I Fratellini

One of the jewels in Zoe Pidgeon's eclectic culinary crown, along with Bar Les Freres and Bobo Noodle House, I Fratellini is one of those little oases that offer a cozy, welcoming respite from the hustle and bustle of the workaday world. Stepping into the narrow, unassuming doorway (we almost always walk past at least once before we remember exactly where it is) and parting the heavy black curtain that separates the entrance foyer from the rest of the restaurant, diners enter into a space where time seems to pass a bit slower; and their focus shifts from worldly concerns to fine food and the folks at the table with them, thanks to low lights, soft jazz and subtle touches like the fresh roses on the table.

The deceptively compact menu at I Fratellini offers a nice range of dishes to please all palates. On our most recent visit, the Steamed Mussels ($13) swimming in a piquant spicy tomato broth, provided a nice warm-up to the main event. The accompanying bruchetta, soaked in the big, rustic flavors of the broth, was just the thing to defrost on a cold winter's eve.

We always have to order some sort of a pasta at an Italian eatery. This time, it was the Mushroom Ravioli ($21). Picture a bowl full of tender squares of pasta, cooked to perfection with just the right amount of 'give' when you bite into them. Then envision these little gems settled amongst meaty mushrooms in a brown butter sage sauce that has just a touch of sweetness to complement the earthiness of the mushrooms. You get the picture. We paired this dish with a snifter of one of our favorite whiskies, Macallan 12-year Scotch ($12), and discovered a new favorite combo.

The Pistachio-Encrusted Trout ($22) is a flaky piece of fish covered in ground pistachios with no additional breading. The lack of breadcrumbs and the slight tang of some citrus butter allows the flavor of the fish to come through without being masked, while also keeping the dish from getting soggy. It was served along with some sauteed spinach.

We were surprised to learn from our server that I Fratellini only just recently started serving gelato instead of ice cream. Of course, we had to give it a try and ordered a serving of Vanilla Gelato with Espresso ($9). The espresso was poured directly over the gelato table-side, gently melting into a soft and subtle amalgam of flavors and temperatures.

As usual, service was spot-on, deft and unassuming with just the right amount of attention paid to our dining needs.

In addition to dinner, I Fratellini also offers a tasty lunch menu. For those who can't stick around during the lunch hour, salad and sandwich boxed lunches also are available.

Anyone looking for an intimate dining experience that will allow them to transcend the daily grind for a bit need only head to I Fratellini and step behind the curtain.

-- 7624 Wydown, 727-7901

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