We were in an Italian restaurant in Savannah last fall. I can’t even remember the name of the place, it was close to the hotel and we were tired and hungry. The food was average Italian-American, I can not remember what we ate, but boy do I remember the cocktails we had. It was on the menu as an Italian mojito and we loved it so much that upon leaving we made a point to track down the bartender and interrogate him about his creation. He gave us the macro view, but was a little vague about the finer points. So with high mojito season approaching (ok- I’ll admit it’s in full swing at stately Fred Manor) I have been working to perfect my version. Here it is.
Muddle some basil leaves (6-8) in about 1 1/2 ounces of lime juice with a few wedges of lime for effect To this add 1 1/2 ounces of limoncello. Fill the glass with a good scoop of crushed ice and then top off with prosecco. Enjoy!
Il Porto reminds me of a good offensive lineman: just solidly doing their job over and over without much flash or fanfare. I’ve eaten at Il Porto twice in recent months and both times came away with the same attitude: good solid Italian-American comfort food. From the gnocchi, to the baked ziti, to the eggplant parmesan to the salmon picatta everything I have eaten or sampled there was good. Not sublime, not terrible, but solidly good. There is nothing fancy about their food; no avant garde foams or weird dishes, but what they do serve comes out just the way you expect Italian-American food to be. I was also very surprised how reasonable their prices were. Most entrees were in the $9-13 range. The other thing that really stood out was the service. It was impeccable both times we were there. The wine list is decent. They have a house red (which I did not try) and several wines by the glass. The only quibble I have is that they didn’t have many reds by the glass available. They did have a prosecco by the glass which was a pleasant find.
I also really like the ambiance of the restaurant. It struck me as one of those neighborhood places you find in Boston or New York. I think it’s due to the fact that when you look out the front windows all you see are trees and residences and no other commercial property. It really makes it feel like a cozy neighborhood joint, which is exactly what it is!
Il Porto: 200 South Market Street, Frederick, MD 21701-6527 Phone: (301) 620-7480
Vignola Market- Kind of like an Italian Opera: excitement, love and then my heart is ripped out, but in the end I forgive you anyway
The other day I went to the Vignola Market. It was not my first trip there, and it certainly won’t be my last. If you’ve never been there it’s worth a trip. It’s located in downtown Frederick at 9 East Church Street. Now Italian food is in my DNA and I am an unabashed Italiophile and I want to love this place with all my heart, but if you’re expecting a full New York Style Italian Deli you’ll probably be disappointed. I’m sure the market isn’t there yet in Frederick for the deli of my dreams. However, it has a pretty good selection of items: a bunch that I have never seen elsewhere locally. Most of what it does have is excellent. Call it Italian Deli light (or leggero) if you will. For starters they make their own fresh Mozzarella, both plain and smoked. Beats the heck out of anything else I’ve found locally. For this reason alone it’s worth the trip. It also has a great selection of fresh pasta (very good) and their own pasta sauces and prepared pasta dishes (which I have not tried yet) as well as some harder to find Italian items such as anchovy paste, Italian dried pasta, 00 flour, instant polenta, and amaretti di saronna among others. They also have a selection of fresh Italian cheeses including mascarpone. The big disappointment: I ordered a tub of the fresh ricotta for some ricotta dumplings I was going to make. I figured from a store that makes their own mozzarella the ricotta ought to be good. I was dismayed to see the clerk then go and squeeze it out of a big Polly-o plastic bag. They charged far more than the tubs you can buy in the supermarket and it was just the same.
They also have an excellent selection of panettone this time of year in several different varieties. As I said worth the trip!