Let’s try something new. I’d never been to Olio e Limone before. Yeah, that’s right! Let’s also take a few risks and try going there at 8 pm on a Saturday night without a reservation.
You’d think we’d fail, and you’d be so wrong. But we did arrive with a queue going out the door. We murmured amongst ourselves that we might not get in without the reservation and maybe we should think about going to another Italian restaurant just on the east side of Victoria St. This makes the smug couple in front of us turn around and say, “oh, if you don’t have a reservation for here, you are not getting in. And that other place is no good.”
All condenscending like.
Then something amazing happened. The woman at the front desk said there was one open 2-top left and beckoned us in. We left the couple standing there at the front and were promptly seated, all smiles and eyes sparkling with happiness. Maybe a little smugness.
The restaurant was packed, elbow to elbow. I didn’t bother with photos.
To start: Carpaccio di Bue. Thinly-sliced raw beef tenderloin, goose liver paté and celery hearts with Olio e Limone dressing. Uber tender, the beef fell apart like pate itself, which I scooped up onto my spoon or a slice of ciabatta. The goose liver was so smooth, like a Michael McDonald song. It was my favorite part of this small plate. Underneath it all was the tender slivers of celery.
Main: Ravioli d’Anatra ai Funghi Porcini. Housemade duck ravioli with creamy porcini mushroom sauce. Oh, hell yeah. You had me at duck. Why is duck such a luxury item in the US? Ducks are everywhere! Just look at your nearest park. What’s the deal. We need duck nuggets and kentucky fried duck, and duck fajitas. But duck ravioli will do. These were DERICIOUS, and quite substantial little pasta pillows. These are also the favorite item of our waiter’s, he said so while we were waffling over the menu earlier in the evening. I’d agree, I really enjoyed them, I had to contain myself while eating them, like not using my fingers to scrape up the last of the sauce, or licking the plate.
My dining companion again got one of the specials, a sauteed sole in butter and lemon, which included some greens and potato on the side. Pasta was also tempting, and so initially there was a lot of indecisiveness over what to pick on the menu. Our waiter saved the day – he said we could get half portions of pasta. DONE. So all at once, three large plates appear before my one friend containing the fish, the vegetables and a portion of pasta that looks way bigger than a half. Sorry, I don’t recall what it was! I was too busy face down in my DUCK ravioli, but only in the most dignified lady-like manner.
There’s no way we had physical room for dessert, but there’s mental room and we feasted on the extensive options our waiter recited to us. Next time, dessert FO SHO. Maybe two! But I was as stuffed as my raviolis. Good times.
Olio e Limone
Arts and Letters is a place I’ve been wanting to go to for years, literally. Sometimes I’d get distracted by other places, sometimes I’d try to go but they wouldn’t be open. They’ve even had a great Buy One Get One Free coupon in the Indy, and I *still* couldn’t make a visit happen. But finally, during the lull between Christmas and New Years, I came here for lunch.
Wow, what a lovely little spot. I mean, I’ve looked into the space when visiting Sullivan Goss, and I’ve peeked at the menu in the courtyard plenty of times, but it’s not the same as sitting down at the linen covered table, a budding rose as the centerpiece, with the arbor overhead and being surrounded by art in the galleries when it becomes apparent that this is a secluded gem in downtown.
I was with a party of four, and we shared a charcuterie plate to start, $15. There is normally a selection of charcuterie, of which you can have three. We got the pâté, coppa and pepper salami, which were all fabulous, and came dressed with pickled cauliflower and beets, mustardo and a balsamic reduction sauce. And heaps of bread, which could also be dipped in a herb-seasoned olive oil provided to the table.
Most of us opted for a lunch option called “el niño,” which is the half sandwich, salad and a choice of soup or French fries, for $15. We like having lots of little things to dabble in.
Kent got the Riviera seafood salad, and it looked nice, and contained scallops, shrimp and crab, but honestly I didn’t pay much attention to it until near the end of the meal when I saw it was completely devoured.
George got the Curry chicken salad sandwich, with salad and pumpkin soup. Great flavors, got a little messy, best eaten with a fork.
Lamenting the recent loss of Miss Saigon and its bahn mi, the final sandwich of this lunch was grilled Niman Ranch pork, Vietnamese-style, with lots of crunchy goodies. This “el niño” combination also included the French fries since the diner was a self-proclaimed French fry fanatic. Our waiter said the fries here were amazing, fried in soybean oil to make them lighter. I suspect they also gave them a light coating of cornstarch, because they were indeed light, and crunchy. Even 20 minutes into the meal they were still crisp. So yeah, pretty darn good.
Several acquaintances have talked up the hamburger and the lamb burger, saying they are excellent. It’s a pity I wasn’t able to try them, we all wanted the sandwich and salad combinations that day. But now that I’ve been once, I want to go back.
Btw, Sullivan Goss was preparing a new exhibit of Lockwood de Forest’s art work when I passed through. It should be open by this coming January First Thursday.