With pics: http://rainydaysandsundays-c.blogspot...
They say travel changes you. When I traveled to Italy last year, it left a permanent impression that will no doubt last a lifetime. Sometimes I’ll get on the computer just to flip through my photographs from that vacation; with just one glance, I’m immediately transported back to the smells, flavors and spirit of Italia.
My friends and I would spend our days trekking around the cobblestone streets of various medevil villages and end up at little hole-in-the-wall trattorias where we’d feast on some of the best food I’ve ever tasted. Wild hare ragu with parpardelle, bistecca alla fioretina, pomegranites straight off the tree – it was heaven. While I know I will return one day, the hope has been to find an Italian restaurant that captures the essence and heart of those I visited on that amazing vacation. On Friday night, I found one, and in the most unlikely of places: Hollywood Boulevard.
Melograno, while situated right smack in the middle of one of the busiest parts of the boulevard, is quiet and relaxed and rustic. We sat on the patio, which wasn’t anything fancy but perfect nonetheless. Candles flickered on the tables and a slight olive tree leaned in near our table. The wait staff? Italian.
We started with the Paloma cocktail, a light and refreshing drink made of Prosecco, pomegranate juice and liquor. The sparkling drink was an ideal way to start off the meal; afterward, I switched to red wine while my friend stuck with the Paloma.
For an appetizer, we ordered the Stracci di salmerino e limone ai capperi – the house-cured Chinook salmon with preserved lemons, capers, caviar and a light salad. The salmon was bold; it wasn’t your run-of-the-mill gravlox. The flavor was very intense and the lush oil of the salmon really hit the palate with a punch; it was balanced nicely by the acid of the lemons and capers. I loved the concentration of the flavors. We also shared an appetizer from the specials list, a duck carpaccio that was truly a revelation. It was also cured, cut paper thin and served with greens dressed in a light vinaigrette. The duck was rich and flavorful, and not at all gamey. We both loved this dish.
Melograno offers actual pasta-sized pasta portions. In Italy, pasta is typically served between the appetizer and dinner courses, so you won’t see any Olive Garden-sized portions there. Think of the size of a dinner salad plate – that’s about the right amount. However, if you want to make the pasta your main course, Melograno gives diners this option for an additional $5. We chose to get the smaller portion of the Taglierini al brasato de leper e melograno, which was an angel hair pasta with a Barolo wine braised Hare and pomegranate reduction sauce. With the first bite, I was utterly transported back to a tiny outdoor café in + where I had a very similar dish. The rosemary flavor, the richness of the hare with the sweetness of the olive oil – it was magical. The conversation ceased with our first bites and didn’t resume until our plates were clean. Yes, it was that good.
We then shared a main course, which was also on the specials: Braised oxtail with white beans. Another perfect dish. The beans were creamy and savory and the oxtail fell right off the bone. So tender, perfectly seasoned and reminiscent of some truly great dishes I had in Italy. Melograno gets it. There are no thoughtless dishes or even sides here. It’s simple, rustic, authentic Italian food that celebrates fresh ingredients.