I’m not one for Italian restaurants. The price American culture has placed on Italian food has been inflated, allowing hum drum outposts to upsell cheap and uninspired dishes made up for with candlelit ambiance. Experience this enough times and it’s enough to lose faith. BUT Felice 83 makes me regret my cynicism. It is a reminder that the details are what is important, and good food requires passion, carefully sourced ingredients and of course people who know what they are doing.
I had a wonderful tasting with 4 fellow food bloggers. Chef Simone Parisotto proudly paraded his work, as the food obsessed dug in with a critical eye. The tasting was paired with 3 wines — a rose, white and red — presented by the sommelier, producer and co-owner.
So here we go…
The meal started with a detailed explanation of the Felice wines imported by sommelier and co-owner Jacopo Sebastiano Giustiani from his family’s vineyard in Tuscany. He is somewhat if a purist, glorifying the wine making process and praising wines that aptly tell the character of the land and the conditions surrounding production. The pleasure partly resides in the separation of the elements to assemble a historical account of the bottle. It makes sense, Guistiani’s family has owned the vineyard that produces these wines for over 200 years. We tasted a rosé, red and white throughout the courses. My favorite was the white. It was crisp and complex with a vanilla note that was unexpected but really nice.
After our wine discussion we were served the appetizer course. The best, without protest, was the Coccoli Crescenzo E Crudo — an 18 month-aged prosciutto paired with coccoli (small squares of fried pizza dough) and crescenza cheese (a soft, creamy Italian cheese). The prosciutto was cured beautifully– it was salty enough and tender enough to easily cut with a fork. The three components together were an amazing combination of texture. It was like a deconstructed thin crust pizza eaten like chips and dip. An elegant yet down-home creation.
We also had the arancini, which is a saffron-infused rice ball, stuffed with braised veal and mozzarella cheese, breaded and fried until it was golden. This was again a brilliant play with textures but also had a nice developed flavor from the veal ragout.
The last appetizer was a tomato and burrata salad. It was beautifully plated and very fresh. It was a nice and light appetizer if you’re one to have a salad with every meal. But up against the prosciutto and arancini, it was a bit of a throw away.
Next up was the pasta course: a Linguini con vongole e pomodorini (a seafood pasta with clams and tomato), and Orechiette al sugo (orechiette pasta with shredding pork). The seafood pasta was my personal favorite of the two. It was a classic, but elevated with quality ingredients and a light touch. The Orechiette was excellent as well. The pasta was of course house-made and cooked beautifully to a soft and slightly gummy chew. Mixing this with shredded pork was just the icing.
And then there was the main course. We’re had a 34-oz dry-aged NY Strip (Costada) and Veal Chops sautéed in red wine reduction; boy were they tender. The steak was grilled, keeping the preparation simple. The chef seems to believe that the magic came from his choice of grass fed beef from a farm he visited in Oklahoma, but he’s not giving himself enough credit. It is still beautifully grilled, juicy and tender. The veal was my favorite. It was cooked with a red wine reduction, and so tender you cold rip it with a fork.
The chef surprised us with a seafood stew. It tasted like a cook-all-day affair — the seafood was broken down into a rich tomato sauce covering piles if branzino, octopus, shrimp and squid. Harmonious flavors — notice a trend?
Last up was dessert. We had a sampling of about five desserts, all of which were just fine, but did not live up to the standard created by the dinner. My favorite was the pistachio gelato, which had the most pistachio flavor I’ve ever tasted in any dessert. It was a nice, refreshing treat and a simple way to end such an extravagant meal.
Felice 83 is a wonderful experience curated by people who care enough to give you the very best. Their passion comes through in every aspect, and the details in their execution are impeccable. This place is a treat. It’s the perfect place to go with people you care about, where you can relax, share everything family-style and enjoy some really great Tuscan cuisine.