I first experienced Chef Tony Andiario's wonderful pastas at Quiessence shortly after moving to Arizona from Boston. I still remember praising his braised oxtail pyramids with brown butter sauce in a 2008 article when I was the food writer for AZ Wine Lifestyle magazine. Now he's chef de cuisine at Chris Bianco's "American trattoria" Tratto and his handmade pastas are part of a fabulous menu that embodies the best of Italian cuisine - stellar ingredients, simple techniques, amazing flavor.
We were joined by our frequent dining companions, Bill and Lill of AZ Bitters Lab, and between the four of us we were able to try every dish on the 10-item menu that changes weekly. We nibbled on a complimentary plate of marinated tomatoes, olives, and cheese with a round of cocktails (a Negroni for me), before choosing our wines for the evening. We started with a bottle of Cesarini Sforza 'Tridentum' Rosé, and later a Sicilian red, Centonze Cerasuolo di Vittoria.
The menu is divided into Antipasti, Primi, Secondi and Contorni. We started with four antipasti, including Tratto's farinata, a thin Ligurian chickpea pancake studded with okra that was the perfect texture of light and crispy, creamy and savory.
My introduction to rich testa (head cheese) was at Mario Batali's Luppa in New York many years ago, but I don't remember it being this good. Here, coppa di testa was slathered on crunchy-chewy foccacia and accented with pickled wax peppers, red onion, and parsley.
Simple, yet addictive: Little gem lettuce with roasted shallot vinaigrette and shaved 4-year-old high mountain Parmigiano-Reggiano, and cucumber salad with celery root and parsley tossed in a creamy vinaigrette.
Our table was divided over which of these two fantastic pasta dishes were our favorites: Tortelli stuffed with Bellwether Farms ricotta in an impossibly silky and flavorful passata gialla yellow tomato sauce, or farro tagliatelle with seared chicken livers cooked in brandy. The chicken livers from Two Wash Ranch were so sweet and buttery, this dish made a convert out of a former liver-hater.
It's rare that I swoon over chicken, but this may be the best preparation I've ever had. Picollo chicken from Two Wash Ranch was gently infused with bay laurel and lemon and grilled until crispy with meat so tender it cut like butter.
The meat lovers were just as happy with the pork costolette, a pounded and breaded bone-in pork chop swathed in sage-scented brown butter.
Our duo of contorni were the perfect side dishes: Grilled zucchini with garlic, mint, and squash blossoms, and coal-roasted Ichiban eggplant on a pool of parmigiano fonduta and garnished with raisins, AZ-grown pistachios, and fresh basil.
Too full for dessert, we finished with amari.
Bravo Chef Tony!
Tratto is located in the Town and Country Shopping Center at 4743 N 20th St, Phoenix, AZ 85016. Phone: (602) 296-7761. It is open for dinner only and closed Sundays and Mondays.