Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Eating Our Hearts Out

Valentine's Day 2011 was interesting before it happened.  We'd spent the previous week trying to remember what we'd done for each other the year before, getting as far as remembering the heart-shaped balloon I'd purchased for him that wouldn't die.  Seriously, nearing the end of March it was still floating strong and I was left with no other option than to put it out of its misery.  The Friday prior to 2/14, he remembered that we'd gone to an Italian restaurant where I'd contributed my comments to the graffiti on the walls.  Once we recalled that, and adding in the factor that we were to visit another Italian establishment for this year's dinner, I found myself quite pleased at a tradition that we decided to keep going as a couple.  But the interesting part was that we made plans to meet up with a friend on that evening, completely forgetting that we had dinner reservations, and had to make the decision that we would actually go out and reschedule with our friend.  How can someone forget that??  I don't think (or at least I won't admit it) that it had anything to do with getting older and more forgetful.  I'm taking the stance that when you're with someone with whom every day is special, dinner might get pushed aside for another adventure.

So this year's eatery...Pa Pa Pia's downtown location!  Nestled among other restaurants, this establishment at 83 Union Avenue never caught my attention, but by beloved had tried for over a year to get me to this establishment.  When we walked in, the establishment was dimly lit and the mood ripe for love...  We were served by a man named Paul and he was very friendly and accommodating.  The booth seating is large enough for a family or group of 6, so we ended up just sitting next to each other...the better to communicate with my dear...  
Zonin Baccarosa

Being that this was our first visit to the restaurant, Paul was more than happy to make recommendations to us, from the wine to appetizers and to the main course.  The wine list was extensive and reminded me that even though we've participated in a wine tasting course and have been a part of smaller tastings, we still have a ways to go before
branding ourselves sommeliers of any sort.  We were recommended the Zonin Baccarosa, a sparkling rose that was just fantastic.  Every time the manager saw our glasses getting low on libations, he was right there to provide a refill.  It was difficult for me to pace myself and save some for dinner, but I somehow managed to make it through all of the courses.

Bruschetta, Toasted Ravioli, Mozzarella Parmesan
To begin our meal, we started with the appetizers...I'm a fan of just about any dish that uses bread, therefore, bruschetta did not have to try very hard to find a special place in my heart, and consequently my tummy.  Fortunately for my appetite (unfortunately for my waistline), they offered a sampler plate comprised of Bruschetta, Mozzarella Parmesan and toasted ravioli with beef and sausage and served with a generous helping of marinara sauce..  You may look at that picture and think carbs, fried, fried...I tasted mmm, mmm, MMM!  There was so much on the sampler plate that I was beyond full when our meal arrived.  We had plenty of time between courses, time to enjoy the ambiance of the evening and time for food to settle in preparation for the main event.  Goodness knows I needed it...

Chicken Saltimbocca
For our main entrees, I chose chicken and he chose fish.  To be precise, I ordered the Chicken Saltimbocca which consisted of thinly sliced chicken that was topped with mushrooms, fresh prosciutto (ham) and Marsala sauce, accompanied by Spaghetti Bolognese and garlic bread.  Chicken, mushrooms, spaghetti and bread...what more could a protein and carb feign ask for?
Salmon Sherry Picatta
The Mr. dined on Salmon Sherry Picatta...fresh Atlantic Salmon sauteed in an artichoke-lemon caper sauce and served atop herbed angel hair pasta.  We can attest to the freshness of the salmon for the due fact that he ordered the last piece available in the restaurant that evening.  The couple that sat behind us wanted to sample that dish as well, but we didn't volunteer that we were the fish-napping culprits.

My dish was pretty darn good, if I do say so.  The Mr. loves mushrooms and chicken, and was happy to taste my dinner for himself, rather than take my word for it.  But it was Valentine's Day and I presume that I'm supposed to share on special occasions.  In similar regards, I felt it my duty to make sure that his dish was up to par, so he cut off a piece of fish for me and in loving fashion, placed it ever so gently into my mouth.  I bit down and immediately grimaced.  I did not like it at all and did not understand why it was of this particular consistency.  As I forcibly continued chewing and ingested my portion, it dawns on us...that was a big chunk of artichoke that I'd just eaten *whew*  Downside: I don't like whole artichokes.  Upside: I took another bite, this time definitely of the salmon, and was not at all displeased.  The salmon was flaky, as it should be, and had the correct portion of seasonings as not to overpower the dish.  If you do find that you would like more flavor, there is freshly grated Parmesan cheese available (freshly = block of Parmesan cheese and hand grater arrive at your table) and fresh ground black pepper at your disposal.

With the friendly and knowledgeable staff and inviting atmosphere, this family business is a perfect place to dine with your family, or just on special occasion for two.  Thanks to Pa Pa Pia's for a Valentine's Day dinner to remember!

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