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A Trattoria Tradition

Barresi's is the perfect spot for a cozy Italian dinner

By Anne Mitchell · November 9th, 2011 · Diner
diner_barresis_anna_bentley_1Photo by Anna Bentley
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Barresi’s has been around for ages — since 1963 — and I remember being very impressed back in 2005 when I heard that the original owners had sold the business to a young woman who’d started her career there bussing tables. Eventually she worked her way through culinary school and came back, loving the tradition of this neighborhood trattoria. She was right — there’s a lot to love at Barresi’s. Cutting edge it’s not, but for a cozy Italian dinner, it’s a good choice.

Our Friday night visit found us surrounded by regulars. When the owner made her way through the dining room to meet the guests, I think we were the only table she didn’t greet by name — which is fine with me, of course, since I’m always hoping to dine anonymously! 

I started off with an order of Mussels ($12.95) served in a broad, wide-rimmed soup bowl. The preparation was traditional, with plenty of olive oil, garlic, white wine and thinly sliced scallions, garnished with chopped parsley, tiny cubes of gorgonzola and a sprig of rosemary. About 10 of the tasty morsels were served with half the shell removed so they were easy to eat, and there was plenty of sauce to dunk bread in. The bread is a real treat at Barresi’s — they’re called Zeppole. It’s little 2-by-2-inch squares of ciabatta dough, deep fried and dusted with sea salt. Tender, not like a pretzel, more like a bite of rich dinner roll with a little something extra.

Even though we were right on the tail end of summer, the Caprese salad (9.95) was a bit disappointing, with a pale tomato and too-thick slice of mozzarella.

The cheese was soft and characterless. Ribbons of basil helped a little, but a dusting of dried oregano didn’t, and they went a little light on the balsamic.

Our server told us that fish and veal are Barresi’s specialties, so for my main course I went for a dish that combined the two. In the Veal and Shrimp Toscana ($34.95), three huge prawns were sautéed with garlic and served atop tender veal scaloppini garnished with scallions and fresh tomato salsa fresco. It came with a side of penne pasta topped with marinara, but I’d actually have preferred that the entire dish were served atop angel hair pasta, which would have seemed more like a composition than the pasta side. 

Hubby was tempted to try the other nightly special: Seafood Canolli with Lobster Cream Sauce. Instead, he chose Chicken and Crab Gorgonzola ($22.95) from the menu, and had the Alfredo sauce atop his penne. The Alfredo was broiled till lightly browned and bubbly. And our wine selection, a hearty red 2009 Remole ($32.50), helped to warm us up in the otherwise slightly chilly dining room.

Other menu temptations include the sinfully rich Salmon Cardinale ($32.95/$37.95), topped with shrimp, lump crabmeat and lobster cream sauce, but you could also go with one of the entrées that meets the Christ Hospital/American Heart Association guidelines — they’re marked on the menu and include Veal Piccatta al Limone ($22.95/$26.95) and Chicken Cacciatore ($17.95/$21.95).
The espresso machine wasn’t working, so we were forced to have a little Amaretto ($7.50) instead‚ oh, the sacrifices! We were delighted with our desserts. I had my very first Zabaglione ($8.50), a sabayon, or custard, served in a stemmed glass with just a few fresh ripe berries underneath. The berries had been lightly sweetened and the texture of the custard was angelic. Hubby went with Tiramisu ($6.50), and I barely got to taste it, but he pronounced it delicious and authentic.

Service was attentive throughout the meal, from the hostess onward. The pacing of the courses was perfect. One thing that’s a little disconcerting is that the tables are really bare — just a plain white tablecloth, no candle, no flowers — almost as if they weren’t really expecting anyone to arrive, and the back dining room where we were seated was chilly. There’s a fireplace in the front dining room, so try to get seated there. It’s definitely the romantic choice.

The meal was pricey, I felt, and we went with the “small adult” portions. Full-sized portions are priced about 15 percent higher. Traditional pasta dishes, like Spaghetti with Marina and Meatballs, rings in at $21.95, but there’s a weekday carryout special I noticed — a 12-inch gourmet pizza for $15 — that sounds like a good deal and a good deed: $1 of the proceeds goes to Deer Park City Schools. ©

Go: 411 Webster Ave., Deer Park
Call:
513-793-2540
Surf:
www.barresis.com
Hours:
5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday
Entrée Prices:
$18-$33
Red Meat Alternatives:
Many fish, chicken and vegetarian choices
Accessibility:
Historic building with steps at the entrance

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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