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Any good Italian Places around here?

The short and truthful answer: NO.

There is not really an Italian community in Austin and Italian restaurants range from ersatz to clueless. There are a few expensive and terrible pseudo Northern Italian restaurants - Vespaio, Siena, Gusto and the unspeakably atrocious Carmelo's. There is a semi-decent sotuhernesque Italian restaurant in Olive & June. Even the Italian-American restaurants (watered down Sicilian food) are bad. Mandola's is a parody of a northeastern U.S. Italian deli.

In North Austin, there is one of the better Italian restaurants in Andiamo, but it is still hit and miss. The pizza at Reale's is occasionally like Italian pizza.

Get out the pasta machine, tomatoes and basil are in season. Sometimes Antonellis or Central Market has decent Italian cheeses. It is way easier and cheaper to make great Italian food at home than to find it in Austin Italian restaurants.

There is a lot of great restaurant food in Austin, just NONE of it is Italian.

(My mother's family lives in small town outside Genoa, where I spent nearly every summer as a child. I go back to Italy every chance I get, at least twice a year. There is NO real Italian food in Austin)

Jul 30, 2012
hungryinaustin in Austin

salty sow

Just back from the Salty Sow. i used to live in the hood and have been eating at that location for 10 plus years. First the sublime J Mueller BBQ, then the uneven but often delightful Gringos, and then a very bad Italian restaurant, par for the course in Austin, and then the jolly and slightly less bad Red House. I feel bad giving Salty Sow a bad review, because everyone was super-nice, and the food was mostly competent, the renovation pretty in an Uptown Dallas way, but words fail me for how bland and depressing it was. There is now a nice-ish upscale restaurant on the East Side.

Things started off badly. We ordered the duck fried french fries which were ghastly and soggy and as far as I could tell had not been within a mile of any duck fat. The cold Bearnaise was good, but they were not really edible. Everything else was fine. I ordered the duck breast with an orange and cardamon sauce with oil-cured olives and boiled/steamed turnips - perfectly fine but very dull. My DC had the crispy chicken thighs with smashed fried potatoes, the latter, frankly, were the only non-depressing thing I ate. We were not brave enough for dessert. Prices were reasonable, $56 for 2 people including 3 glasses of wine, which were all fine, but none great. The price reflects that they sweetly comped the abysmal fries after I complained.

I am not an old time Austinite. I am not an Austinite at all. I danced a jig when the disgusting Katz's closed. I hope the equally vile Mother's is forced out of business soon. When it burned down, I thought God cares about cooking, but then his attention went elsewhere as it reopened. I love the city's culinary renaissance, but mildly yuppy without the guts even to be pretentious is not the way to go. At Salty Sow, I felt like I was eating at a respectable restaurant in the Airport Marriott in Minneapolis.

I wished that we had turned east earlier to East Side Showroom, which has the worst service ever, but tasty and interesting food, or even Braise, or even the short-lived Graze, or kept driving and turned left to the fabulous Foreign & Domestic or kept on boulevard du frontage till the Texas Land & Cattle which is a trashy but reliable pleasure. Truth to tell, I love excellent food, but prefer bad food to mediocre food, and while "mediocre" definitionally resists superlatives- the meal at Salty Sow tonight was the most mediocre meal of my life.

I suspect it will do well, but boycott it, bomb it, move the abomination to the culinary wasteland of Cedar Park. It is in a lovely spot that deserves way, way better. I wanted to like it, but I really kinda hated it: tasteful in the worst sense of the word and not tasty at all.

May 28, 2012
hungryinaustin in Austin

Suggestions for latest, fun, sophisticated restaurants to entertain friend and his business partner next week?

Staying downtown, I would hit up La Condesa (superb Mexican food with a heavy chic factor), Parkside ( yuppie food heaven with a great raw bar in the heart of the madness of 6th street, and a fantastic balcony upstairs overlooking the action) or Lambert's (trendoid sexy BBQ with an attitude). I disagree with the Zed recomm. I ate there last week and won't be back, while the space is quite gorgeous, if a little labored, and the juxtaposition between the hideously generic strip mall environs and the supercool Michael Hsu interior is pretty cool, everything I ate was either bad or boring or both - whitebread American comfort food blandly executed with neither skill nor soul. I can think of at least 50 Austin restaurants where you can get a better mac 'n cheese. Outside downtown, Uchi and Uchiko are both excellent and Foreign & Domestic, while suffering from a very abbreviated wine list, serves to my mind the boldest, gutsiest and most interesting food in town right now, and the space is as cool as sh*t, to borrow a phrase. The new(ish) gastropubs, Barley Swine and Haddington's are also worth checking out - the former more than the latter, and while the food can be excellent, the ambience WOW factor is not as strong as the other places mentioned above. If you want to go for cocktails first, I would hit up Peche, East Side Showroom,or Fino, though the cocktails at Parkside and La Condesa are as good as it gets too.

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Uchi Restaurant
801 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

La Condesa
400-A W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701

Peche
208 W 4th Street, Austin, TX 07739

Barley Swine
2024 S. Lamar, Austin, TX

Uchiko
4200 North Lamar, Austin, TX 78756

Foreign & Domestic
306 E 53rd St, Austin, TX 78751

Feb 26, 2011
hungryinaustin in Austin

Haddington's - Any Comments?

Went tonight for dinner with 3 friends:

The good: superb scotch eggs, sardines with shaved fennel were plump and delicious, the toast points with the truffle egg custard probably the best thing I sampled, duck liver pate also very good, even if the aspic was overwhelmingly sweet, the lamb pie was hearty and tasty though it could have done with a slightly thicker crust.

The bad - the mushroom pasta dish - overcooked pasta and even though I like things salty - this was on the mouth puckering side of salty- also out of the rabbit rillette and two different menus were delivered to our table, creating a little confusion.

The ugly - the bones of the place are good and it is not remotely recognizable from Thai Tara. Nice high ceilings, great oak floors and very comfortable booths, but otherwise not one of Michael Hsu's successes. Looks a lot like a high end TGIF, with hideous stained glass fixtures and grotesque Michaelseque floral arrangements.

I'll be back - there are many things on the menu, particularly the pork shoulder and the British meat balls that I would like to eat. The fish and chips also looked terrific.

Jan 10, 2011
hungryinaustin in Austin

Best BBQ?

In ATX city limits, for brisket, Franklin's on the frontage road of I35, just south of 38th street. Nowhere else in Austin comes remotely close. If you want to travel, then City Market in Luling and Cooper's in Llano provide the best BBQ beef in the world. There is good BBQ in many small towns around Austin, and the holy trinity In Lockhart (Black's. Smitty's, Kreuz's) is worth a visit, but not as good, IMHO, as the aforementioned 3. In town, Ruby's, not Rudy's, is fine, though the extra-moist brisket at Rudy's is reliably good. The Saltlick in Driftwood and the County Line on Bull Creek have fun and different atmospheres though the cue is mediocre. I would avoid Poke E Joes, Ironworks etc, though i believe that bad BBQ is still better than no BBQ. Unless you are coming from Luling or Llano, most Austin BBQ is going to be better than what you know.

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City Market
633 E Davis St, Luling, TX 78648

Oct 31, 2010
hungryinaustin in Austin

desperate for a decent baguette in Austin

The wannabe baseball bats at WF, CM and Texas French Bread won't cut it. I have wonderful pate that I cannot serve on a tortilla. Where can I find a decent to good loaf in Austin? I live downtown but would be willing to drive up to an hour to find a baguette that is chewy, not dry, fresh and tasty. Where?

All best,

Hungryinatx

Oct 31, 2010
hungryinaustin in Austin

Dining lineup

I like your original list better. Italian food in Austin runs the gamut from mediocre to atrocious, and both Asti and Vespaio run that gamut. I have on 6 plus tries never had a decent let alone good meal at Vespaio - the menu is mostly a set of cliches and the pasta is invariably overcooked, Asti is better but still hit and miss. The desserts at Vespaio can be good, but otherwise boring to revolting. You can get MUCH better Italian food in Dallas. I think Foreign & Domestic does the locavore thing as well as Olivia and is cheaper, and might be worth looking into. I prefer Parkside to Perla's, though the people watching from both patios is pretty great. You have done good research and I think you are going to eat well. Lambert's also has a good half buffet, half a la carte brunch as does Paggi House.

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Vespaio
1610 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704

Paggi House
200 Lee Barton Drive, Austin, TX 78704

Sep 29, 2010
hungryinaustin in Austin

One dinner in Austin and Lambert's is booked up...

If you are staying at the Driskill, and want something a little upmarket and distinctly regional cuisine, I would second the La Condesa recommendation - it is across the street from Lambert's so an easy walk from the hotel. It is a beautiful restaurant, and the food is excellent - particularly the appetizers and some of the best cocktails in Austin. Some longtime Austinites don't like it generally because they think Mexican food should be cheap. Moonshine also a walk from the Driskill serves fancy Southern comfort type food, so if it is chicken fried steak etc, you feel like, I would go there. It is also in an attractive old building, if atmosphere is important. Lamberts is closed, so the only other reasonable BBQ downtown would be Ironworks - it is not fantastic but it is BBQ and while quite down homey, if it is not too hot you can sit on the patio overlooking Waller creek. For steak, I would recommend Austin Land and Cattle on 12th and Lamar, not to be confused with the chain Texas Land and Cattle. For mediocre tex-mex, but a definitively Austin touristy experience, I would cross the river to Gueros on South Congress. Generally the best tex-mex food is to be found at taco trucks/trailers all over the south and east sides of the city. For a taste of Austin steampunk hipster fusion food (antelope tartare, and sometimes silly but delicious quasi-nouvelle riffs on what locals eat) , I would take a short cabride across the highway to East Side Showroom,even though the service can be bad and it is likely to be a mobscene. I hate the food at Ranch 616, but thematically it tries to do for South Texas cooking what Lambert's does for BBQ. To my mind, those would be the best downtown options for what I think you are looking for. Lamberts would have been perfect. If you have a car, I would think about Olivia on South Lamar, and Foreign and Domestic on North Loop as the locavore standouts that pay some attention to the fact that they are in Central Texas in terms of style of food. But if your dining companion is fussy about fancy, I would just go straight to La Condesa. And has anyone mentioned Jeffrey's? - the old queen of fine Southwesternish dining in Austin on West Lynn, also a short cabride from the Driskill.

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Ranch 616
616 Nueces, Austin, TX 78701

Guero's
1412 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704

La Condesa
400-A W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701

Aug 27, 2010
hungryinaustin in Austin

Mrs. Johnson's

No contest - if you get-em fresh, by far the best doughnuts I have ever had in Austin!

Jun 22, 2010
hungryinaustin in Austin

Great food around the Long Center for the Performing Arts and other various recs first time in Austin?

P.S. I am just back from a week in NYC and Montreal, and have to say I am appalled by the idea of a Montrealer vegetarian. Au Pied de Cochon was carnivore heaven and practically free after New York, and the foie gras, almost anywhere was excellent! Jo's on South Congress would be your best mid afternoon coffee spot, but it is outdoors and while the humidity may make you feel quite at home, it is HOT outside in Austin right now.

Jun 16, 2010
hungryinaustin in Austin

Great food around the Long Center for the Performing Arts and other various recs first time in Austin?

This is a hard one. The three basic food groups in this town are brisket, lard and queso, and Austin does them as well as anywhere, if not better! Close to the Long Center, I would second Paggi House, add Olivia a little further south on South Lamar, a locavore place with some good veggie options, add Polvos on South First, if you eat fish. La Condesa on second street across the river and not a far walk has some great Mexican food, not totally beholden to the doctrine of lard - they have a truly sublime huitlacoche huarache, and pretty great salads, and excellent cocktails. Unless you want to eat in what feels like the canteen of a homeless shelter, with truly atrocious macrobiotic food, I would avoid Casa de Luz. There are no good purely vegetarian restaurants since West Lynn Cafe closed, and when Mother's burnt down, I briefly thought God cared about cooking. Most places will have a few vegetarian options - the ones mentioned above better than others in the general vicinity! The wine bar at Wink a few blocks north of the river on Lamar used to have and may still have a fantastic mac cheese with truffle oil! Let us know where you go.

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Paggi House
200 Lee Barton Drive, Austin, TX 78704

La Condesa
400-A W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701

Jun 16, 2010
hungryinaustin in Austin

Foreign & Domestic on North Loop

I absolutely loved it. Got there at 9 or so on a Saturday night - seated at the bar/chef's table, watching the chefs - split the "almost summer salad" which had the freshest greens I have had in avery long time, a little artichoke, a few slices of heavenly grilled peach, a dash of rhubarb puree and a delicious champagne vinaigrette - the best salad i have had in Austin and the best $6 salad I have had in my life! DP got the corn ravioli, and raved. I had a small taste and thought it fresh and flavorful and I got the pomo hot dog thing - what is not to love about an excellent sausage wrapped in bacon with a superb tarragon mustard and some other tangy relish. We split the peach tartin for desert, the crust was a bit stodgy for me but otherwise excellent and two weeks later, I still find myself thinking of that basil sno-cone. All that deliciousness and a glass of wine each, and we were out of there for under $50 - that's for both of us, not per head! Our waitress was delightful and knowledgeable (Yes folks at Wink, that combo is possible!) and the chefs were chatty and cheerful. I felt like I had hit the motherlode - serious, artisanal food at chain restaurant prices! Smaller menu than Parkside - which I also love, but cheaper and better (now I am feeling disloyal). I am starting to envy the people who live around there. House Pizzeria, Franklin's BBQ and now F&D. It ain't fair.

Jun 15, 2010
hungryinaustin in Austin

Former NYT food writer wants Bestest TxMx

check out this thread - it may be a little out of date - but will point in the best general direction for what you are looking for

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/304597

All best and please report back!

Jun 13, 2010
hungryinaustin in Austin

A bar like Rio Rita

Staying on the East Side- you could try Shangri-La, the Liberty Bar, Longbranch - they all have similar vibes to Rio-Rita. Cocktails will indeed be better at the Good Knight, and if your pretentious tolerance is high - the steampunk flair of the East Side Showroom can also be fun, but not cheap. And Cheer Up Charlie down the block is beer and wine only, and even more of hole in the wall - well a glorified trailer to be exact - than Rio Rita, but sometimes wild dancing in the back! I miss the Peacock Lounge.

Some other unique Austin drinking establishments in my book would be the Dry Dock on Mt.Bonnell Road- beer only, and falling down, but fabulous views and good old hippy Austin atmosphere. Peche makes fabulous cocktails but is a tad yuppy. My favorite country bar remains The Broken Spoke on south Lamar. The patio at Club de Ville under the limestone cliff is also pretty cool, and the Hendricks rosemary cucumber martini at Parkside is one of my favorite drinks in Austin. A mojito on the patio of Red House on Manor can also be a jolly event. Now you've got me wishing my life away till happy hour.

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Broken Spoke
3201 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

Red House
1917 Manor Rd, Austin, TX 78722

Peche
208 W 4th Street, Austin, TX 07739

May 13, 2010
hungryinaustin in Austin

Looking for family friendly dim sum

Cart service is to me an indispensable part of the dim sum experience. I like Shanghai, and think it will serve your purposes. I always see families there. Get there close to 11 am on the weekend if you don't want a wait.

Feb 19, 2010
hungryinaustin in Austin

run, don't walk

Dude, this is Austin, not even Houston, never mind New York - for pan-Asian food. Have you ever been to Momofuku in NYC. The lunch tasting menu is $175 !! Momofuku did not invent steamed pork buns - you can buy them off every third street cart in Manilla. There is nothing on the ESK menu that is $8, the brussels sprouts are 5!! Overpriced, I don't get how you can think that. Where else in Austin can you get similar food for under $10? Actually, where else in Austin can you get similar food at all? Java noodles? I'll pass.And a braised pork belly in a bun would be a soggy and fatty disaster. I love braised and roasted pork bellies but in a sandwich type situation, the crunch you get from frying makes more sense. Momofuku, it ain't but then you are not paying ANYWHERE near Momofuku prices. If you want a Manhattan comparison - and it says a lot for Eastsideking - that such a thing is possible, I would say we have a working man's "Fatty Crab." Cheap and delicious and one of a kind for Austin. I would love the prices to come down, because then it would be absurdly cheap and delicious, but I also want them to survive and thrive. . . They are a great addition to Austin's food options and in a town of some excellent trailer food, i would put them top 5, and for Asian food across the board, while their menu is small, i would much rather eat at Eastsideking than in any of Austin's bad to mediocre Thai, Chinese, Korean restaurants. And in my book, out of all those restaurants, there are maybe 3 that are not bad to mediocre, and nearly all of them more expensive.

Feb 12, 2010
hungryinaustin in Austin

Help a first timer with the true taste of Austin!!!

Agree with the recommendations to do what Austin does best, i.e. Tex-Mex, Mex and BBQ. La Condesa on 2nd is easily the best Mexican restaurant in Austin in my opinion- it is more expensive and the service is spotty (to say the least) and can be a trendoid mob scene, but if you go early, it should be fine. Manuel's is less good but still good for more of a Tex Mex take. I would add Stubb's to the BBQ list and if you want yuppie BBQ with a twist Lambert's also on 2nd is very good. The restaurant in the Driskill is fantastic but probably one of the most expensive restaurants in Austin, and Parkside across the road does the nouvelle American bar/bistro thing superbly! Great cocktails, at Peche and Annie's - all within walking distance. The best cheap food in the general downtown area comes out of the trailer at the back of the Liberty Bar, on 6th Street, a few blocks east of I35. If you want a really good steak, I would recommend Austin Land and Cattle on 12th and Lamar - a bit of a hike from the Driskill but still walkable. As long as you avoid, the world's worst Jewish deli - Katz's on 6th Street, it is not easy to have a disastrous meal in downtown Austin. Happy Eating!

Feb 06, 2010
hungryinaustin in Austin

Tortillas at Central Market -- sad, sad selection

agree, if you have to buy your tortillas at a supermarket, go to Fiesta instead!

Jan 31, 2010
hungryinaustin in Austin

run, don't walk

On a freezing Friday, a friend dragged me off to the Liberty bar on east 6th street for the pan asian goodness being made at the food truck at the back of their patio: the best steamed buns in town, especially the pork belly one, a brussell sprout salad that could change forever the way you think about that particular vegetable. fried beets that were heavenly and a Thai-inspired chicken and rice that made me finally see the appeal of the chicken nugget genre. All around $5. The best Asian food from a truck in Austin - and arguably the best Asian food in Austin period! Anyone else been?

Jan 31, 2010
hungryinaustin in Austin

Thinking of moving from Brooklyn, NY to Austin--what would I be in for, foodwise?

Glad things are working out for you, and your sense of food in Austin is spot on. There is minimal artisanal cheese. Avoid Italian at every price point - including pizza which rises to mediocre at best, and the bread here sucks - i think it is because there is too much lime in the water, but who knows?? I crank up the pasta machine or drive to San Antonio, which has a a few very good Italian restaurants, when the craving gets too bad. Vietnamese is great, as is BBQ and Tex-Mex, though with the exception of La Condesa, I have been disappointed in Mexican food. Shanghai also has good dim sum. Austin is not Brooklyn, but I never had good salsa in NYC either!

Dec 06, 2009
hungryinaustin in Austin

Late night dining - help.

Late late night options are limited. Real food - second Justine's and Parkside on 6th is also open real late - up to 1:15 or so. Both are reliably delicious. The 24 hour places are pretty ghastly, though I prefer Magnolia to Kerbey Lane and Katz's on 6th may very well be the worst restaurant I have ever eaten at. Go to Wendy's instead.

Oct 09, 2009
hungryinaustin in Austin

Cocktails in Austin

getting easier and easier to find serious cocktails in Austin. I second PECHE and the bartenders at Annies on Congress and 4th also know what they are doing. Cheers!

Aug 11, 2009
hungryinaustin in Austin

Apple Annie's

Finally went last night for happy hour. Had the Texas style poutine- the fries were very good but otherwise uninspiring and I felt less inclined to eat anything else, BUT THE COCKTAILS!! I feel like crap this morning because my friend and I, between the 2 of us, were itching to try every one on the list. Unbelievably delicious drinks. All juices freshly squeezed and double strained, and masterfully mixed. The Pimms cup was perfect. The Diablo was the most interesting and tastiest tequila cocktail I have had in a long while - a borderline blasphemous statement to make in a city of some very good margaritas. The Daquari was heaven - light, refreshing and not too sweet. These might be the best cocktails in Austin and are without a doubt the best $5 cocktails I have ever imbibed anywhere. The speciality cocktails were a little pricier, but the two I sampled were fantastic - "the monkey gland" - gin, absinthe, orange juice and house-made grenadine, and a drink - whose name escapes me right now- (wonder why?) a muddled cucumber, ginger bit of boozy deliciousness. Fino, La Condesa and The Good Knight have all raised the bar ( so to speak) for Austin cocktails, but I think Annie's must be the premiere place in town for serious cocktails. But stop at 2, though that will be hard, they are so GOOD.

Jul 24, 2009
hungryinaustin in Austin

Manuel's Downtown

I am just back from a very disappointing dinner at Manuel's Downtown - a place I have always loved but have not been to for a while. The menu looks much smaller and the prices way higher than I remember. I got there before my dining companion arrived so had a Margarita and shrimp cocktail at the bar. The Margarita was excellent, as were the pico and the guacamole in the shrimp cocktail. The shrimp however were atrocious, clearly pre-cooked, frozen and then thawed - thin, soggy and miserable, The chile relleno del mar, I had for a main course looked beautiful but was not much better - the seafood was bland and watery with rubbery scallops, the rice undercooked and chewy and not in a good way. My companion's mole enchiladas were arguably worse- way too much cumin and no chile heat at all. Has there been a change in the cooking staff? i have many fond memories of food at this place. I am left wondering has La Condesa so raised the bar on Mexican food downtown that I am now spoiled or is Manuel's in precipitous decline?

It was a beautiful evening and downtown looked magnificent. The Austonian only has a few floors to go. The menu at Cork and Co. next door looked interesting as did the menu across the street at Annies, which looked like it was getting the finishing touches. i am very excited by how culinarily vibrant downtown Austin is becoming, and I want the old stalwarts to hold their own. But Manuel's tonight was BAD. What gives?

Jun 05, 2009
hungryinaustin in Austin

Where else should I go?

Rene,

I don't mind argumentativeness ( Food is a passionate thing). I have eaten at Gumbos twice and after the second time decided not to go back. The first time, I had bland and soggy crabcakes and an entirely unmemorable crawfish etouffee - stingy on the crawfish. The second time, I had a very watery gumbo, which appeared to have cream in it - a no- no in a gumbo for me. I agree that it is an attractive dining room. I generally like cajun food with much more heat than what I have eaten at Gumbos. The food struck me as a rather country club, genteel version of cajun cooking - or maybe I just caught them on bad nights??

May 06, 2009
hungryinaustin in Austin

Where else should I go?

Dear OP,
In the interests of clarity, I am not actually suggesting you go to The Boiling Pot - does it still exist? Cajun food downtown is not great in my opinion. If Gumbos was in New Orleans, I would be surprised if it stayed open more than a week. For Cajun, you'd be better off in the East Side hole in wall kind of places like Lola's Nubian Kitchen or Gene's - also short cab-rides from downtown, though their hours might be irregular, so check before you go.

May 06, 2009
hungryinaustin in Austin

Where else should I go?

I think Gumbo's sucks. You'd be better off at the Boiling Pot on 6th for cajun. Downtown - I would go to LaCondesa - better interior Mexican than Fonda San Miguel - if not as pretty a space and Parkside has good food and great cocktails. Uchi is my favorite restaurant in Austin, but it is a short cab-ride from downtown. For reasonable price - I think the prix fixe at Chez Nous is still the best bang for your food buck downtown.

May 06, 2009
hungryinaustin in Austin

help needed

Thanks everyone.

I will try North and Mulberry, and go hunting at Central Market and Sunset Valley farmer's market this weekend. And I found fresh fava beans at Fiesta the other day!

And ieathereforeiam, whatever you did at Treehouse, I have no doubt it was warranted.

Anyone know where I can buy bottarga in Austin?

May 05, 2009
hungryinaustin in Austin

help needed

Hello Chowhounders,

I am an occasional visitor to this board, so please forgive me if this question has been asked before - as i suspect it must have been. I am Italian. I grew up outside Genoa, and have lived in the U.S. for 20 years now. I love Texas barbecue, but oftentimes what passes as Italian food in Austin makes me want to kill myself.

I have just come back from Taverna on 2nd Street where I had possibly the worst risotto of my life, and definitely the worst risotto frutti di mare of my life. Rice was overcooked to the texture of orzo - then it tasted like someone had tipped a can of queso into it - so if there was any saffron in it - how could one know? The cheesiness was extreme, and in my experience, Italians who put cheese on everything don't put cheese on fish. The waiter asked how it was so I told him, saying that I was hungry and would eat it anyway. He whisked it away from me and brought back another plate 5 minutes or so later. It was exactly the same, and since the waiter was sweet and I did not have the heart to send it back again, and had no reason for believing the third plate would be any different from the first two, I smiled, said it was fine, and managed to eat most of it. I have lived in Austin for 6 plus years now and have decided to give up on Italian food, but thought I would try this board in case there may be a place that I have missed. Provided I can find the right ingredients, I can make most of what I love at home, but sometimes I just don't feel like cooking, and making pasta from scratch is time-consuming and I have to be in the mood.

These are the places I have tried more than once and found indifferent or poor or actively hated:

Sagra, Vespaio, Carmelo's, Siena, Romeo's, The Treehouse, La Traviata, Frank and Angies, Brick Oven, Spaghetti Warehouse ( the horror, the horror), Mezzaluna (ditto), Cannoli Joe's, Olive Garden - though I once had surprisingly good gnocchi there, Johnny Carino, Buca di Peppo, Bellissimo.

These are places that I have tried more than once and found okay - though none unqualified delicious:

Asti ( often not Italian enough, but usually fresh and good), Enoteca Vespaio (I love their prosciutto, egg and truffle oil panini - other-wise meh, but much prefer it to the yuppie parody of an Italian restaurant next door). I like the bucatini amatriciana at Primizie but that is about it. I once had an excellent fennel salad at Andiamo's, and Mandola's is mostly okay though half the time they don't have half the meats named on the board above their deli counter, which I am starting to realize is simply decoration. Nearly every time I go there, I am told the guanciale is coming on Tuesday plus no salted anchovies - just those little oily things in cans. Also, is there anywhere in Austin where one can buy broccoli rabe?

I like good regional Italian food - love nearly all regions from Sicily to Veneto. In other cities in the U.S., where I have lived - I loved Via Emilia on North Clark St and Mia Francesca in Little Italy in Chicago, Bar Pitti on 6th Ave in NYC, and Cucina Capone's on Melrose in L.A. Don't know if these places still exist. I totally took them for granted. None of them were/are particularly fancy. I know Austin is a much more smaller city with its own culinary charms. I don't need Babbo or The River Cafe, but I am hoping there might be a place that makes its own pasta and mozzarella, would have squid ink risotto on the menu once in a while, does a good osso buco in the winter etc. . .

I think I have been thorough in my search. I have driven my Austin friends crazy, but maybe I have missed something . . .

Or do I just have to suck it up and drive to Houston, which, at least, has good, if not great Italian food, whenever the cravings strike?

Any help, if there is help to be had, greatly appreciated.

May 04, 2009
hungryinaustin in Austin