Thank goodness I have a family who can eat Italian food any day of the week.
Tonight, we decided to try out a brand new restaurant tht's just opened up in my town (Dedham, Mass): Sagra.
[For anyone who lives farther away in Mass, there is another one in Somerville!]
Now, not gonna lie, part of the reason we went was so I could look into job opportunities - I want so badly to work in an Italian restaurant! If nothing else, to talk to patrons and use all my food-talk to explain the wonderful dishes. And wonderful they are!
No good Italian restaurant lets a table be without bread.
This was goooood. Garlic bread, light on the garlic. I actually liked that - it makes it more versatile, so anyone opposed to having garlic-breath (or just someone on a date) won't have to worry. It was very much like focaccia, although the texture seemed a little denser to me than usual. Maybe it's just their way of preparing though. The beauty of bread is that the same 4 ingredients can make SO many different things!
Oh, and also, that it goes with cheese.
This is not just any cheese. This is ricotta spiked with parsley and orange zest in a ring of olive oil. The olive oil was very light in flavor, which I didn't totally dig, but this ricotta was pretty incredible. The orange and parlsey combo gave it such a wonderful, fresh flavor! It meshed really well with the creaminess of the cheese. Forget cream cheese - I will have this on a bagel, please!
To start, we ordered my absolute favorite - bruschetta tradizionale. I have been craving it lately - honestly, I'm surprised I haven't made it sooner myself! Bread + olive oil + fresh veggies. Hard to go wrong.
And Sagra's was no exception. I loved the grilled bread, and the added arugula underneath (I always eat the garnish!). Could have used a little basil, but that's my only issue. I love the funky-shaped plate it came on, too! At this point, I was starting to worry that I wouldn't have any room for my dinner...
But I can generally make room. Especially when goat cheese is involved.
I was feeling some greens, so I ordered the Spinaci Caprino salad - spinach, radicchio, goat cheese, Turkish apricots in a raspberry vinaigrette. I added grilled shrimp to it, because...well, it's shrimp. That's just a given.
This made so happy. Unlike SO many restaurants, the amount of dressing was perfect - enough to taste it and, well, dress the salad, but not so much that it was overwhelming [or caused soggy spinach....serious pet peeve of mine.]. The goat cheese was good goat cheese, and the sweetness of the apricots and raspberry complemented the bitter radicchio very well. It was massive, but I ate most of it :)
My mom ordered a verdi misti (mixed greens salad) to start [she needs her greens too]:
A truly excellent simple salad. The dressing was just a balsamic + oil, also very well proportioned. And the best part was the addition of fennel! LOVED it. Really added a nice crunch and fresh flavor (yup, I stole several bites ;).
Her entree was too pretty not to show off:
The special risotto: Golden Beet risotto
The risotto was very well done, with a very strong parmesan flavor - very much like mac & cheese with rice instead of pasta. You couldn't really taste the regular beets - but you sure can see them! That yellow thing would be a bog ole roasted golden beet - and it was de-LISH. We've already decided to look for it at the Farmer's Market (which opens next week - I'm.SO.excited.). It was a little sweet, with a nice smokey flavor from the roasting, and went so well with the strong cheese flavor and rich creaminess. On top are "hen of the woods" mushrooms - I'd never heard of that type of mushroom before, but they sure were tasty! I just love that deep, earthy tasty of mushrooms. Again, a perfect addition to this dish. A little fresh parsley and black pepper, and my mom was quite content. As was I to steal a bite or three.
My brother got a rigatoni pasta dish with broccoli rabe (which I always forget how much I like, but I do!), red peppers, and sausage. He was unimpressed, but I loved it - took my right back to Florence. AND, our waitress studied abroad in Rome when she was an undergrad and, well, I get really excited when I meet someone who's had a similarly amazing experience in Italy. We bonded over mutual loves of Nutella.
Speaking of Nutella....
Nutella Bread Pudding. Boom.
I'll be honest, it wasn't as hazelnutty as just straight chocolatey, but that did not stop me from helping my brother polish the plate clean. This was lick-the-plate good (I refrained...but it wasn't easy.). Although I have one teeny tiny criticism - that white scoop was supposedly "hazelnut semifreddo," but it was really gelato/ice cream. Semifreddo is much more mousse-like, light and airy. It was definitely hazelnit though - it had big chunks of what tasted like caramelized hazelnuts in it and was heaven on a spoon. As was most of this. Cakey, chocolate, melty, moist...if you go and just get this, that would be acceptable. My cooking professor always told us that you judge a restaurant by its desserts - and in this case, Sagra gets a big fat 4 stars.
Why have I never made bread pudding before? Hell if I know, but I think it's high time that changed. Mission: Bread Pudding is ON.