Friday, July 13, 2012

Dinner at Grazie!

On Thursday evening my husband and I met an associate of his for dinner at Grazie!, an Italian eatery in B-town. Many consider Grazie! to be the best Italian restaurant in town.
Grazie! is located on the north side of the square in downtown Bloomington.

We are fortunate to have a vibrant downtown, and even though we grumble about the parking and the strictly enforced parking rules, such as no parking more than once in a one block portion of a street, on either side of the street in one day!, there is much to do and see downtown.  If only the city would make it easier to navigate the streets in a car and to park in the downtown area, then they might see more downtown visitors.  But I'm pretty sure that's a different blog post.  So back to the dinner.

I drove through a heavy downpour to get here.  The rain had stopped by the time I got here and only served to make the air heavy and humid.  It also managed to just miss our house.

I stood outside and waited for the rest of my party to arrive.

My husband missed the rain and our friend was stuck in the crazy construction traffic on the east side of town.

After perusing the menu, we decided to order two appetizers.
First up: the tomato bruschetta.

This was very good.
L and I had picked this antipasti (appetizer) dish and we were very happy with it.

We let the Foodie Husband pick the second antipasti dish.
He chose the caprese salad (or insalata caprese).

I was not surprised as summer tomatoes with fresh mozzarella are his favorite dish.

We were first introduced to this dish in 1996 when we visited friends of ours on a vacation.  My friend is half Greek and on our first evening in her home, she placed this lovely and aromatic dish in front of us.  It consisted of sliced garden-grown tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, fresh mozzarella, the good balsamic vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil (is there any other kind? No, I didn't think so.), mixed salad greens, and some freshly cracked black pepper.
 I have to admit that the fresh basil took some getting used to on our part.  It is definitely an acquired taste.  But now, I can't imagine living without fresh basil and I lament the months when fresh basil is not available to us.  

(As an aside, tomatoes and basil are perfect growing partners in the garden.  Each plant helps keep certain pests and diseases away from the other plant.  And now you know.)

These antipasti dishes were filling, which is appropriate, given that they were most likely meant for four people.  But they were like a siren's call.  We just couldn't resist.

Next came the salad course.  We all ordered the Caesar salad.  Focaccia came as a side to the salad.  As a testament to how full we were by this point, none of us touched this delicious looking bread. (I did take the bread home along with the rest my veal marsala, so all was not lost.)

Grazie! boasts that their Caesar salad dressing is made in house.  I have to say that it was one of the best that I have ever had.  The only complaint I have is that the dressing was put on a bit heavy handed.  Other than that?  Very nice.  The croutons were also house made.  That is also very important.  I hate the factory-made croutons.  You might as well be eating sawdust.

L had the Eggplant Parmesan.
She liked it, but could only finish about half of it after having eaten the antipasti and the salad.


The Foodie Husband had the Fettuccine Alfredo with shrimp.
He was a very happy man.

As is my usual custom before going to a restaurant, I looked at the restaurant's web site and their menu.  I had seen a menu item that I was interested in, but once we got to the restaurant, the printed menu did not have that item listed.  My husband suggested that I ask about it anyway.  It couldn't hurt, after all.  Could it?

The in-house menu item was chicken marsala.
Online, there was a hint for veal marsala.
But you knew I would dig deeper...
However, all recipes for veal marsala use chicken stock.

So I not only had to ask the server if they could substitute veal for the chicken, but if they could substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock.  That was the tricky part.  

Our wonderful server went back to the kitchen to ask and found the answers.
It turned out that they were willing to work with me as long as I was willing to understand that the marsala sauce might not be as rich and as flavorful as their usual marsala sauce. 
I could live with that.  In fact, I was more than happy with that.  

When it arrived, this dish smelled amazing.  I will have to recreate this at home.  My only complaint is that the mashed potatoes needed more salt.  That could easily have been solved if salt have been added to the cooking water.  When cooking potatoes, getting the salt into the potatoes in the early stages is key.  Otherwise, you will never be able to add enough salt to a potato to make it taste right.  And you will end up adding more salt in the end.  And now you know, part 2.

Kudos and many thanks to Grazie! for working around my pesky chicken allergy so that I could get a dish that I could enjoy.

Add me to the list of people who think Grazie! is one of the best restaurants in B-town.l

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