Saturday, December 1, 2012

Ristorante Taverna Azzurra, Sorrento, Italy

Having my little food-loving heart set on dining at the #1 rated restauarant in Sorrento (as voted by TripAdvisor users), UD and I put on our walking shoes on day three of our Italian vaca and trekked several miles to the marina to lunch at Ristorante Bagni Delfino, where we were met with a most unwelcome sign taped to the door notifying us that they were closed for the winter. Ummm....hello!? Last time I checked, winter didn't arrive until about the third week in December. The Marina area was not really as charming as one might imagine and we were starving by the time we got there, so we were resigned to forage for an inviting alternative in a somewhat dodgy-looking environment.   

Ristorante Taverna Azzurra looked a heavy on the "taverna" and light on the "ristorante" from the exterior, but it seemed like our best alternative under the circumstances. When we walked inside, we were immediately charmed by the casual elegance of the interior with its inviting bar, starched linens and sparkling glassware. Nope...this was not an Italian version of Hooters (sorry, Dogboy).

Anchovies are a specialty of the region...and also something I ordinarily couldn't shoehorn down if I had a gun to my head. Underdog's adoration of these abominations of the sea is legion, however. When our attentive host realized that our starter negotiations had reached a stalemate over said fishes, he graciously plopped on his Marriage Counselor Hat and offered UD a sample on the house. Beautifully perched atop two perfect slabs of bruschetta, they bore little resemblance to the loathesome canned variety that I am unable to abide. In fact, the taste was not overly salty/briny, but instead had a fresh-from-the-sea and slightly smoky flavor. Not bad (and the spousal unit deemed them "delightful").

My Duck Liver Pate was a mild and creamy version which was beautifully presented and quickly devoured. The little dabs of creme fraiche on the toast points were a particularly welcome addition.

Have you ever seen a more gorgeous Caprese Salad? Allow me to answer that for you. haven't.

I wanted something "veal", but was informed that the restaurant was out of veal that day. I settled on what was the only semi-disappointment of the meal...Steak Diane. While the luxuriously creamy, savory sauce epitomized this classic dish and was generously laden with funghi (an Italian word I picked up quickly since mushrooms are one of my favorite foods), the steak was no filet mignon. This grossly overcooked slab of beef (perhaps "medium rare" didn't translate easily) was most likely either sirloin or even flank steak (and could've probably even passed for shoe leather), preventing this entree from coming anywhere near to reaching its full potential.

The spousal unit chose more wisely with his crab meat stuffed ravioli studded with sauteed shrimp.  A little freshly shaved parmesan reggiano elevated its status to bliss-inducing.

Dessert time...and it was my turn to make the more fortunate choice! JimBo's dense, chocolate almond concoction was tasty but a bit dry and issue its tiny sidecar of vanilla ice cream did little to mitigate.

My Limoncello Cake, however, was the stuff dreams are made of...especially if you are a citrus dessert lover like me. Tender, thin slivers of moist cake were layered with exquisite lemon was like snorting daintily nibbling a lemon cloud. Just back the hell away from my cake and Prosecco and everyone will be allowed to live!

Overall, we had a beautiful, leisurely dining experience at Taverna Azzurra. Service was thoughtful and attentive, and the owner/manager(?) even treated us to shots of limoncello at the end of the meal....which garnered him a farewell hug. That, and the fact that he smelled really good. In fact, ALL Italian men smelled really good so I hugged them every chance the opportunity presented itself. UD knows he's irreplaceable in my heart so he didn't mind. He should also know he's getting cologne for Christmas.

Good times!

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