sardinian regional menu night at osteria sfizio

It all began so well / but what an end.

I am resolutely sure Eugene needs more tasting menus, and the Marché/Osteria Sfizio empire does its part in that campaign, offering regional menus once a month.  Marché presents meals from the regions of France, natch, and Sfizio regions of Italy.  I often find that they don’t stick their collective neck out far enough for me, though, and that means I choose which dinners to attend very selectively because they’re pricey for what they are, usually very simple preparations of un-daring foods.

For example, I was hoping for more bottarga (salted mullet roe) at the Sfizio regional dinner for Sardinia last night, but understand why it could not be in our little town.  One of my favorite pasta dishes is Japanese tarako (salted cod roe) spaghetti with little enoki mushrooms, and there’s a traditional Sardinian pasta dish dressed simply and similarly with salted mullet roe and olive oil, so I was hoping Sfizio would at least sneak in some bottarga into their pasta dish.  But alas.

Here is the menu, with my pictures:

Food of Sardinia
8/28/11 – $45

insalata di polpo alla marceddiese (right)
octopus salad marceddi-style
recipe from ristorante da lucio, marceddi di terralba (oristano)
melanzane in scapece (left)
marinated eggplant
recipe from ristorante letizia, nuxis (carbonia iglesias)

fregola con cocciua niedda (above top)
fregola sarda with clams
recipe from ristorante da lucio, marceddi di terralba (oristano)
culurzones di patate e menta (above bottom)
pasta filled with potaoes & mint
recipe from trattoria pisturri, magomadas (nouro)

casca alla calasettana (above)
fish and shell fish couscous calasetta-style
recipe from Trattoria da pasqalino, calastta (cagliari)
panada di vitello, maiale e verdure
veal, pork and vegetable pie
recipe from trattoria desogos, cugliere (oristano)

millefoglie di carasau
puff pastry filled with pastry cream and blackberries
recipe from ristorante letizia, nuxis (carbonia Iglesias)

Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino 2009 $8
Argiolas Cannonau Costera 2008 $9
Argiolas Korem Bovale 2006 $12
flight of all three for $15

The antipasti was quite nice, and matched very well with the pretty gold Vermentino.  Indeed, I would have been happy if I had stuck with a half-bottle of this wine instead of the flight of the three wines of the night, since the Vermentino was by far the best match for the seafood-heavy menu.  The Bovale, in particular, a big red, lost its austerity and character in the heavily salted tomato sauce with the couscous, and was left just harsh.

I enjoyed the classic caponata-like melanzane in scapece, an eggplant relish studded with sundried tomatoes, carrots, and celery, and finished with mint.  The slivers of fried eggplant skin were a beautiful and necessary touch.

Sfizio excels at cephalopods, in particular with octopus, and I’d advise anyone who goes to order at least one polpo dish.  The insalata di polpo alla marceddiese was no exception to this rule.  It was a simple cold antipasto of roasted red peppers, slivers of green olives, and fat chunks of octopus arms.

But the issue with these apps, and the menu as a whole, was its repetition.  Both in terms of visuality and taste, the menu didn’t offer much in contrast.  The antipasti, one of the two primi, and the secondo we ordered were all richly sauced in red.  Where were any green — or for that matter — fresh vegetables?  The veg in the antipasti was a great beginning, but then it was all tomatoes.

Knowing I’d be having the seafood couscous as a secondo, I was met with a dilemma: two couscous-like grain dishes in a row?  Retrogrouch wisely went for it, but since we had had Israeli couscous the night before, which is a like a combination of fregola and regular couscous, I opted for the potato and mint-stuffed ravioli, which ended up being the mistake of the night.  Dear Rocky and all the fine people of Sardinia, potatoes do NOT match well with red sauce.  Period. This isn’t really Sfizio’s fault, since they were trying for authenticity on this dish, but ugh.  And immediately preceding another tomato sauced dish?  Bah.  If I had known the ravioli would be sauced with tomato, I would have avoided it, but the menu was tightlipped and I didn’t ask.

The fregola sarda with the clams, however, was a bracing, buttery delight.  Had I had an entree-sized dish of that with some kale/golden raisins/pignoli on the side and a glass of the Vermentino, you could have called me a Sardinian for life.

Ah well.  Regardless of the repetition, I enjoyed the casca alla calasettana, especially the perfectly tender and generously portioned squid rings.

The dessert was inoffensive — triangles of crisp puff pastry laid nonchalantly atop a mound of pastry cream and a few blackberries strewn around the plate for decoration.  No Sardinian honey?  Again, ah well.  Luckily, we were able to eat quickly enough (and go early enough, thanks to an engagement afterward) to avoid the real problem of the evening, the truly horrible wedding/fashion show/dance party in the common square at Oakway that faces the restaurant.  To wit:

As my husband said to our charming (and certainly suffering) waiter, “when the Hall & Oates starts, I end.”  I don’t think Sfizio can do anything about the common space, but it’s really awful — like I won’t go there awful — to ruin such an open, airy, lovely indoor-outdoor restaurant on Wednesday evenings when the cover bands play.  Special events, we discovered last night, are worse, turning a breezy Sardinian evening on a patio into a cruise ship dance party.  Is there any way to force groups booking the square to turn the volume down?  Tell ’em a cantankerous old lady food snob sent you.

2 thoughts on “sardinian regional menu night at osteria sfizio

  1. David 30 August 2011 / 7:43 pm

    I thought bottarga was dried and cured fish eggs.


  2. Eugenia 30 August 2011 / 9:03 pm

    Yep, will edit. It’s dried mullet roe, not cod roe, which I thought it was and still botched that paragraph totally.


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