Emmet Fox turned a lot of heads when he opened Asti in Hyde Park some years back. This was vintage Italian with an Austin flair that turned Marge and I into regulars.
He then took a stab at Paella when Fino took over the space originally occupied by Granite Cafe at 29th and San Gabriel. That restaurant has now settled into the capable hands of Smokey Fuse of Musashino and Emmet has followed the flow to S. Lamar and opened Cantine just north of the Shake Shack.
Cantine is a restaurant that regularly evokes the unmistakable sounds of delighted customers. We began our repast with blistered Sushito Peppers which were prepared only with sea salt. They were served at just the right temperature for enhancing the flavors. We then sampled the Lamb Meatballs with a Tomato Sugo and mozzarella cheese. These were tender and very subtle on the flavor front which I found very appealing.
The Heirloom Tomato and Burrata salad was another great choice. The balsamic crema took this lovely dish to a crunchy yet smooth conclusion. The flavors were mellow but with that balsamic spark.
What’s more Italian than than home made pasta? Absolutely nothing! And the pasta dishes at Cantine absolutely define this restaurant’s raison d’etre. The Spaghetti Carbonara made with guanciale (a cured pig cheek or jowl) that gave this classic dish a nicer buzz than one gets from the usual pancetta. The egg yolk finishes the dish and binds the flavors. And those flavors are amazing!
The second dish we tried was the Linguine Vongole. These fresh littleneck clams are steamed open and then sautéed in white wine along with the linguine, garlic (of course), olive oil and bread crumbs. This dish, in the right hands, can be amazing. Cantine’s version is, shall we say, amazing +!
Moving away from Pasta you have to try the Harissa Chicken. I would not have thought of adding roasted eggplant to this Mediterranean styled dish but what a beautiful notion. The Fregola Sarda is a semolina from Sardinia that has really grown in popularity over the past few years. Adding this to the Chicken makes for a perfect balance and taste.
Cantine is a great addition to the S. Lamar gallery of new restaurants.