Saturday, March 14, 2009

Orso: Memories Of A Trattoria

I would say the single greatest influence over my love of food and cooking is my duel citizenship and multicultural upbringing. Growing up between Los Angeles and Paris gave me the opportunity to experience two very different food cultures and I have done my fair share of eating in some of the finest restaurants both cities have to offer. My family and I had a few spots around Los Angeles that we ate at frequently in the eighteen plus years I spent in the city. Our standards included Café Angeli on Melrose, Mandarette and Itacho on Beverly, and Orso on Third St. We ate at Orso at least twice a month because the food was delicious and my mother had long been close with the Manager/Maître d’. Orso Los Angeles and their sister restaurant in New York City boast rustic, great tasting Italian food with a rotating list of seasonal specials that are out of this world. The service is tratorria style; uncomplicated and relatively informal with an exclusively Italian wine list. As I have mentioned before I am obsessed with Italian food, a covert passion since my French roots mean that I have to privilege the Francophonic culinary canon. One day recently I found myself daydreaming about Orso, particularly my favorite dish that I always ordered growing up. I typically started with a Caesar or radicchio salad and then moved on to my top favorite, the orchietta with sausage and broccoli raab. When I got home later that evening after seeing Coraline, an adorable though incredibly strange film, I decided to cook an ode to Orso. The first dish was a “red salad” of radicchio, roasted beets, and crumbled Gorgonzola with a Dijon mustard and Balsamic vinaigrette. A tasty though bitter salad that I rarely make because it seems so few people fancy radicchio but I happen to love it and welcome the opportunity to eat it.

The main course was a recreation of my favorite orchietta dish consisting of sweet Italian pork sausage and the ear-shaped pasta that I rarely cook with. This recipe is incredibly simple and really quite tasty with a side salad and glass of Chianti. For my home variation I substituted mustard greens instead of broccoli raab, choosing to go for greens with a bit more peppery bite to complement the sweet sausage. Good olive oil, a bit of grated Asiago cheese, and some red chili flakes round out this delicious pasta dish which I have eaten more times than I like to admit. Overall my ode to Orso, the Los Angeles tratorria of my youth, turned out very well and I satisfied my craving for the time being though I think this calls for a trip out to Los Angles. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

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