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Sampling the foods of Sorrento

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Insalata Caprese with buffalo mozzarella, tomato tartare and basil sherbet.(Photo by Akil Simmons)

Thanks to Little Venice I’m one step closer to convincing my husband to take a trip to Italy.

We spent last Saturday evening there, sampling a delicious meal based on foods from Sorrento.

Sorrento is on the Amalfi Coast, a touristy area known for its picturesque hillsides, citrus fruits and seafood.

The evening started off with a glass of prosecco at the bar and some appetisers consisting mainly of goat cheese (my favourite ingredient). We had a quick chat with head chef Michele Celetano, and then were seated in a quiet corner by ourselves.

This was a bit of a relief as in the past, Little Venice has arranged similar nights where groups of diners sit together at one table. I’m not that social, really.

The privacy gave us more time to debate if and when we were going to visit Italy, and where we should go if we do.

The five-course menu started off with insalata Caprese — tomato tartare and basil sherbet mixed with buffalo mozzarella. Having your mozzarella in a sherbet form was certainly novel, but not all that pleasant. For me, mozzarella works well enough in the usual, unfrozen form.

The next course was ravioli neri. This was a ravioli infused with black squid ink to give it a dark colour. It contained mild cheeses and sat on a bed of puréed codfish and potato.

Chef Michele is himself from Sorrento. He said he was trying to bring the tastes of Italy and Bermuda together with the ravioli dish.

Having lived in Bermuda for many years, he wanted to thank the Island for his time here. This salty dish worked well and was very tasty. The codfish and potato purée was delicious and really was a nice way to bring a touch of Bermuda into the dish.

Our favourite course was definitely the next one, trio di risotto. Three different coloured risottos were placed next to one another to form the colours of the Italian flag. Each risotto had a different topping. One had chopped, cured tuna, another had avocado and the last had crumbled cotechino sausage.

Days later, I keep thinking about the taste of that cotechino pork sausage. Honestly, we could have licked the plate clean after that dish.

Apparently, cotechino sausage is served in Italy traditionally on New Year’s Day with braised lentils. The lentils represent money and the pork fat represents the good life. My life would indeed be good if I could have some more of this sausage. Honestly, if I were Little Venice I’d forget about the tuna and avocado toppings and just offer risotto and this sausage.

Every once in a while the chef would circle the room and tell us a bit about the food and ask if we had any questions. It was nice to have access to him.

The next course was another Bermuda/Italy combination, merluzzo blu. This was codfish with the skin on in a lime and orange sauce. The sauce was nice but the fish was a little bland after the risotto. Really though, you needed to eat something mild at this point to cleanse your palate before the big flavour of the next course, brasato di manzo.

This was slow-braised beef short ribs with porcini mushrooms, quinoa, potato confit and black truffle sauce. This dish packed a powerful punch and was really the night’s piece de resistance. I asked my husband what he thought of it. His mouth was stuffed at the time but it sounded a lot like “it’s really good”. The braised beef was cooked for eight hours and the meat was melting off the bone. The quinoa was crunchy and blended, in a heavenly way, with the truffle sauce. Honestly, I could have just had a bowl of quinoa and truffle sauce. Unfortunately, I don’t really have a huge appetite, and it was a challenge to find room for a heavy dish like braised short ribs after the other courses. I found it though, make no mistake, I found it.

The meal ended with a choice of almond tulip cannoli, with white chocolate mousse and vanilla sauce or panna cotta and raspberry gelato over biscotti soil, fresh mint and caramel sauce. The chef said the cannoli probably represented the biggest challenge on the menu for him, as rolling it all together was a bit fiddly.

The chef’s menu changes each week. Tomorrow night’s menu will be Neapolitan.

“I want to give people the idea that they are sitting on a terrace overlooking the Bay of Naples,” he said.

Mandolin players will perform to give the night that extra special touch.

If we ever get to Italy, Sorrento is definitely on our list — if only for the food. The price of $59.75 plus gratuities seemed appropriate for what we received.

Almond tulip cannoli with white chocolate mousse and vanilla sauce.(Photo by Akil Simmons)
Little Venice head chef Michele Celetano with foods from his hometown of Sorrento, Italy. (Photo by Akil Simmons)
ravioli Neri infused with squid ink on a bed of puréed cod fish and potato.(Photo by Akil Simmons)
Trio di risotto in the colours of the Italian flag at Little Venice Restaurant.(Photo by Akil Simmons)
Brasato di manzo slow braised short ribs, porcini mushrooms, quinoa and potato confit with a black truffle sauce.(Photo by Akil Simmons)