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Cannelloni at Ristorante Orsi, Novato

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Cannelloni at Ristorante Orsi, Novato

Melanie Wong | Aug 24, 2003 10:26 PM

Escaping from the City a little early, I stopped for lunch at Ristorante Orsi on Friday. Jim H. had mentioned the Orsis on the board again a couple times this past week (http://chowhound.com/california/board...) and I thought I would finally answer my cannelloni question for myself. A little overcast, it was still pleasant enough to plop myself in a red molded chair at a green-clothed table on the deck for dining al fresco under the shade of two ancient oaks.

A smiling and satisfied customer I passed in the parking lot had told me to be sure to order the cannelloni, so I was doubly committed. Oreste Orsi, the father of the owner, is credited with introducing cannelloni to San Francisco nearly 50 years ago. Here’s the description on the menu: “Cannelloni all’Oreste, $13.50 – My Father’s original recipe of homemade crepes, stuffed with ricotta cheese, chicken, veal and pork, topped with mozzarella, white cream sauce and tomato sauce.” A full serving is two large crepes, but at lunchtime it can be ordered as a half size along with a cup of soup or a Caesar salad. I almost did that, but then figured that if it was truly that special, I’d want twice as much. (g)

My server cautioned that it would take a little longer than usual because they’re prepared and baked to order. This was fine with me, giving me a chance to return some phone calls. It’s worth mentioning that the deck area is large enough that the five parties seated outside could be quite spaced far apart from each other for maximum privacy. I tucked into the basket of bread and sweet butter – the Italian loaf has nice crust but is too soft and damp inside.

The cannelloni were served in a wide and shallow bowl, two filled and rolled crepes surrounded by a bright and zesty tomato sauce with a sprinkle of chopped parsley and parmesan. The crepes were thin and tender, melting into near nothingness in the mouth. The forcemeat was feather-light and delicate with subtle seasoning and maybe a little too much nutmeg. The besciamella was lightweight and creamy with no pasty uncooked flour. It added just a touch of richness to balance the tart tomato sauce. The mozzarella was also applied with a light hand, instead of a shellacked rubbery layer so often encountered. At first sighting, I thought the dish was swimming in sauce. But by the time I finished, it turned out to be just the right amount to moisten each bite and every drop of sauce was gone. I was glad I ordered the full serving. All in all, a very elegantly prepared dish.

Service was very good. My waitress checked back with me twice, a second waiter asked if my meal was fine, the busser refilled my tea and water without asking, and the host asked if things were satisfactory when I left. With an iced tea, tax and tip, this meal set me back a yuppie lunch ticket ($20).

Ristorante Orsi
http://www.orsis.com/
340 Ignacio Blvd.
(just west of Hwy 101)
Novato
415-883-0960

Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

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