Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Birroteca Revisited

A few months back, the Minx and I visited Birroteca for the first time with a friend of ours who happened to be a vegetarian. Although I'm sure she wouldn't have minded if we had ordered meat dishes, we decided to order mostly vegetarian selections so we could share them equally. On the second visit, we chose to assess some of their more carnivorous offerings since we were going with the Minx's meat-loving brother.

We started with the calamari alla plancha, which we ordered on our last visit. Minxbro is a serious fan of calamari, and this has to be the best in town. It's like the best pasta you've ever eaten, embedded with squid flavor. Next came the meatballs with house-made ricotta and tomato gravy. Traditional meatballs tend to be extremely soft, but these offered some resistance to the fork as I sliced through them. They reminded me of my own meatballs when I make them with just ground beef, so the firmer texture was just fine with me. Teamed with a big blob of ricotta, the meatballs were quite comforting.

In the serve-the-dishes-as-they-are-made tradition of Birroteca, our two vegetable courses came next. The pea tendrils (basically the green bits that the peas grow on) were tender and fresh. Served with bacon jam and well-cooked pearl onions, the greens took on a sweet porky goodness. We also ordered brussel sprouts which were roasted to a fair-thee-well. Matched with a slightly gamey tasting coppa ham and a black garlic aioli, the already tasty sprouts were elevated with a delicious richness.

While all of this was quite wonderful, I wanted to experience some meat action, so we ordered that evening's family style special called Sicilian steak. The menu states that the dish serves two or more and they ain't kiddin'. What had to be about a pound of medium rare skirt steak was complimented by ravioli, roasted cherry tomatoes, and asparagus bathing in a basil tomato sauce. The steak was perfectly cooked, and the ravioli, filled with tomato, were toothsomely al dente. The serving was so large that, in spite of our best efforts, we still ended up taking some home.

Of course, part of the reason we didn't fill up on steak and ravioli was because we also ordered the Duck Duck Goose pizza. Fig jam serves as the sauce, fontina and asiago cheese are layered on top of the sauce, and duck confit is sprinkled over the cheese. To top it all off, a duck egg is cooked sunny-side-up in the center. The Minx and Minxbro enjoyed the pizza thoroughly but, while I liked the duck confit and the added luciousness of the duck egg, the fig jam was far too sweet and turned what I had hoped to be a savory dish into something closer to dessert.

The pizzas are the only items I've been disappointed with at Birroteca, but that has more to do with my prejudices about pizza than with the quality of the food. My concept of great pizza is the New York style pepperoni pizzas I got from the corner pizza parlor when I was a kid. The Neopolitan style pizzas served in many restaurants now just don't give me the same soulful satisfaction. The crust is too crisp and I find that, while the toppings may be exotic, they are often too skimpily applied to overcome the quantity of crust. The result is, I'm tasting way too much dry flavorless crust and not enough toppings. I'm probably in the minority with this opinion, however, since I saw lots of happy pizza eaters at Birroteca.

Birroteca has so much to offer and the menu changes so frequently, we look forward to going back again and again. I can't wait to try some of their other pasta dishes and the salumi.

1520 Clipper Rd
Baltimore, MD 21211
(443) 708-1934

Birroteca on Urbanspoon

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