Monday, August 29, 2011

A Restaurant With No Menu

We traveled to Napoli for the weekend. Took an hour-long flight to see just what the south had to offer. We arrived early on Friday and spent the day shopping. We spent the evening searching for a spot to have dinner. Something casual with good reviews and the right amount of local flare. We came across three promising restaurants and took a cab to the center of town. Our first two choices were closed. Not surprising. More than half of the country closes for holiday during August. Our third choice was only a couple blocks away down deserted, neighborhood roads.

Trattoria Bausan.

We arrived to an empty restaurant. The family who owned it was crowded in the first of two dining rooms. We we ushered into the second. The server began by asking questions about the types of food we preferred. There was no menu. Food from the sea or food from the land? Unless you fancy yourself a seafood lover, it's ALWAYS safer to request food from the land. Trust me. We discussed vegetables, meats, pastas and the infamous fried sea bass we read about in multiple reviews. Even though we expressed a strong desire for land food, I knew we were in trouble when we mentioned the sea bass. Remember.... food from the land.

After discussing our meal, we were poured a welcome glass of prosecco and told, "We make you dinner. If you don't like, you don't pay."

This is how it went.

The appetizers started off strong.
Grilled and sauteed vegetables - eggplant, red and yellow peppers, zucchini and carrots.

Seaweed hugh puppies and potato croquettes.

And then we were served this...
Tiny pasta noodles in a lemon butter sauce.
Upon closer look, our pasta had two little brown eyes.
The server called it "local little fish." In other words, we were eating newly born,
Italian minnows.

Next, a tinfoil swan arrived with a smile.

Inside was not food from the land.
Linguine with shrimp, calamari and octopus in a light tomato sauce.
I was sucker punched with smells of the sea and bamboozled with slimy octopus legs.

"How do you want to handle this?" I asked.
"With lots of wine!" Scott said.

We "finished" our primi plates quickly. I use the word "finished" lightly. We ate a few bites, working around the legs and avoiding the suckers before resting our forks. I grew up eating seafood and I'm always willing to try local treats, but a mixed seafood plate is not my thing.

The server asked if we were ready for more. "Can you fit it?" For the main course, he listed off various meats for us to try. I choose the pork. Scott settled on a steak cooked medium. The pork was delicious. Cooked just right and served juicy. The steak undelivered. It was too pink and chewy.

For dessert we were offered a digestivo; homemade lemoncello (lemon liqueur).
"This is unlike any you will buy in a tourist shop," our server claimed with a devious smile.

Fire water!
It was stronger than any liquor I've tasted.
Much more potent then the rajika in Bosnia and that's saying a lot.

All in all, the food was full of local pizzaz just like we wanted, and the experience was, well, different. I've never paid a restaurant to blindly deliver a meal. I would return, but only if promised a meal of just food from the land.

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