My sister, daughter and I were in town for the UNR Jazz Festival. On Friday night we were unlucky enough to have chosen Lexie's at Sienna for our kickoff dinner. The food and service was abysmal. We ordered the frito misto, a house salad, a gnocchi dish and seafood pasta plate, besides a chocolate torte, two martinis and a bottle of wine. The food was not memorable and we frequently had to ask to have our water refilled, our plates removed and waited an inordinate amount of time for the arrival of each dish. By way of example, the gnocchi was dry without even a smear of sauce and the pasta itself was pre-al dente.
On the way to Sienna, though, we had passed a corner restaurant on First and Lake, La Famiglia. It was packed and we noted an apparently jovial crowd. After our day at the festival, we headed to La Famiglia, hoping against hope for salvation. We were in luck. The placed was crowded again on Saturday night but the maitre de/our waiter/owner told us to hold on and he managed to fit our party of three in at a table in the center of the room. My sister and I ordered our customary martinis (Bombay Sappire and Ketel One) and were almost immediately presented with freshly baked bread, high quality olive oil and sweet balsamic vinegar.
I ordered a cup of minestrone (2.50)and the special pasta with scallops and prawns (around 14.50). The soup was vegetarian and full of flavor. Topped with a bit of pesto and a tad of parmesan, it was a delicious first course. The pasta was served with artichokes and bits of tomatoes in addition to a plethora of plump prawns and several scallops.
My sister ordered ordered the tortellini in broth (around 3.50), the beet salad (around 7.00) and the steamed mussels (not sure of price). When Monica ordered the soup, the maitre de/waiter/owner said, "that's one of the first things I can remember eating as a child." And, the soup was that kind of comfort food. The broth was homemade and rich in beef/veal flavor. Three large homemade tortellinis filled with ground chicken, prosciutto and parmesan and laced with a bit of nutmeg graced the bottom of the bowl. Spectacular.
The beet salad was likewise a winner. The beets themselves were deep (almost black) purple and fragrant. Although the dressing didn't have enough bite (olive oil and lemon juice), it was still mighty tasty.
The mussels were fabulous. When Monica asked how many came with the order, the maitre de/waiter/owner said, "we don't count, we just pile them in the dish." And that they did. A huge bowl of mussels still steaming arrived served in a light chicken, white wine and garlic broth.
My daughter ordered the special meatballs. The maitre de/waiter/owner asked, "how many?" When Claire suggested five, he shook his head and said, "only three for you." And he was right. These meatballs weren't balls, they were mini-boulders. And very good.
We ordered a bottle of red wine not on the list (which was a good one, but this was my sister's birthday), Omaggio by Seghesio (2001). Deep flavors, not fruity, very good.
We closed the meal with a Zambuca and a Nocillo (walnut) liquor and a spot of coffee.
According to the maitre de/waiter/owner, La Famiglia has been open for about 1 1/2 years. When we asked if they could make us a Zambiglione for dessert, the maitre de/waiter/owner said, "at home, but not here. This place used to be a barber shop and we're not set up for that."
With an 80.00 bottle of wine, the meal came to 155.00 before tax. And, it was well worth the price of admission. You lucky Reno (chow) dogs.
(San Francisco/Bay Area Board)