Melanie Wong organized a scouting trip to Marcella's Lasagneria in the Dogpatch just off 22nd Street. (Thank you, Melanie!) Five hungry hounds met there today for lunch to sample their wares. The restaurant is named for Chef Massimo's daughter and is a family business. Currently it's open weekdays for lunch. Chef Massimo spent a fair amount of time talking with our little group, explaining his culinary background and food philosophy. We were able to eat in the quiet upstairs room and were apparently the first group to do so. Seating is available downstairs and on the side walk. All seating is white metal two-tops with metal chairs.
We decided to try every lasagna available along with a couple of slices of pizza. In particular order, we had the butternut squash, bolognese, wild mushroom, spicy eggplant, and spinach lasagne. The pizza slices we ordered were the Margherita and the Mediterranea. As I didn't have much of either pizza, I'll mostly withhold comments, but my thoughts on each lasagna follows:
Butternut squash - pretty subtle and not overly sweet. Perhaps too subtle as I didn't really get much of the butternut squash taste from the dish. It's not spiced liked baked butternut squash might be, so it's somewhat subdued.
Bolognese - this lasagna should be available most days while the others will rotate. Chef Massimo makes a particularly thin lasagna noodle in house and this lasagna really shows it off beautifully. He claims the thinness of the noodle comes down to a special pasta machine and his technique. The noodles aren't heavy in gluten either, so the cut nicely and you get many layers. The sauce itself was well-balanced and not highly acidic. It's also not too heavy on the beef. Portions for this and the other lasagne were about 14 ounces and represent 1/6 of a pan.
Wild mushroom - this was the clear winner in my book. The earthy wild mushroom flavor shown through fetchingly. I'd order a pan of this any day! :-) The red wine sauce complemented the mushrooms perfectly. I've got to stop thinking about this one, otherwise I'll start drooling on my keyboard.
Spicy Sicilian eggplant - I will willingly admit that I'm not an eggplant fan. I hate it in moussaka. In this preparation, it was delightful. I'd rate this one my second favorite, surprising myself. It was not too spicy and it wasn't too "eggplanty". Like every lasagna here, the named filling is mixed with bechamel and sauce in each layer and the whole is also topped with the unadulterated filling for each identification and an extra zing.
Spinach - the lasagna was covered in a mellow green layer of pureed spinach filling. From the look of it, I initially thought it was a basil pesto, which I would have really loved. That's all right, however, as the spinach (and ricotta cheese) shown through nicely. The spinach had a bright, natural cooked spinach flavor. I'd rate this one my third favorite.
As for the pizza, well the lasagna's the thing. I mostly ate thin pieces made mostly of crust owing to my poor abilities at dividing the rectangular slices into fifths. The crust is not too chewy and sort of "bready", but it's not baked in a wood-fired oven for 90 seconds either. We did try to get a slice of the white pie, the Rustica Bianca, but it was sold out.
We didn't have the opportunity to try any of the hot or cold sandwiches offered, but I'd certainly like to. I'm definitely going back to try out other lasagnas as they make it into the rotation. Initially, Chef Massimo had planned on having only two lasagne available per day, but he determined that that made it difficult for customers to try different ones, so he'll usually have bolognese and a selection of others available daily. Marcella's also offers soups, but again, we didn't get to try any of those. They supply Whole Foods and Molly Stones with those soups as well, so it should be relatively easy to get them even when the restaurant is closed.
All in all, a splendid time eating was had. I'll leave it to my fellow hounds to add their comments below.
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