2011-07-13 / Cuisine

Ristorante Farfalla’s refined food, stylish atmosphere a winning combination

If one human year equals seven dog years, then restaurant years must run at triple that rate. How else to explain why so many of them wither and die after a matter of months or a few years?

The owners of those that last clearly know some secret to longevity that escapes the ones that come and go in a flash. Judging from what I saw at Ristorante Farfalla, now in its 13th year, I’d say it’s an insistence upon top-notch ingredients and attention to detail in all aspects of the operation. From polished service to luxuriant ambience to scrupulously fresh food plated with seasoned artistry, Ristorante Farfalla provides diners with the sort of experience that gives them multiple reasons to return.

That chef/owner Michael Fattah is able to accomplish this even during the traditionally sluggish summer season speaks to the dedication with which he approaches his work.

There were but a handful of tables occupied on a recent rainy Thursday night, but the dining room was spotless and well dressed, outfitted with immaculate white linen, the lone server equally well groomed. And in addition to all the offerings on the menu, there were at least eight nightly specials. Such effort for a smattering of locals is a refreshing change from menus reduced to their bare bones, lackadaisical housekeeping and halfhearted service, a sort of summer rehearsal phase some establishments shift into before the curtain rises on tourist season in the fall.


A mixed seafood salad is marinated in olive oil, garlic, herbs and lemon juice. A mixed seafood salad is marinated in olive oil, garlic, herbs and lemon juice. What’s more, Mr. Fattah offers locals some attractive summer specials including, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, either 50 percent off any bottle of wine priced at $100 or less or 10 percent off the total bill. (You need a coupon for this deal, but it’s available on the website and attached to menus at the door to the restaurant.) There’s also a two-course summer special for two with a bottle of wine for $44.99, with the menu changing every two weeks.


A delicate red sauce pairs well with steamed New Zealand mussels. A delicate red sauce pairs well with steamed New Zealand mussels. From the voluminous wine list — which includes 20 choices by the glass — we settled on a light-bodied red, a 2009 Pio Cesare Dolcetto d’Alba, that paired well with our meal.

We began with fruitti di mare sott’aceto (a mixed seafood salad, $14) and cozze verde posillippo (New Zealand mussels in a light tomato sauce, $11). The seafood salad contained a gorgeous array of calamari, clams, mussels and shrimp that had been lightly marinated in herbs, olive oil, lemon and garlic. It was set upon a plate with a pastel pink rim, a hue that enhanced the color of the shrimp. As it turned out, each dish was plated in a like manner, in a dish or bowl that complemented the food contained on it.


Fresh clams ring a bowl of linguine with red sauce. Fresh clams ring a bowl of linguine with red sauce. The mussels were large but tender, well served by the light tomato sauce in which they basked. After finishing the mussels, we used the rest of the bread to mop up that vibrant sauce.

Choosing an entrée from the 40-plus on the menu, not to mention the specials, was difficult. The menu covers a lot of ground, including risotto, homemade pasta, fish, chicken, veal and beef dishes.

At long last, we settled on linguine alla vongole (pasta with clams and red sauce, $22) and what our server said was one of the chef’s signature dishes: tagliato ($33), a filet that’s grilled then sliced, seared and served over arugula, topped with shaved grana padana (an aged cheese similar to parmigiana but subtler and less salty), lemon juice and olive oil.

The pasta arrived in a pumpkincolored bowl with fresh clams ringing the perimeter of a mound of linguine lightly dressed in red clam sauce. Both the clams and the sauce were well flavored, but the dish could have used more clams to balance out all the pasta.


Tagliato, one of the chef’s signature dishes, features tender filet, grana padana cheese and arugula. Tagliato, one of the chef’s signature dishes, features tender filet, grana padana cheese and arugula. The filet, however, was perfect. The meat was cooked to a perfect medium rare, thinly sliced and seared with a minimum of seasoning, which was all it needed. Combined with the slightly bitter tang of the arugula and the chewy cheese on top, this was an exceptional dish, accompanied by al dente sautéed vegetables — zucchini, squash and onions — and creamy scalloped potatoes.

Our server was happy to tell us which desserts were made on site, and we were happy to try one: a slice of Italian cheesecake ($8). Made with ricotta, perhaps a bit of mascarpone and a touch of lemon, it was served with a pair of well-chilled forks. A much lighter cake than the New York-style cheesecake, it made for a satisfying finish to the meal.


Much lighter than its New York cousin, this Italian cheesecake possesses a subtle lemon flavor. Much lighter than its New York cousin, this Italian cheesecake possesses a subtle lemon flavor. Mr. Fallah possesses a deft and subtle hand when it comes to sauces and seasoning. It’s equally clear that he has a passion for quality ingredients and exemplary service. Such attention to detail has proven a winning formula for him — as well as for all who dine at Ristorante Farfalla. ¦


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