Last night we tried to go to La Taza de Cafe (new Cuban tapas place in Montclair--latazadecafe.com), but the place was completely packed and it looked like most people were likely to hang around until the live music ended at 9, so on impulse we went to Oliveto instead.
Charcoal-grilled American mackerel with spring onions ($13): three perfectly grilled small filets on a bed of sauteed onions, went very nicely with the Argiolas vermentino ($27).
Belgian endive and frisée with Blu del Moncenisio cheese and walnuts ($13.50): delicious but a bit wine-hostile from a generous dollop of balsamic vinegar. Would make more sense to me as an after-dinner salad than as an appetizer.
Ravioli calabrese: filling of Bellwether sheep's milk ricotta, housemade salami, and pea and fava greens ($15.50): just amazing. Profound flavor. Great with the vermentino.
Cannelloni of Dungeness crab and black trumpet mushrooms ($18.50): I'd seen this dish on the menu when I was walking by earlier in the day, and it was the main reason we went last night. It was perfectly made and tasty but a little disappointing--I think the late-season crab just wasn't so great.
Tagliata: charcoal-grilled Niman ribeye ($32): this was sliced thin and covered with hot, bitter "wild" arugula and Reggiano. Really a delicious combination. Went great with the Argiolas monica ($23).
Spit-roasted leg of Watson Farm lamb topped with a ragout of spring vegetables including favas, peas, baby carrots, spring onions ($29): equally delicious but a bit sweet from a touch of honey in the ragout, I'd have ordered a fruitier wine if I'd known. The combination of the gamy lamb and the earthy vegetables was lovely though the dish didn't seem Italian to me at all.
Split a warm rhubarb-orange crostata with orange cream ($8.50). Perfect tart, their pastry chef can't be beat when it comes to that sort of thing. The orange pastry cream seemed like overkill but it was on the side so I just skipped it.
Overall, one of the best meals we've had there. Someone who didn't order a full Italian meal might have found the pasta servings small (12 ravioli, three cannelloni), but they were so rich that by the end of the meal I was glad we hadn't had more. Except for the mackerel, the other dishes were fairly generous servings. Good service, good pacing, good wine at reasonable prices despite the steep markup. At $204 before tip, a good value overall.
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