D. and I had a sitter on Saturday night, and we didn’t have a plan. We were in the mood for a delicious dinner, and hadn’t been to Scampo in a while, so at 5:30 I gave them a call – their tables were booked ’til 10:30, but the Mozzarella Bar was wide open, and the seating there is first-come, first-served. We were in!
We had a fabulous meal, there at that bar. It’s a fun place to sit if you haven’t before – lots of theater behind the little glass screen. This is where all the breads, pizzas and the mozzarella dishes are prepared. That’s a lot of food being readied in a small space, and it’s fun to watch the various players do their thing.
We both love to sample lots of things, so we went the small plates route. We started out with an order of the flaky puffed pan bread with zataar & lemon labneh. Our bread came, all puffy and warm, in its own little pan. The lemon labneh was drizzled over the top and the zataar was sprinkled over the top. The bread was delicate and just a little crunchy and delightfully messy, the labneh was subtly lemony and provided just the right amount of coolness and creamy richness.
Then came the mozzarella with prosciutto, napoleon of crisped pear and potato and handmade quince preserve. The prosciutto was super flavorful and expertly sliced into wafer-thin pieces. The mozzarella was delicious and the crisped potatoes were spectacular – crispy and just a tiny bit greasy and super salty. The pear chips were interesting – hard to distinguish by looks alone from the potato chip, but not on taste. They were a bit chewy and super sweet. The quince preserve was delicious, but I felt that it overpowered the delicate tastes of the prosciutto and mozzarella – but the sweet was a nice counterpoint to the prosciutto. I think I’m just a prosciutto-purist. Love the stuff.
Next out was a choice of mine – the pizza with whipped bacala, romesco and soft egg – definitely like no pizza I’ve ever had before. It was so delicious. Delicate, crunchy and flavorful crust, topped with fluffy, creamy whipped bacala – no overt saltiness here, only a nice brininess. The romesco was delicious, but overly abundant. That’s my only criticism of this dish – the romesco overpowered the thing. The eggs . . . oh those eggs . . . broke those open and let the warm yokes run all over the mess – they added a great richness to the pizza and were a perfect foil for the peppery romesco. I look forward to ordering this again – next time I might make this and a simple salad my entire meal.
But of course, there was more. We took it over the top by ordering half portions of two pasta dishes: Alicia Winn’s chickpea flour pappardelle with crisped Brussels sprout leaves and roasted butternut squash; and the handmade sausage and broccoli rabe orecchiette with ricotta salada. These weren’t as exciting to me, but part of the problem was probably that I was relatively stuffed at this point.
I wasn’t wowed by the pappardelle. The roasted squash didn’t have that much flavor, and while the Brussels sprout leaves were pretty and fairly tasty, they were tiny and didn’t add that much to the dish. It wasn’t a bad dish, just not a standout. The sausage dish was better – the sausages (there were two small sausages on the plate, this was a half portion) were spectacular – so flavorful and juicy. I could’ve made a meal on those and I think Lydia Shire should incorporate those into a small plate somehow. The broccoli rabe was deliciously prepared, but I’m beginning to wonder if I’m ever going to be converted into a rabe fan – I can’t seem to get over the bitterness. Everything else on the dish was superb, and I think I would’ve enjoyed it even more had I not made a pig of myself prior.
For dessert, D. chose the small cookie plate, which had five of the chef’s choices for cookies: chocolate chip; a biscotti of some sort; and amaretti cookie; a coconut macaroon; and some sort of gingery-spice cookie. I nibbled a bit of each, and the amaretti cookie was the standout here – amazingly tender on the inside with strong almond flavor and a teensy-bit-crisped crust around the whole thing – it provided just the littlest bit of resistance to get into that sumptuous interior. The spice cookie was number two on my favorites – very spicy, good with the pot of rooibos tea I ordered. The others were solid, but not over-the-top great, with the macaroon being a bit dry.
If you haven’t been, you need to know that Scampo’s not cheap. I do think it’s terrific and interesting and worth the money. The room is fun too – so save it for a time when you want to splurge a little bit and go hungry. They also have a nice wine list and make great cocktails . . . so buckle in for a night of indulgence.
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