My friend has a scientific approach to Italian restaurants. On his first visit, he orders something classic but fairly simple as a benchmark. If it passes the test, he will return for food that’s more complex. As someone who considers every restaurant meal an opportunity for exploration, I don’t necessarily relate to this benchmarking approach. But I absolutely respect it.
We recently dined with our friend and his wife at the newly revamped Osteria Elisir. The formerly high-end restaurant has gone from dressy to casual in food and decor, and dropped their prices accordingly. The new iteration feels more approachable, and the menu has lots of appeal, including a list of “special dishes to indulge.” I appreciate the effort to retain some out-of-the-box dishes to reflect the talent and skills of Chef Enzo Fargione. We are curious to see how the changes play out.
Osteria Elisir starts us off with a quite decent bread basket. There are optional accompaniments including a salt and olive oil tasting tray, and a variety of spreads. Tempting but we skip it, opting instead for crostini with gorgonzola, candied celery, and aged balsamic. The candied celery is a unique twist that turns a good crostini into great.
Roman artichokes are deep fried with lemon, mint, oregano, and creamy anchovy garlic sauce. The anchovy adds subtle flavor, and the lightly fried artichokes are crisp and light.
My husband declares his dish a winner. Rigatoni with creamy burrata, smoky mushroom ragu, and rosemary is a pasta dish with pizzazz.
I am enjoying my pasta until I realize that our friends, who have been sharing our enthusiasm over the appetizers, are now suddenly quiet. I glance over at a sad meatball that is burnt and dry, and for the most part inedible.