Last week, I said that L’Olivo received over 100 votes on my weekly poll, but when I went to eat there on Monday night, I found out that they only serve a limited bar menu that doesn’t include their pasta and other entrees. I thought that it would be appropriate for me to eat dinner there on a weekend when they serve their full dinner menu so I could get some real comfort food. Amanda and I drove to 1518 Walnut St. and were slightly confused when we pulled up in front of The La Nuova Aurora Society. The club is on the right side, while the restaurant is on the left. We had a reservation for 7:15 on Saturday night and the restaurant was busy with a few large tables so I am glad we called ahead. After being seated, our server, Tyler, got our drinks and made some suggestions since it was our first time visiting. Amanda and I both grew up in Italian families so Italian food of any kind reminds us of home, but that also meant we had very high expectations. After we saw some of the food heading to surrounding tables, we made our decisions.
We started our dinner with the prosciutto wrapped shrimp appetizer. Five large shrimp were wrapped in a thin layer of prosciutto and pan fried. The shrimp were succulent and juicy and the prosciutto added a saltiness to the buttery shrimp. The shrimp were sitting in a pool of house red sauce filled with chunks of fresh vegetables and then everything was drizzled with a balsamic red wine reduction. The acid of the tomato sauce was cut by the sweetness of the reduction and created an incredibly balanced dish.
Shortly after we finished our appetizer, Tyler asked if we were ready for our salad course and proceeded to bring us our house salads and some fresh bread made by Majestic Bakery across the street. As simple as they were, the salads were delicious. Lettuce was topped with red onions, radicchio, cucumber, tomatoes, and freshly grated cheese. We both got ours with their homemade Italian dressing and I am so glad that we did. It was well seasoned and gave the salad a vinegary bite. Amanda’s grandma makes her Italian dressing the same way so this meal was already off to a fantastic, comforting start. The bread was served with a simple balsamic dipping oil and was a perfect addition to our salads. The outside was crusty and the inside was pillow soft. I had to stop myself from eating more to save room for the rest of our meal.
Our food came out in great time. After the appetizer and salad, we needed a little time to digest so it was actually good that our food didn’t come out immediately. For her entree, Amanda got the wild mushroom ravioli. A plate of homemade mushroom ravioli was topped with a rich Marsala cream sauce with pancetta, portobellos, and a drizzle of white truffle oil. The first bite was phenomenal. The ravioli were beautifully cooked. The filling had a hint of sweetness and when mixed with the Marsala cream, it was absolutely wonderful. We were worried that the truffle oil would over-power the rest of the dish, but because it was used sparingly, it gave a fantastically earthy flavor to the rich sauce. I could have easily eaten her entire plate myself.
A big plate of spaghetti and meatballs is about as comforting as you can get in my book. I wanted to see how close to home such a basic plate of food could get. They did not disappoint. A large bowl of scratch-made spaghetti was mixed with a great marinara sauce and topped with two large meatballs. The pasta was perfect and the sauce was even better. Everyone has their favorite flavor profile for tomato sauce and I like mine to taste tangy and fresh without too much sweetness. This sauce fit that description to a T. I will always love my Mom’s pasta sauce and this comes pretty close. The meatballs were moist and perfectly seasoned. Each forkful of the dish was packed with flavor and I couldn’t eat it fast enough. Unfortunately, I ate too much of Amanda’s dinner to finish the last few bites of mine, but my mouth and stomach were so happy, I didn’t even care.
We ended our dinner with a slice of Italian Love Cake. This surprisingly light cake is made up of three layers; a base ricotta mixture, a rich chocolate cake layer, and a fluffy chocolate custard layer. This luscious combination was just the right way to end our meal. The cheese helped balance the sweetness from the chocolate layers and was simply delicious. Whether you grew up eating cake like this or have never tried it before, make sure you save room for a slice.
From start to finish, this meal was absolutely fantastic. Thank you to our server, Tyler, and the rest of the staff at L’Olivo for the care and hospitality. You will see us back again for sure.
The phone number for information and reservation at L’Olivo is 814-452-2433. They are open Monday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. but remember that their full dinner menu is only offered on Friday and Saturday.
Until next time,
Andrew – Beard vs. Food