Thanks again to the great hounds of Chow who praised and mentioned Oliveto (from both ends of the spectrum). We went there Saturday night for a birthday dinner without expectations (and trying to stick with a simple routine so we won't have service complaints) and came out very very satisfied.
The only gripe I would have is the smaller portions of the dishes (especially the pasta), but what they lacked in quantity they certainly made up for it in quality.
We had the carrot soup. Very sweet, smooth, creamy, and most importantly, fresh. Most creamy vegetable soups would have some milk or cream in it, but all we tasted was fresh (organic?) carrots. Amazing... the only soup that topped this one was A16's dandelion and bean soup.
Next was the salumi platter for two. Although there were only 8 thin slices (pretty much $2 each!) I think these were done very well (I assume they are cured in-house?) I have yet to try A16's verison so I'm wondering how the two compare. I think I liked the bigger rounder slices than the slimmer oval shaped ones. One of them was almost like a mortadella. While most of them looked the same I could taste the difference between most of them. Some had a stronger kick to them than others. Very subtle flavors.
I had the spelt fettucine with wild mushrooms which was brilliant in every way. There was a nice and moist buttery texture to the pasta, and the mushrooms went very well with it. The portion was small but we shared the escarole (cooked with olive oil and other ingredients) which helped fill up. She had the porchetta and it was one helluva piece of pork loin. I can see why Oliveto is known for pork!
Instead of trying write a descriptive essay, I'll just say that I think we had the perfect meal (although without wine or dessert). Would have loved to try the polenta, but she doesn't like it (and saw that quite of few of the desserts had corn/cornmeal in it too!) I would say I liked this meal as much as we enjoyed ours at A16, and way way better than Incanto.
Next time we'll eat downstairs in the cafe. Carrot soup downstairs was $1 cheaper as with one or two other dishes :-/. That's the upside. Downside is it looks like it is first come first serve, but I guess for slightly cheaper similar food (but with pizzas and salads) it is worth the wait yes? :-)