Ive never been a big fan of Assagio or Andaluca, but the new restaurant from Chef Don Curtiss, named after the small town in Tuscany where he and his wife (Michelle Quisenberry ) were married, must have more love in it. I was very excited to hear that Volterra was opening this month, along whats becoming THE street of restaurants of Ballard (5411 Ballard Avenue NW). FINALLY a good Italian restaurant in Ballard with fresh homemade pasta and local ingredients (sorry Lombardi and Pasta Bella, you just dont cut it). And after just coming home from Tuscany, I had very high hopes of fresh local ingredients and wonderful Tuscan flavors. Granted they had only been open a few weeks, but we strolled in on a Friday evening, there were already a few tables taken, and we were seated. The atmosphere is very nice, with a wall of windows opening onto a large patio, and a skylight that makes the interior feel open and fresh and sets off the all-dark wood furniture and red walls. The choice of tile on the floor seemed a little off, but Im sure very practical. The menu was exciting to read and it was difficult to choose just what to eat. While we were deciding I ordered their non-alcoholic cocktail that sounded delightful, with cranberry juice, white peach puree, thyme, lime bitters, and sparkling water. Apparently the famed Kathy Casey developed their cocktail menu, but I was rather disappointed. At $5 I was expecting a wonderful mix of flavors, but really it just tasted like oversweet limeade. Where was the peach, the thyme, the bitters? After discussing the menu, which is quite extensive, we went with the mussels and sausage for antipasto, the pasta special, and the wild boar entree.
First our wonderful server brought us the bread basket with a bottle of Tuscan olive oil, and fennel infused salt, made by the chef. The mussels and sausage came in a tomato broth/sauce with crostini covered in roasted garlic spread. The mussels were cooked just right, and for $9 quite generous. The sausage was good as well, and the flavors were nice together, but the tomato broth/sauce was quite salty. We used the bread basket bread to sop up the juices, although not quite clean. I had the pasta special, a fresh ravioli filled with veal and prosciutto, in a sauce of morels, fava beans, and truffle butter ($19). The pasta was perfect, and the filling had a good texture, but the dish was over salty and black peppered. I wanted to taste the freshness of everything, but with that much salt it was difficult. Im not sure if they are trying to scare away the blood pressure crowd, or if the chefs have lost their taste buds to smoking, but hopefully it was a first month mistake. The wild boar ($19) came with a sauce of gorgonzola and mustard, and sides of scalloped potatoes, and mini zucchini, carrots, and squash. The boar was cooked just right, and very tender, but you must really like mustard to like the sauce. I tasted just a tiny hint of gorgonzola, and would have liked more of the gorgonzola and less of the mustard. The potatoes were quite good, and the mini vegetables OK.
The dessert menu came and looked wonderful, with items like tiramisu, amaretto semi-fredo, and panforte with my favorite, Vin Santo (but how about with cantucci instead?) -- but well have to try the desserts next time. Michelle came and thanked us for coming in and overall it was a very pleasant experience. I am looking forward to trying it again (particularly the tagliolini with wild mushrooms), and hopefully with less salt.
Their website doesnt seem to be up quite yet (www.volterrarestaurant.com) and they are going to start offering brunch May 1. They are hoping to catch some of the Ballard Sunday market crowd. I know Ill be there!
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