Right before the start of a blogger’s dinner that unveiled Strada 18’s “Italian-American Comfort Classics” family style menu, one of its co-owners, Steven Semaya, hit the nail on the head. “We wanted to bring some of you back in and reintroduce you to Strada,” he said.
A true statement indeed. It’s not like Strada 18 was ever bad though. In fact, it’s damn good and always has been. We even reviewed Strada when we first started Food Dudes and when I was snapping photos on a really early edition of a Blackberry. Personally, I just overlook it sometimes with all the new restaurants and I tend to go to a select few places where I’ve been a regular for a while now.
|Executive Chef and Co-Owner David Raymer chatting with us bloggers.|
I was excited to be back and even more eager to dive into big bowls and trays of food 😛
What Was Awesome?
The Beer Program – Strada 18 is known for their wine list but they have a brand new beer program that’s worth checking out. Will they ever compete with The Ginger Man or Local? No, and they’re not trying to. What they do have are some of the rarer selections (in bottles/cans) that you may have trouble finding elsewhere and they carry upwards of 30 different brews. They even had Sip of Sunshine recently and I was over the moon about that and I wouldn’t stop talking about it at the dinner.
Fried Apps – You can never go wrong starting any meal off with good fried appetizers. In this case we got to try Strada’s arancini stuffed with fontina cheese. It made the risotto balls ooey gooey and I couldn’t stop eating them with loads of fresh tomato sauce. Another goodie here is the fried calamari. Sure, it’s simple enough but many places are guilty of overcooking it or it not being crispy enough. That was not the case here. Each piece was crispy and tender and they’re served with three different sauces; classic marinara, aioli, and a perfectly spicy lemon-lime jalapeno-cilantro.
Burrata – Much like everything at Strada 18, Chef David Raymer makes everything in-house, including the burrata. This super creamy cheese is served with unfiltered EVOO (yeah, I stole your acronym, Rachael Ray), 10 year aged balsamic, fresh basil, house-roasted red pepper and walnuts. Every element worked and there was not too much of any other ingredient besides the cheese. Everything added and did not take away. I was thrilled that we each got our own little bowl. No sharing!
Sunday Sauce w/Rigatoni, Ribs, Meatballs, Sausage – A bowl of rigatoni coated in sauce and a tray of meat, what’s not to love? This part of the family style meal brought me back to my childhood. This is how I ate growing up with the meatballs, sausage and ribs cooked in the sauce. The sausage is homemade and the ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender.
|Would you like some beer gelato? Is “hell yes” an acceptable answer?|
Desserts – Props to Strada for making all desserts on the premises. Everything on the platter was good but I especially loved the almond cookies, the creative Black Pepper & Walnut Biscotti, and the slightly tart and moist Lemon Semolina Cake. We also had a sampling of homemade gelato that rivals any gelato anywhere. They scored big time with me when they brought out a gelato flavor made with Founders Curmudgeon Old Ale with a shot of Drambuie drizzled on top. Boozy frozen treats always win.
What Was “Just OK?”
Mostly everything was solid in terms of family style execution except these things…
Meatballs – This was a denser meatball than I’ve had in the area and it could have used more spices. I’ve had meatballs here before and at last summer’s Meatball Challenge. They were better then.
Chicken Parm – This is another item that I know is typically better. I wasn’t the only one who complained that more sauce was necessary. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt because it wasn’t the portion size they’re used to making.
Beer List – The list itself is great, so no issues there. A few of us at the table brought up that it should be better organized by category. Beer geeks can understand it fine but to someone who doesn’t know what type of beer it is or even to the novice craft beer person it can be confusing.
I was glad to be back at Strada 18 after a two year absence. The beer list will definitely attract me and hopefully other craft beer lovers. I can see myself cruising through for a cold one and one of their amazing pizzas or a classic pasta dish. As for the family style concept, it’s a great idea for group outings or family dinners and I know I’ll indulge in it with family and friends very soon.
122 Washington Street
South Norwalk, CT 06854