Four of us went last night to Benatti near Inman Square, the second time we've been. I have to say, this place is an absolute gem. If you like interesting and extremely well-prepared upper-end Italian, you must go if you haven't been. We were blown away.
The room was about half full at 8 pm, and we started with a bottle of represso Valpolicelli, really solid and rich. For apps we split the scallops in orange juice reduction, simple grilled vegetables with olive oil (asparagus, eggplant, tomato, zuchini) and a simple mixed greens with balsamic and walnuts. The reduction sauce on those scallops-- oh! Fennel, sauteed spinach, incredible.
Mains we all passed around included half portions of the risotto e funghi porcini and the gnocchi, both great-- the risotto was incredibly fragrant with white truffle oil and parmesan, and very rich. Portions here are small but very filling and satisfying. We had the tortellini a aceto balsamico, with its creamy balsamic and walnut sauce over fresh spinach and ricotta pasta-- really balanced and different, a little revelation. A simple fettucine bolognese was very nice, although alongside the lasagna we had on our first trip, Benatti's red-sauced pastas are less interesting than the other sauces.
Our fifth main was a special, a spectacular rack of lamb dish, with four good-sized chops in a Barolo reduction with a touch of fresh mint, panko and a nicely sharp mustard crust. Simply the best lamb dish I've had in years. Superb quality meat, so well cooked, and like everything at Benatti, really well-thought out complementary flavors in the sauce.
For dessert, we had the croccanti, an almond meringue semifreddo-- superb; the carmelized banana with cardamom creme anglais and a thick belgian chocolate mousse, and a cheese plate with a great funky Corsican goat as the best selection-- all were well handled and delicious; my only critical note is that the three cheeses offered were narrow in range-- less variety than I generally like in a cheese plate.
Service was easygoing and attentive, and we lingered over a second bottle of wine. Anna, the hostess, remembered our first visit, and both the chef and pastry chef came by to chat. This is a little place-- only ten tables or so, and intimate. I worry a bit about their fit for the neighborhood in the long term, but truly I think they deserve a shot. I don't think you'll be let down--