Saturday, November 24, 2012


I hope that all of my American readers had a safe and filling Thanksgiving! I certainly enjoyed taking a breather to enjoy some great home-cooked turkey with all of the traditional sides! And yes, I cooked! I even made Julia Child's Chocolate Almond cake for dessert! Yum yum!

After all of that cooking (and cleaning up afterwards), we were more than ready for a nice evening out. The destination: Monello, the newest brainchild of accomplished restraurateurs Valentina Di Pietro & Guido Nistri, owners of the renowned Bencotto Italian Kitchen. Monello shares an adjacent space and is meant to be a more casual experience, a little sibling, if you will, to Bencotto. 

Check out the chic decor! 

It was still happy hour when we arrived (daily from 4-7), and instead of the usual discounted cocktails, Monello sets themselves apart by offering free tapas with the cocktails!  The grappa infusions are done in house, and the sweet vermouth is homemade, so we decided to try a cocktail featuring each of these items. I ordered the Bensonhurst, which is something like a light dark and stormy , with grappa in place of the dark rum. Delicious and refreshing!
My companion ordered the Hat Trick, since he loves dark rum. It featured dark rum with the sweet vermouth, and was quite strong. Since I'm more into strong drinks, we decided to switch!      
The most exciting part? The gourmet Italian tapas! Every cocktail comes with the lupini beans, seasoned with a salty olive oil. Pop them out of their shells! For this evening, we also sampled the octopus salad. Served cold, this was a refreshing mixture of steamed and chilled fish meats with tomatoes and peppers, swimming in a vinegar sauce. I could have eaten a big dish of this salad. 
One of the signature items, the margherita pizza cooked in a proper wood-burning oven. Another item that tempted me to order the large version from the menu.  
 A warm, autumnal butternut squash soup was served. This soup was so thick and slightly sweet. I'm a sucker for any kind of fall squash soups anyway, and this one was so warm and cozy. 
 And a cheesy, tomato-y pasta taste that lured me into my dinner order!

For our dinner, we shared a small carafe of the house pinot noir. Monello uses barrels to store and dispense their house wines, keeping the process more green, and the wine more fresh! I have to say, this pinot was incredible! 

Deciding what to order was really tough! After all of those delicious appetizers, I was really uncertain what I wanted. It was all very good. I finally decided to go simple with an aglio, olio, pepperocini pasta -- a simple pasta dish of homemade spaghetti with a spicy olive oil "sauce". The homemade pasta really shined with such a simple dressing. Really, when pasta is made properly, it doesn't need a complicated sauce. We ate every single bite of this delicious dish! 

And what else? After much consideration, our other item was a lamb, ricotta, and mozzarella calzone. This thing was not for the faint of heart. It was huge, and bursting with cheese and meat! This calzone was exceptional in flavor and in texture. It was not at all greasy, as is characteristic of calzones (and one reason why I almost never order them). 

Check out all of that cheese! 

After not finishing our dinner, we hardly deserved dessert, but we just had to!!! We were pretty stuffed from dinner, so a couple of scoops of the homemade gelato was a perfect finish. We tried the lemon, which was very creamy -- almost like a lemon meringue gelato. 

And of course, chocolate! This was a delicious, creamy chocolate, not too rich, and tasted awesome when combined with the sugar cookies on the side.
I think that Monello is a welcome addition to Little Italy. I can't wait to go back!!!
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November 24, 2012 / by / 0 Comments

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