Some restaurants go all-out to attract attention, with gaudy signage, endless social media posts, email blasts and so on. And then there are those that quietly go about doing their thing, concentrating on the food more than the marketing, like I Fratellini.
Although it’s located in Clayton, I Fratellini is well off the beaten restaurant path. It’s wedged into a row of storefronts on Wydown, and the basically bare exterior belies barely a hint of what culinary delights await inside. Like the old adage says, blink, and you’ll miss it.
The interior of the restaurant is narrow and long, with the bar at the end, the kitchen open on one side and the tables lined up in the middle. The space is dark and cozy, and gets a bit noisy when it fills up. It’s reminiscent of a bustling little eatery you might duck into off the street for a bite in New York or Chicago.
We started our dinner with the Creamy Polenta with Wild Mushrooms ($11) and the Grilled Prosciutto-Wrapped Belgian Endive ($13). The polenta had a really nice consistency, creamy, but with some body, as well. The mild polenta, coupled with the delicate mushrooms, made for a fairly light appetizer, though it wasn’t overly flavorful.
We’re used to seeing endive in salads, so we found this use of the veggie to be both unique and delicious. The salty prosciutto contrasted nicely with the slightly tangy endive. The time on the grill really opened up the flavor of both ingredients, and added a delicious, charred dimension to the dish.
Next up was the Lobster Risotto ($23), and the Pan-Seared Salmon ($23). The risotto was tender, cheesy and creamy, with a nice touch of basil. Although the lobster is the drawing card for this entree, and was plentiful and delicious, we were most impressed with the asparagus in the mix. It wasn’t mushy, but tender with just a bit of crunch. This was a detail that could have been easily overlooked, since the asparagus certainly isn’t at the front end of this dish. The salmon was impressive as well. It came served on a grilled polenta wedge surrounded by a saffron broth, draped with shaved fennel and topped with small slices of orange. The fish was uniformly pink, flaky and tender, and the little bit of citrus was a nice, subtle add.
We closed out our meal with the waiter-recommended Tiramisu ($9) and some cinnamon ice cream ($6). The tiramisu was substantial, portion-wise, but lighter than other variations we’ve had recently. Tiramisu is usually made by saturating layers of cake with either coffee liquor, or espresso combined with some type of spirit, like dark rum. I Fratellini’s dessert, which is made with Kahlua, seemed pretty light on the liquor and more focused on the pastry. It was good, but not quite as rich and decadent as it could have been. The ice cream, though not house-made, was excellent. Cinnamon is a flavor that can be easily overdone, but this dessert had just the right amount. Too bad for us, we were told it’s not available for retail sale, but only to restaurants.
With its intimate atmosphere and well-executed food, I Fratellini is definitely a hidden gem worth looking for! LN
Carmellas with Lemon and Mint
Courtesy of I Fratellini
1 lb fresh pasta sheets
2 c ricotta cheese
2 T lemon zest
2 T chopped mint
2 T Garlic
¼ c olive oil
Lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste
Cut pasta in to 3-inch squares. Mix ricotta, lemon zest and mint. Season with salt and pepper. Put approximately 1 T of mixture onto each pasta sheet and roll into a cylinder, then pinch the sides and twist like a candy wrapper. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan, add garlic. Don’t let it get too brown. Place carmellas in boiling water until they rise to the top. Strain and add to the sauté pan with olive oil and garlic, season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon.
Note: Fresh pasta sheets are readily found in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores.