November 4, 2014

La Viola: Where You End Up with More Pasta After the Bill Arrives

I went to La Viola recently to try one pasta and instead ate three. Here's how.

A year ago my father called me about a pasta so delicious that he thought about ordering another.

While he went against his gluttonous instincts, I did not, but only because he accidentally told me the wrong thing earlier that night - the orrechiette alla romano instead of the fusilli estiva.

Newest obsession: Fusilli estiva at La Viola
By the time he discovered the error and texted me an emphatic and expletive-ridden correction, I had finished an espresso and was about to pay the bill. (The hostess actually came to take the bill twice!) But the fusilli was the sole reason we came to La Viola, so I had no choice but to order a second entree. It also didn't hurt that the average orrechiete made me wish for a more memorable pasta.

The homemade fusilli with cannellini beans, sausage and white onions in an olive oil sauce is one of the best pasta dishes we've had on the Nana Test. I could have ordered a fourth dish to go, ha!

How did the rest of the meal fare in The Nana Test?

Atmosphere: If you want a full out, Florida-style early bird dining experience then head to La Viola at about 7:00 pm, one hour before show time at the Kimmel Center. We were the youngest couple by at least 30 years leading us to think the Candid Camera crew was going to pop out of the kitchen. A mixed crowd did start to fill in about halfway through our meal.

The attentive waiters knew the menu inside out and helped foster an Italian family-like atmosphere where you can have a rambunctious BYOB meal.  4 out of 5

Shrimp and fettuccine special
Simplicity: La Viola is traditional Italian cooking done right. The simple orrechiete alla romana comes with chicken, sausage and mushrooms in a white wine garlic sauce. I've made variations of this hard-to-mess-up dish many times. La Viola’s could have used just a bit more sauce, but was an otherwise pleasant dish.

Kristy’s fettuccine special with shrimp, pancetta and sun dried tomatoes in a blush sauce can fall victim to chef runamok, but La Viola kept to the basics and delivered a highlight. 4 out of 5

The Sauce: The fusilli’s white onion olive sauce should be canned and sold. My father’s Abruzzi-born cousin recently taught us a similar recipe, which makes sense because La Viola is based on Abruzzi-style cooking. If I can replicate the La Viola twist, I’ll post on the blog. The fettuccine blush sauce was also lick-the-plate clean. 5 out of 5

Serving size and bread: Plenty of piping hot bread is served although several pieces in our basket were toasted to a crisp. Sensing my hesitation to request extra bread with the extra order of fusilli, the waiter jumped in saying more bread is a must to soak up the sauce. My Nana would have given him a big kiss on the cheek. For the price, the pasta serving size is above average. 5 out of 5

Antipasti: The standard selection of meats, cheeses and vegetables is worth ordering at $9. Even at twice the price, many restaurants go overboard with a complicated antipasti or are too sparse with the meats and cheeses. The traditional version at La Viola is priced accordingly. 3 out of 5

The secret sambuca test: A polite no.

Total score: 21 out of 25 - an overall excellent Italian BYOB experience.

Orecchiette alla romana with chicken, sausage and mushrooms in a white wine garlic sauce

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