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VENTUNO

Cantaloupe & Watermelon Basil Salad
Tomato Braised Lamb & Pappardelle
Grilled Shrimp & Wild Shrimp
Honey lacquered Duck
Chocolate Cake & Hazelnuts with Bay Leaf Gelato
Butterscotch Budino
Bittersweet Chocolate Donuts & Coffee Gelato

OMG! I am stuffed, stuffed from enjoying one of the best meals I’ve had this summer. I usually like to come home immediately and write this article while everything is fresh in my mind, but after the meal I just had at Ventuno, I needed to take a walk, a long walk. I was stuffed. Stuffed from all the amazing food that I indulged in in a two-hour period that I never wanted to end.

Let’s talk about first impressions…fabulous, just fabulous. I was greeted by the two smiling faces of Lydia and Olivia at the hostess stand. Very mature, professionally dressed and they sat me at the perfect table in the middle room while I waited for my friends to arrive. I like arriving at a restaurant a few minutes early. It gives me time to take in everything. The décor, the sounds, the smells, the menu. So the décor. Not much has changed since this this establishment was 21 Federal. The historical interior color brings back fond memories, but the updated artwork is refreshing and adds a touch of whimsy. The tables had white cloths with brown paper for protection, a linen pattered runner and a seafoam green mason jar of wild flowers. A nice change from a single flower or single candle. Great music, not too loud, not too soft.

My friends arrived on time and we all were mesmerized at the menu selections and great description of the specials presented to us by our waitress. Knowing that we were all going to get to taste everything, we ordered a variety of appetizers. This evening they offered a special first course which was placed in front of me. My mouth watering even before I lifted my fork from the table. It was a salad of cantaloupe, watermelon, toasted frico, arugula, whole basil leaves, a big ball of mozzarella, balsamic vinegar, mint and prosciutto. Ok, time to learn. Frico, Italian for little trifles. Grated cheese heated skilled and cooked until bubbly and golden. They were delicious and originally I thought it was quinoa but to my surprise it was cheese! The overall combination of this salad was lovely, with a variety of textures and flavors of summer all in one. The other first courses were the all kale Caesar salad with Bartlett’s baby kale, celery, ciabatta-parmigiano croutons and Caesar dressing and the Pappardelle al sugo d’agnello: tomato-braised lamb, taggiasca olives, pecorino and marjoram. Let’s start with the salad. It was huge, perfectly seasoned, dressed, and the croutons soooo crunchy! Now the pappardelle, well, what’s not to like about wide pasta with braised lamb and mushrooms? I would’ve licked this plate if had been at home, it was that good.

 

There was just enough time between courses to take a breather and discussed what we had just inhaled before the entrees arrived. From my right I saw them coming, a parade of waiters descending from the kitchen like a dance and circled around the table placing beautiful plates in front of us. We all gasped simultaneously with joy. You have to understand that this was a real treat for us, all of us. We are not in a position to dine like every week or nightly as many of the tourist do, therefore we sat for a few moments just staring at the plates in awe. We ordered the following:

Piccata di capesante è gamberi: Grilled Nantucket scallops & wild shrimp, baby spinach & tender leeks, cauliflower, pinenuts, caperberry & lemon.

Anatra laccata: Honey-lacquered duck breast, heirloom farro, cherries, arugula, pecorino and hazelnut crema

Spigola: Local rod and reel striped bass, heirloom beans, local tomatoes, house-smoked bacon & meyer lemon-green olive relish

Let’s start by dissecting the scallop dish. A pure masterpiece of art, with color and perfect composition, the flavors were so complimentary of each other, too. I loved the cauliflower puree and stripe of lemon cream that surrounded this plate. Seared scallops and shrimp where fresh and well, ok, I like the word perfection when a dish warrants it, and this one does. The Honey-lacquered duck, well I am not a fan of duck, but did try it, my friend loved it and this dish too was beautifully presented. I absolutely love cherries and thought this was an interesting, creative and daring on the chef’s part to merge this fowl and fruit.

Now my dish, the bass. I decided upon this as I am often offered bluefish by the local fisherman, but never a bass. This fish, I assume is a prized possession by any one of the Straight Wharf fishing fleet. So I thought, it was my turn to get the prize and I ordered the bass and was I right. A bit of a seared crunchy crust on top, perched on top of what looked like a soup of pork and beans. The first bite hit me in the back of my jaw. You know when that happens when a bite is just so good it makes your mouth water, literally water from within. Well it does for me. It’s the signal of goodness for me. I’m not a big bean fan, but this was so delicious and like good comfort food without being too rich. Thank goodness it was presented in a bowl so I could use a spoon and scoop out every last drop of liquid gold.

Do you ever go to a restaurant and wonder why there are no salt and pepper shakers? This has always been a sign to me that the chef thinks his food is seasoned perfectly and tonight it was. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

It was nice to see the owner and the manager stopped by the table to see how we were enjoying our meals. I’ve always appreciated the visual of having a floor manager on site and even more when the owner is seen. They watch over the staff like baby chicks and just make sure that every detail is attended to and guests are happy. Feedback of any kind is good for a business. In this case, we couldn’t say enough, every bite every plate was unbelievably great! I mean great! Then it was time for dessert, my favorite course and not because it’s the sweetest thing, pun intended, but because I love to bake and make any kind of desserts. By now you should know that I am a huge dessert fan. I allow myself one dessert a week.

Three dreamy desserts were placed in front of us. It was a bit hard to make a decision because they all sounded so good, but we settled on what we thought would be the best.

Butterscotch budino:| whipped mascarpone and toasted hazelnuts. This sweet little parfait packed a big punch in a round tall container. Rich, creamy, smooth and hard to stop eating.

The other was Gianduja semifreddo: chocolate cake, hazelnuts, bay leaf gelato and honey. It was beautifully presented, great combination of flavors, love hazelnut anything and anything chocolate. The cake was moist and not too heavy as I expected it to be. The final dessert choice was the Bomboloncini: Bittersweet chocolate donuts, three mini scoops of coffee gelato and chocolate sauce. I know that everyone loves donuts, not me, but my friend LOVED this dessert. I on the other hand went right for the coffee gelato and it was the best I have ever had. I’m also big on presentation and I have to say that all three desserts hit it out of the ball park. Nicely done!

So as I mentioned earlier, I was stuffed. I don’t think I have actually recovered from this meal and it may take me more than a few days, but I can tell you this, don’t miss out on this opportunity to eat at Ventuno. Godere!

Ratings: Atmosphere - 5 dishes, Service – 5 dishes, Food – 5 dishes!

Dishin’ It Out has a passion for food on Nantucket.

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