L’Orcio in New Haven (806 State Street, New Haven, CT; 203-777-6670; http://www.lorcio.com) is so so killer.
I hit it on my Chow Tour, and you can read about it and see photos toward the bottom of this page: http://www.chow.com/tour/327
But the Chow Tour was like an altered state of mind, so I'd been itching to return under more normal circumstances. I beelined, on a trip to Boston, unswayed by much tempting chow en route, and headed straight to L'Orcio, where I ate lunch in a dismayingly empty room, my eyes blazing as they do when I experience the rare certainty that Nobody Anywhere Is Eating Any Better Than I Am In This Very Moment.
Having stuck to pasta last time, this time I got veal. I forgot what they called it (not Francese), but it was medallions, very lightly breaded and sauteed in wine sauce. This subtle dish tends to be either clunky (iffy quality veal with hasty sauce) or soulless (over-tenderized flavorless veal with overly rarified sauce). Here it was perfection. The meat had personality, the sauce was deft, it all came together - the sum even better than the wonderful parts. It had wok breath.
This was served with potatoes roasted so carefully that I could visualize the chef peering into the broiler with unbroken attention to catch the perfect microsecond of brownness. And with a pile of perfect polished (but non-prissy) spinach leaves. The waiter recommended a white wine, and it was as delicious as all their wine selections plus paired beautifully.
There was one other man in the restaurant with me, and we exchanged feelings of regret that there wasn't more business here. Where else is anyone eating that's better than this?
The ambiance matches the food. Nice, sleek, carefully done but also comfortable and laid back. Not trying to impress...trying to please.
I haven't had a bite or sip here that was less than sublime - though it's not a super rarified sublimity. As I said in my trip report, this is soulful lusty grandmotherish cooking prepared with sophisticated skill and subtlety. It's comfort food and serious cuisine both. It's perfect, and I've never before found this good an Italian restaurant (nor ANY restaurant that's much better).
It's worth a trip from anywhere. I'm so glad my friend Jim introduced me to it.