Mercatto in it.  I had strolled by it a couple of times prior and was impressed with the roomy layout and decor of a traditional Italian ristorante mixed with a little King Street cheesiness.  Not surprisingly when we were seated we were greeted by a young waiter will a full out Italian accent.  I didn’t for a second think it was fake or phony but it did make me ponder the impact it might have on my dining experience.

The menu was a shortlist of classic Italian salads, pizzas, pastas and “secondis”. In the dead of winter the Cavoletti  salad (shaved brussel sprouts, almonds, pickled red onion, pecorino and crispy prosciutto) was a crisp, fresh and balanced reminder that  sulfuric and pickled vegetables can nicely bridge our extreme Canadian seasons.

oretta salad
Cavoletti $14

From the pasta menu we opted for gnocchi and risotto (aka. Riso di Ieri).  The former was doused with a rich meat sauce which made for a heavier dish, especially with the dense dumplings. The flavours were great but it grew monotonous rather quickly. Regarding the Riso; the normal and often overemphasized creaminess and volume of the risotto itself was de-emphasized.  It was hidden in a pan fried crust and served atop a generous portion of mushrooms.  As somebody who’s not the biggest fan of risotto, I found this version much more balanced and exciting mainly because the rice was de-emphasized. More traditional risotto fans, however, could easily be left disappointed by this interpretation.

oretta gnocchi
Gnocchi $19
oretta risotto
Riso di Ieri $23

I failed to capture a picture of the Margherita pizza ($16) but it looked like…well..a pizza. It passed the test; simplicity by means of a thin crust and fresh ingredients and would reasonably match the others along the King or Queen street strips.

Dessert was “cocco bello”; a tart with fresh fruit, cream and coconut housed in a nutty crust.  Perhaps it was not a standard winter dessert but a few berries when it’s below zero is always a kind reminder that, like the salad and despite a horrendous winter, spring and summer are always on the way.

oretta dessert
Cocco Bello $9

My Take

Deciding where on the spectrum between nouveau cuisine and authenticity one’s restaurant will fall must be a difficult decision. Not only does the food have to fit the bill but the vibe and environment also  needs to reflect the theme.  This includes the manner in which the staff addresses its patrons. I mean, it goes without saying that Game of Thrones would be ridiculous if the Lannisters sounded like Joe Pesci  or Donnie Wahlberg.

Oretta was a happy medium along the spectrum of ignorance and imitation.  Everything from the decor to the food to the waiter’s accent was authentic and not arrogant.  The menu was smallish but highlighted the simplicity of Italian cuisine.  The salad and pizza were the highlights although pasta and dessert were more than acceptable. In the end, I found Oretta a welcome change from the hipster-driven Terroni-like chains that have popped up all over the citta.

Oretta Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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The Good Son: Macaulay Culkin Nightmares and Memories of Norman Rockwell

I have keen to go to the Good Son since it opened.  It’s on the fringes of the Ossington strip which means by geographical location they are mandated to incorporate some of the hipster doctrine into their existence ( in other words “embracing the local Queen street culture” as stated on their website). Good Son is a project of Vittorio Colacitti who gained national attention for his appearance on Top Chef Canada 4. His also has a biography page which, designed a bit like a dating site, outlines his many culinary achievements as well as telling us he is a rooster according to the Chinese Zodiac.

The restaurant’s  website presents Good Son as a surrogate for an old time family experience.  The landing page depicts three generations of a family sitting around the table for dinner which brings back my own family members for very different reasons. Since my family resembles the Lamberts from Jonathan Franzen’s “The Corrections” more than the Cleavers, I think my mom disguised this dysfunction by hanging Norman Rockwell pictures all over the wall to create the illusion that we all sat down and ate mashed potatoes together.  Mr. Rockwell was a 20th century American painter who best described his own art by saying “without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed”.  Quite often this involved very normal families in very normal situations which was a far cry from my life.  The closest I got to a Rockwell painting were the shards of glass in the back of my neck after a sibling spat.  My sister narrowly missed hitting me in the head with a stuffed animal and smashing the glass in the frame of  “The Doctor and the Doll” painting instead. I don’t think he ever painted that.

Norman Rockwell's Doctor and the Doll
Norman Rockwell’s Doctor and the Doll

The name of the restaurant itself also stirs up a few memories. Macaulay Culkin took the world by storm as the cute kid in “Home Alone”. He further stole the hearts of America by starring in the tearjerker “My Girl” followed by a Home Alone sequel.  Things went downhill from there. Perhaps in a effort to expand his acting range, he teamed up with Elijah Wood (who at the age of 12 had the same impish look as he does now) in “The Good Son”, a so called psychological thriller which currently sits at 24% on rotten tomatoes.  Culkin plays a disturbed child who some would argue was a foreshadowing of some of his woes to come.  Wood, on the other hand, went on to fight spiders, orcs and other middle earth creatures to great fanfare in Lord of the Rings. In the end, I couldn’t help thinking that the creepy looking kid at the table on the Good Son’s homepage would eventually take the Macaulay versus Wood path and would likely ponder a “skating accident” as a fate for some loved ones a couple of years down the road.

good son
Life Before Hobbits and Michael Jackson

Despite this irrational fear of the website, I was keen to go because of  the fanfare over the food and drink menu.  I got to experience the latter at a Lucky Rice event I attended a few weeks before.  I remember the well dressed bartenders slinging gin filled concoctions garnished with things like pickled dragon fruit and other foodie furbelows.  I took a seat at the bar and scanned the cocktail menu.  I have no idea who Tony is but I went with “That Thing for Tony” which featured gin, citrus fruit, Campari and some fresh basil. My issue is always the fact that a gin and fruit drink shows up looking like something Mary Poppins would make.  This drink didn’t have the umbrella but did rock the orange slice which served as a  vessel to hold up the straw and combined with the pink was a bit of a kick in the nuts. Nonetheless, gin and campari is always a great combination and a whole lot of fresh basil added a garden vibrancy.

Have you met Tony?
That Thing for Tony $13

I started with the sweet pea tortellini ($18) and it didn’t disappoint.  The pasta was as tender as the peas themselves  and stuffed with a tasty filling which paid homage to this great summer legume.  The tortellini sat atop a sauce laced with citrus and butter flavours and was finished with some grated cheese. At first the portion size looked a little dainty but it was deceptively filling.  Overall, it was a smart and suave dish which honoured  fresh and available ingredients.

Pea Tortilllini $18
Pea Tortellini $18

At this point I needed another drink and since they take as much pride in their bar program as they do their food, I challenged the barkeep to do some alcoholic improv.  He gladly accepted the challenge and began the alchemy.  After a pinch of this and a dash of that he tasted, adjusted and presented his take on a basil smash while profusely apologizing for the brownish appearance but he promised it would taste good.  I wasn’t at all offended and in my head quickly named the drink “Look at my Divot” to reflect the fact it looked like busted up sod after a pathetic attempt with my five iron.  That said, it was a little more manly than drinking through a straw wedged in an orange slice.

“Basil Smash” or “Look at that Divot” $14

For the main, the barkeep suggested the bulgogi short ribs served with kim chee fried rice and a quail egg ($18).  Unlike the smallish pasta portion, this dish was huge. Although the ribs were a little tough, they were flavourful. The rice was equally tasty but a little greasy.  I loved the chucks of kimchi (or kim chee).  The quail egg was cooked perfectly..I just wish there was more of it.  Both the hot and the garlic sauce smeared on the plate were fantastic and removed any monotony of repeated bites of meat and rice. I also liked the abundance of the scallions on the dish from both a taste and appearance perspective.   All in all, a very satisfying (and large) dish in which I could only finish about a third.

Bulgogi Short Ribs $18
Bulgogi Short Ribs $18

My Take

The Good Son succeeds in offering high quality food and drink in a fashionable environment.  Given the creepy family on landing page,  horror movie buffs may fear that many of the plates hanging on the wall may become projectiles in a poltergeist rage.  In fact, I credit the web designers  whose family dinner masterly predicted the movie “The Visit” in which old people finally become the homicidal leads as opposed to the first victims in most other horror movies (just ask Mrs. Deagle in the Gremlins).  It is welcoming with a partially open kitchen and a very visible prep area.  As described on the site, the Good Son’s menu is “a reflection of the melting pot of cultures that has gentrified the Queen West neighbourhood in Toronto”. I agree….I had a little Korean, a little Italian and a little hipster.  One of the questions I always ask myself after a dining experience is “Would I come back?”.  I think this place has one of the most intriguing menus in the city and I felt I only scratched the surface meaning I’d definitely come back in a second to try something like the steak tartare (which I have heard is incredible), jerk shrimp or the burger. In the end, it’s much better than a Macaulay Culkin movie and  as inviting as a Norman Rockwell painting not to mention it’s oddly dreamy that Vittorio’s Chinese astrological sign is compatible with an ox.

The Good Son Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I Say Frittata, You Say Frittata While Getting my Rocc’s Off in San Francisco

Before heading up to Napa, I decided to scratch another triple D off the list by heading to Rocco’s Cafe on Folsom Street.  It is a classic Italian cafe offering  typical fare from pastas to Italian sandwiches. The timing wasn’t right for dinner so a breakfast visit was the next best thing.

The decor was old school Italian diner.  There is an open kitchen and more pictures than selfies in my daughter’s instagram account hanging on the wall. It has a friendly feel complete with happy cooks and equally pleasant waitstaff.  There is a certain magic about a true rundown/rustic Italian cafe and Rocco’s had the right semblance.

As much as I was tempted to go with the Grilled Homemade Polenta topped with Cheese & Marinara Sauce w/ Eggs any style with Italian Sausage,  I figured the mushroom, onion, basil, & parmesan cheese frittata ($11.95)  was authentic enough for an Italian cafe without the need to paralyze myself.  Now, the word frittata is up for interpretation. By definition, it means fried but there are all sorts of interpretations. Most of them fall somewhere on the spectrum between an omelette and a crust less quiche but usually dictate that some element of the filling is cooked within the egg.  Rocco’s offering was closer to an omelette and not quite what I expected.  Nonetheless, it had good flavour and seasoning and more than abundant fillings/toppings.  The potatoes had a slight off taste I just couldn’t identify but overall they were decent.

Mushroom, Onion and Parmesan Frittata with Potatoes and toast (not shown) $11.95
Mushroom, Onion and Parmesan Frittata with Potatoes and toast (not shown) $11.95

On the way to the subway I was craving an Americano so a quick google search told me Wicked Grounds was just around the corner.  Don’t get me wrong, I could have hit a number of other coffee houses on the way but I was intrigued at the thought of sneaking in behind the closed curtains to experience a fetish cafe in the early morning. I didn’t expect much at 830 am but there were a few customers and some very nice, courteous staff along with plenty of cuffs, paddles and other paraphernalia for sale. Most alarming to my virgin eyes was the option to have a drink served in a dog bowl for those who chose to be subservient on that particular day.  I was tempted to order a decaf and a paddle to go but I stuck with the former along with a granola bar which promised to be more awesome than a cat riding a unicorn.  It wasn’t and I left humming Chris Issak.

It wasn't
It wasn’t because a cat riding a unicorn is pretty awesome

My Take

I suppose there are worse things to do than search for a good breakfast and an amerciano  from a fetish cafe in one of the most liberal cities in the world.  What’s even better is when you get a decent breakfast and knock another DDD and getting a coffee from the same place I’d buy a blow up doll..screw you Walmart.  In the end, regardless of where  the frittata fell on the spectrum, it was a decent plate and the Wicked Grounds coffee was good even if I was able to get my Rocc’s off again.

Click to add a blog post for Rocco's Cafe on Zomato

Starring in a Sitcom Called Seven Hills

When I think of Seven Hills, a few things come to mind:

1. It sounds like the name of an ABC sitcom that involves some washed-up actor or actress who chose a TV career for a change of pace instead if admitting their last five movies have made less than 25 million combined in theatre revenues.

2. It might be the title of a country song which describes the trials and tribulations of the contours challenging a John Deere tractor in the attempt to harvest a bumper crop of  wheat.

3. It could describe the geography of the walk from O’Farrell to this Hyde St. eatery in the Russian  Hill district.

In fact, it is a relatively quaint Italian joint located between the pier and the bustling, tourist-ridden O’Farrell street. It doesn’t get the fanfare and hype of the more visible eateries but  regularly sits in the top 25 of the 5000 San Francisco restaurants on tripadvisor.  We booked a table for six which seemed to take up a good portion of the restaurant as we were seated in the back corner.  The menu changes regularly but focuses on classic fare in a classic setting.  It’s evident when you read the menu that the place pledges allegiance to locally sourced food.  The vegetables, herbs and proteins come from a guy named Jim or Bob or Jim Bob and from places like Full Belly and All Star farms.

The service staff was cordial but a bit confused.  They had a couple of waiters taking care of our table who had different levels of understanding.  For example, I was offered a unique white wine by one waiter whereas the other had no idea what I was talking about when I ordered another glass.  That said, there was a definite and rightful pride in their demeanor when describing the rustic dishes.

The table agreed on an array of first plates to share which ranged from $9-15.  First, we were treated to an amuse bouche which was a delicious melon soup.  The duck liver pate was a bit unorthodox in that it was served chunky country style instead of smooth like the surrounding eateries. That said, it was pretty decent.  Other choices were the meatballs, arancini, burrata with tomato and prosciutto and carpaccio.  In summary, none were remarkable but none were bad either. If I had to pick, the meatballs won the battle.

 

Melon Soup Amuse Bouche
Melon Soup Amuse Bouche
Arancini, Duck Liver Pate, Meatballs, beef carpaccio and burrata with proscutto.
Arancini, Duck Liver Pate, Meatballs, beef carpaccio and burrata with prosciutto ($9-15)

In the meantime, as more people crammed into the small quarters, the temperature rose to the point of slight discomfort.  With more of a crowd the service got a little choppier.  For the main I ordered the squid ink (or neri) pasta. Like the Italian cliche, it was delicious in it’s simplicity but became a little monotonous even with the addition of a generous amounts crispy breadcrumbs.  I found the portion size quite ample and of good value for the price.

 

Neri (Squid Ink Pasta)
Neri (Squid Ink) Pasta

My Take

Seven Hills is the quintessential small family run bistro within a very diverse and vibrant dining scene.  It’s simple in it’s theme, decor and food.  There are no major surprises and I imagine no major inconsistencies. There’s a true commitment to partnerships with local farmers which comes out in the food.  If you’re looking for adventure, there’s a hundred other places.  However, if you want a safe haven for traditional fare or have a table full of people  who thinks Joe Bastianich should be canonized and lament the fact that Mario Batali will never open a restaurant in San Francisco, this could be your place.  Sure, there are service hiccups but it lacks the phoniness of chains and smiling hostesses who seem way too excited over the fact you might have a coat to check. After dining at Seven Hills, I think it can be described as a sitcom about an all American small Italian ristorante  frequented by Al Pacino and Tony Danza with cameo appearances by Ray Romano and Robert DeNiro (playing local farmers Jim and Bob) and lovable yet confused waitstaff including the likes of Joey Tribbiani.

Seven Hills on Urbanspoon

Review:Vancouver:Robson St:CinCin Ristorante and Bar

While in Vancouver, I had a business meeting  in the private room at Cin Cin, an old school Italian eatery on Robson Street. I was shuffled to the private room which housed hundreds of bottles of wines, some at hundreds of dollars.  Speaking of cost, expect to pay a pretty lira here; apps are $13-18, pastas start at $15 and entrees go from $30-45.   Noise was an issue even in the private room. The only thing separating us and the boisterous outside crowd was a thin sheet of glass and a thick wood door that constantly opened and closed, allowing the drone of human banter to roll in like thick fog.There was a four course set menu featuring an array of choices for the appetizers, mains and desserts with a mushroom risotto as a middle dish.
I opted for tuna tartare to start. It was a large portion on the modest side of seasoning and acidity although I got the odd big chunk of salt here and there. The radish was a nice addition to add a bit of crunch to the otherwise silky texture.

Long line caught albacore tuna tartare
Long line caught albacore tuna tartare

The risotto was well prepared and seasoned nicely. The rice had a subtle crunch and there were plenty of tender mushrooms scattered throughout. It was served hot and it held its temperature well.

Mushroom Risotto
Mushroom Risotto

The sable fish was treated with the utmost respect, its delicate integrity preserved in the cooking process. Ever bite melted like butter in my mouth. The mashed potatoes were subtle and allowed the fish to shine. The kale was simply and perfectly prepared and added great colour, texture and a punch of bitterness to the sweet filet and creamy mashed potatoes.

Sablefish
Sablefish

I strayed from my normal tendency to order tiramisu for dessert and opted for a lemon tart instead. It really wasn’t a tart; it was served cold and with a side of strawberry coulis that brought me back to days of scraping the last morsels of baby food off the side of the jar and shoveling it into my kid’s waiting mouth. The tart as a whole had that “sitting there for a bit” taste.

Lemon tart
Lemon tart

There is pride in the service, characterized but constant wine and water pours by the head waiter who is as well seasoned as the risotto was. The table’s dishes were served  by numerous waitstaff on a way that would make the Canadian synchronized swimming team envious.  I received “Sir, that’s an excellent choice!”  for each and every order I placed, an accolade I’m not sure was entirely deserved, especially in the midst of my tiramisu regret.

My Take

CinCin is a well established and expensive Italian restaurant promising good food, good service and good wine. The sablefish was spectacular and clearly the godfather of the evening. The rest of the food was more Godfather III.   The decor is old school Italian villa; respectfully cheesy while embracing the dwindling art of old school service which is as much choreography as it is  functional. However, there is no music for the dance. Instead there is plenty of noise which could become quite aggravating if you have anything important to say or hear…like how great my dinner choices were.

CinCin Ristorante + Bar on Urbanspoon

DDD:Syracuse:Pastabilities

Every city has at least one pasta place. Some boast an array of homemade pastas and sauces. Some boast “mama’s meatballs” or “Aunt Gina’s special sauce” since 1482.  In the end, some are tremendous, others are generic clones of East Side Mario’s. I was unsure about Pastabilities in Syracuse. I mean, it seemed like a bit if a gimmick with it’s predictable play on words, striped awning, red neon sign and shameless promotion of their famous “spicy hot tomato oil”. At the same time, it was featured on DDD and celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2012, so there must be something to it.

I expected the lunch to be a typical sit down event but arrived to find that the hostess was replaced by a sign instructing diners (in not so many words) to grab a seat, get in line, grab a tray, read the specials and you’re on your way. There are piles of food; cold salads, multiple pasta choices, stacked sandwiches and personal pizza (based on the size..personal if you are Guy Fieri, Adam Richman and Rob Ford combined). All pastas were under $8 and pizzas were $4.50. You can even snatch a glass of wine at the end of the line if so inclined.

Is it a gimmick?  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

"Side" Salad and Pasta
“Side” Thai Beef Salad and Hot Tomato Oil Pasta
Pasta and Tomato Sauce and
Pasta and Tomato Sauce and Greek Pasta Salad
Personal Pizza with Broccoli Salad
“Personal” Pizza with Broccoli Salad
Meatball Sub
Meatball Sub

My Take

Is the food as good as it looks?  Well….yes.  The salads were abundant and delicious. The pasta was al dente and delicious. The bread was crusty and chewy.  The pizza crust was divine. The toppings, whether on the pasta, pizza or sandwich, hit the mark.  I wanted to do unmentionable things with that spicy hot tomato oil.   The entire bill was lower than a loss to Georgetown.

I loved the lunch concept.  The serve yourself idea is casual yet sophisticated; fun yet frugal. It’s hard to explain but it just worked.  It’s no wonder the place was lined up out the door.

Ridiculously good food in ridiculous portions at ridiculously low prices is always a winning combination. With a plethora of lunch choices, this place has ultimate pastabilitites….there…I said it. Sounds as cheesy as the meatball sub.

Verdict: 5 Guyz

Pastabilities on Urbanspoon

Review:Parkdale:Porzia

It makes sense…add a little Italian to Parkdale. They already have tacos, lobsters and ssam. Why not some capocolla too?  Even better, make it tapas.  Porzia has recently opened in the proximity of Grand Electric and Chantecler and promises edgy food in a  edgy environment.  Most of the menu focuses on aggressive uses of chicken liver, tripe, sweetbreads and other  delicious body parts served as is or concocted into charcuteries.   There are a few safe items on the menu in the event that one is not fond of animal parts used for things other than running.

Must

The citrus salad ($11) was the easiest dish to understand without waiter interpretation.  However, the thought of  olives and oranges playing together in a salad was a bit odd.  The chilis added a great kick and the abundant parsley added a little green.  I suppose the olive might have been an attempt to add a bit of salt while deviating from the normal addition of some salty cheese  but it was rather unnecessary.   Overall, it had a freshness that offered a refreshing option to many of the other dishes on the menu.

Citrus Salad
Citrus Salad

Maybe

The crostini ($12) were highly recommended by the otherwise preoccupied waiter.  The sausage was the delicious mainstay but was covered with a rapini mixture that was highly oversalted, especially when topped with cheese.  I was left to scrape the roughage off the remaining two pieces and discard it like an overcooked pizza crust so I could just  focus on the meat.

Crostini
Crostini

The eggplant involtini ($14) was one of the few vegetarian dishes on the menu although it was priced like it had some kind of creature in it.  It was served hot and the eggplant was spot on in terms of texture.  From a flavour perspective, it too was a little heavy on the salt and a  little more of the advertised roasted garlic would have been nice.

Eggplant Involtini
Eggplant Involtini

Mundane

Maybe I didn’t have the balls to go for the tripe, so  I went with another set of balls and opted for the classic polpetta ragu ($15).  They were simply presented with crostini and sauce.  Once again, there was an abundance of salt which almost made it unbearable.  It was like taking  tylenol; I only ate two and needed copious amounts of water to wash it down.

Polpetta Ragu
Polpetta Ragu

I’ve come to the conclusion that a $12 cocktail better make my meatballs tingle.  I tried with the grappa sour (grappa, lemon, cardamon and egg white)…no tingling…just another example of me falling for the old put an egg in anything and I’ll order it trick.

Grappa Sour
Grappa Sour

My Take

I’m not sure if the abundant use of salt or the big prices left a worse taste in my mouth.  The staff seemed  a bit unfazed by my woes as there were no inquiries about my half eaten dishes (I was only asked when I got my coat and after I paid the bill)  if there were any issues with the food.  By then it didn’t matter. With an abundance of other small-plated ethnic choices available within a few blocks, I’ll get that tingly feeling elsewhere and leave the overpriced Italian fare to the other parts of town.   Plus, I know a lot of places that serve a mean fruit salad.

Porzia on Urbanspoon