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Ripped Off! - Lunch at Osteria Via Stato

Ripped Off! - Lunch at Osteria Via Stato
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  • Ripped Off! - Lunch at Osteria Via Stato

    Post #1 - May 25th, 2005, 8:11 am
    Post #1 - May 25th, 2005, 8:11 am Post #1 - May 25th, 2005, 8:11 am
    First, let me note that the Condiment Queen did not hate Osteria Via Stato quite as much as me. Second, on a dinner visit, Mr. Barolo had a more pleasant experience. But I got the keyboard in front of me.

    Did I mention that I hated Osteria via Stato? Aside from accusations of deliberate food poisoning, I s'pose that calling a place a rip-off is about as bad as you can say. No?

    Granted, to be ripped off, one has to be willingly gullible, to expect something nice from LEY places (and I have defended them over the years), and to buy into this "more Italian" experience they were promising at Osteria via Stato. So, maybe it's my fault.


    I expected to be impressed with lavish platers of attractive antipasti: vibrant salads, luscious meats. I expected the pastas to be deliciously simple, emphasizing the grain as much as the condiment, and I expected a good if small main course or secondi. Of course, based on all the hype and such, I was also expecting a price fixe menu. (I also expect in a pretty empty restaurant to not be led to a table in the corner abutting the computer, but that I remedied with a bit of vocalization.)

    It turns out at lunch they do not really serve the price fixe anymore. It was all ala carte, but I made a little stink (called threatened to leave), and voila there was still a two course set deal for $19 (give or take a dollar I forget now). Should have stuck with the ala carte. Here's what we got. Two bowls of asparagus soup--I mean two bowls with a little bit of asparagus soup in them; two playing card thick slices of baked fennel; and an overdressed green salad. That was our wow-us first course. We were then allowed to pick from the pastas or entrees. I chose the "homemade" paparadelle with meat ragu, and my wife chose salmon with green sauce.

    The soup was good enough, it was more a chicken veloute with a few slices of asparagus than a soup that really brought out the spring flavors, but it was very much wrong as the first thing served. The fennel tasted fine, but the way it came, so tiny, on a tiny plate, made eating it seem so joyless, and the salad, surprisingly enough was pretty bad, you would think green salad how can they do that, but it was overdressed and overdressed with a too sweet dressing. But c'mon, where was the house cured salmon I've heard about, the salumi, the proscuitto*. I've had glorious antipasti in Italy, and this felt more like what a place would give you as nibbles with a glass of wine.

    And you know I am not gonna like the pasta. It may have been made in house, but I suspect it was done either with an extruder machine or an Atlas machine (if really made in house), because at the end of the day, it had none of that toothsomeness, that feel of real home made pasta. Like so much of the lunch, it seemed lifeless and joyless. And (of course) it goes without saying that it came way over sauced (and the sauce was nothing special either). My wife did enjoy her small piece of fish. I did not taste it, but visually, it did look well cooked.

    Perhaps because they sensed my misery, they decided unannounced, to bring us some sides near the end of our meal. We got a polenta that was cooked well but was exceedingly bland, and some nice local asparagus that even they could not ruin.

    On top of all of this, we were dumb enough to go with the bring us wine program (abet at the piker $15 option). It was an especially dumb call, cause they offered us a glass of wine with the set lunch. Instead, we got three mediocre glasses of wine. The first, a Sicilian white from Cusamano had a nice floral nose, but was vapid on the tongue. The second, a red Sicilian (Nero d'Avola) also from Cusamano was just vapid, and the third, a Puglian wine (Uva di Troia) from Santa Lucia had that bubble-gum-y taste of a bad Beaujolais noveau. We left most of the reds un-drunk.

    VI

    *One of the first visual cues that things were not all they should have been at Osteria via Stato, is that when you walk in, you see a display of a bunch of the antipasti (as well as a few of the raw materials with labels of origin). I'm not gonna comment on the wrinkled eggplants, but the ham. It is displayed prominently, shown off. Yet, it is shown off in a machine slicer, actually a show-off machine slice with a vivid paint job. It's really meant to catch your attention, show off. But all I think is, who really wants to show off machine sliced prosciutto. Would not a place that aspires to what they aspire to, hand slice the ham? Is not prosciutto SUPPOSED to be hand sliced...
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #2 - May 25th, 2005, 10:23 am
    Post #2 - May 25th, 2005, 10:23 am Post #2 - May 25th, 2005, 10:23 am
    Yikes. That's certainly a credibly rendered awful experience. I was actually looking forward to trying lunch based on the better-than-alright dinner we had. Not flawless but happily repeatable.

    I wonder if lunch is just being criminally neglected in favor of dinner overall. (Second tier kitchen staff, things prepped the day before, etc.)

    I remember during my brief stint with the Levy Org. when they were first opening their operations in Sears Tower, lots of care was put into the lunch menu - planning, execution, etc. Then, all at once, they simply announced that we were now open for breakfast as well - handed us a menu and expected us to cook it. It was hopeless.

    Just FYI, after my 1 dinner I emailed (via the LEYE website) the restaurant about a couple of smallish problems with our mid-tier "bring-me-wine" experience. I recieved a prompt and quite genuine-seeming reponse from the wine director explaining what had happened, telling me they were increasing staff training and inviting me to visit training sessions if I was interested.

    You sound too disgruntled to bother, but I bet if you communicated your disappointment you would get a response.
    "Strange how potent cheap music is."
  • Post #3 - May 25th, 2005, 10:30 am
    Post #3 - May 25th, 2005, 10:30 am Post #3 - May 25th, 2005, 10:30 am
    Rob,

    I agree with Mr. B, Yikes!

    I ate at Osteria Via Stato once and thought, in context, it not bad at all. If nothing else they were generous with the portions, and I especially liked the 'house cured' salmon. I should note we were there for dinner and were treated.

    Speaking of Osteria Via Stato's prosciutto slicer, I thought it kind of cool. :)
    Image

    By the way, since when is a roller style Atlas machine not real pasta?

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Last edited by G Wiv on May 25th, 2005, 11:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #4 - May 25th, 2005, 10:35 am
    Post #4 - May 25th, 2005, 10:35 am Post #4 - May 25th, 2005, 10:35 am
    VI:

    I'm a little finicky when it comes to Italian food and, unless it was under fairly extraordinary circumstances (one of which being the check was to go to someone else), I likely would not go to Osteria Via Stato. I rarely eat Italian food in restaurants in Chicago (put simply, it almost always disappoints one way or another) and if I were to feel the urge to do so, know of some places I'd sooner try or revisit than a LEYE place. So then, I suppose I should say I'm not completely surprised you had a bad experience (though I am perhaps a little surprised it was so bad, especially given MrBarolo's more favourable reaction -- but then, on a given day, I can see variation within a range of pretty good to pretty bad).

    That said, I find your two technologically oriented complaints rather odd.

    1) If a rolling machine -- Atlas brand or otherwise -- necessarily ruins the texture of fresh pasta, then just about no one in this country or any other country other than Italy is eating fresh pasta with good texture -- and the vast majority of people in Italy aren't eating it any more either. I've made a fair amount of pasta in my lifetime and, having watched my grandmother and my Zia Carmela, two masters, turn out perfect tagliatelle, lasagne and lagane with nothing more than a rolling board and a rounded stick, have tried to do all the work the old fashioned way myself. It's a lot of work and, even for such veterans as the aforementioned masters, a fairly time consuming task. I am sure you're right that the fresh flat noodles OVS serves are rolled through a machine but please let me know which restaurants or commercial pastificii in this city do not employ such machines? Yes, 100% handmade is (potentially) superior (depending on who's doing the work, of course) but the damage done by a machine rolling is naught compared to the damage done by machine mixing and kneading.*

    Actually, your comment about their pasta makes me wonder not whether it was handmade and just machine rolled before cutting but rather whether it was the standard industrial –– i.e., competely machine-made –– fresh pasta (as I think you suggest as being possible in this case), the sort that is now widely churned out, consumed and -- too often -- praised in this neck of the woods. I certainly agree with you that such 'fresh pasta' has no place in a restauant above the level of Buca di Culo or Olive Garage (but alas, some of the restaurant suppliers around here do turn out what I think you and I agree could be called 'mechanopasta').


    2) Perhaps you're absolutely right about the silliness of displaying a cold-cut slicer as if it were something at which to marvel, but you seem to say that it is the norm for prosciutto to be sliced by hand. Again, in a perfect world, i.e. the one that doesn't exist, restaurants of even this level would have a dedicated prosciutto slicing expert, but really, it seems unfair to criticise a place of OVS's ilk about using a mechanised slicer on their prosciutto. And, as far as I'm concerned, I'd rather my prosciutto be sliced thinly and laid out nicely, than it be butchered by some little or ill-trained chap who first heard about prosciutto when he got the job.

    OVS is not a place that I especially care to or am prepared to defend at any level but I do think it somewhat naïve to expect pasta made 100% by hand and prosciutto hand sliced at an Italian restaurant of this price range in Chicago. Heck, it seems to me it wasn't all that long ago that the broader American public discovered garlic or first heard of (and largely rejected) the texture of al dente...

    saluti,
    Antonius (lo schizzinoso)

    * Even Giuliano Bugialli allows for the use of a rolling machine and he is not only exceedingly knowledgable but also very finicky, sometimes insanely so. I myself like to do all the working of the dough by hand and just use the rolling machine for the very final step when making something involving flat noodles. But next time I'll do half with the rolling machine and half with the broom handle for comparative purposes. :wink:

    Typos fixed.
    Last edited by Antonius on May 25th, 2005, 11:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #5 - May 25th, 2005, 10:45 am
    Post #5 - May 25th, 2005, 10:45 am Post #5 - May 25th, 2005, 10:45 am
    Antonius, wow!

    I guess in my mind, making papadelle by hand, truly by hand, does not seem that hard. Not that I've ever done it--but I've seen Molto Mario do it :wink: For a pasta like papadelle, moreover, it is rather customary to roll out and cut (no?). The taste and texture of pasta from the Atlas machine (if that was used) is just not close to really hand rolled pasta. I just compare and contrast, for instance, to the hand-made pasta I had at Cafe Spiagia over the years.

    Same with the hand-slicing of the ham. Cannot someone with enough knife skills who works in a restaurant also slice the ham? You do admit that the flavor and texture of well cut, hand sliced ham far exceeds what can be done on the machine ( :?: )

    To me, these are the subtle yet distinct differences between making a place special and making it ordinary. Restaurant meals are really the sums of all these little details. As we both say, perhaps I'm naive, but I expect LEY to be on the right side of these distictions.

    Rob

    PS
    As to the comment about no one else eating pasta not made from Atlas type machines? Huh? I think most of the pieriogi found in Chicago (the hand made kind) is hand rolled. Hell, I've watched them make dumplings at the Georgian bakery on Da'Bomb and I never saw an Atlas machine. I wonder how Merlo does their papadelle? I think that most home made Asian noodles (here or there) are hand rolled...
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #6 - May 25th, 2005, 11:01 am
    Post #6 - May 25th, 2005, 11:01 am Post #6 - May 25th, 2005, 11:01 am
    Vital Information wrote:
    Same with the hand-slicing of the ham. Cannot someone with enough knife skills who works in a restaurant also slice the ham? You do admit that the flavor and texture of well cut, hand sliced ham far exceeds what can be done on the machine ( :?: )



    I've always assumed that prosciutto was sliced by machine. When we were traveling in Italy, it looked like the prosciutto we ordered in restaurants was machine sliced...or maybe that was expert knife skills at work. However, when we bought some in a salumeria in Parma to vacuum & take home with us, they used a machine to slice it up.
  • Post #7 - May 25th, 2005, 11:04 am
    Post #7 - May 25th, 2005, 11:04 am Post #7 - May 25th, 2005, 11:04 am
    Vital Information wrote:Antonius, wow!

    I guess in my mind, making papadelle by hand, truly by hand, does not seem that hard. Not that I've ever done it--but I've seen Molto Mario do it :wink: For a pasta like papadelle, moreover, it is rather customary to roll out and cut (no?). The taste and texture of pasta from the Atlas machine (if that was used) is just not close to really hand rolled pasta. I just compare and contrast, for instance, to the hand-made pasta I had at Cafe Spiagia over the years.


    Wow, indeed. Molto Mario (pretty much) always uses a roller machine (I believe, incidentally, Atlas brand -- and in fact, he uses it more extensively than I do, i.e., to accomplish some of the kneading as well rolling through multiple rollings/foldings/rerollings).

    Or are you talking about some kind of machine with a motor that does the mixing and kneading as well? If so, you should have been more explicit. For me, Atlas is first and foremost just the hand-cranked rolling machine and you're o.p. above seemed to me (and now I see to Gary as well) to be saying that using an Atlas rolling machine ruins the pasta and that's obviously ... well ... poppycock.

    A

    Edited by author for propriety's sake --Le parolacce non servono tra gli amici. But the conceptual objection remains unchanged.
    Last edited by Antonius on May 25th, 2005, 2:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #8 - May 25th, 2005, 12:26 pm
    Post #8 - May 25th, 2005, 12:26 pm Post #8 - May 25th, 2005, 12:26 pm
    On the subject of slicing prosciutto:

    In my experience, most places machine slice, including most italian grocers, delis, etc, I've been to.

    One of the few exceptions to this is zingerman's in ann arbor, which hand slices the prosciutto in an apparatus like the one used to slice serrano ham. It looks something like this:

    Image
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #9 - May 25th, 2005, 3:37 pm
    Post #9 - May 25th, 2005, 3:37 pm Post #9 - May 25th, 2005, 3:37 pm
    VI,

    I have had problems at OVS of a different kind. I've been to dinner three times, once for lunch, and actually have been quite surprised (in a good way) about the food. My first time I fully expected to hate what I thought would be an inauthentic experience in a theme-y restaurant. (I had the same prejudice before going to Weber Grill, assuming it would be a Houston's meets Rain Forest Cafe, but it was really pretty good). The OVS food I've had has been terrific--I'm especially fond of the grilled onion, the cured salmon, and salumi starters, and the pork shank entree.

    Admittedly, much of the food is great because of an almost excessive use of butter (which, like bacon, makes everything taste better). I've tried the silly-sounding wine program on two occasions, and--with a full table of dinner guests--ended up liking the ease and mindlessness of it. Each time I selected the middle price point, and the three selections were perfectly adequate.

    My problem has been with the same woman who did the greeting/seating on my three dinner visits. Absolutely unfriendly, aggressively unaccommodating each time. On these visits, it seemed as if she took pleasure in taking me to the absolute worst possible tables when other options existed (not that it should matter, but we have always been well dressed). Twice I had to reject the tables for another, and the third time I had to reject two tables before getting one that was only remotely okay. I am not in the habit of doing this--in fact, it's quite displeasurable for me to have to make this kind of fuss. But each time, it has made the evening start out on a particularly bad note.

    I like the restaurant well enough to go back, but I'm afraid if I had to deal with her again, I'd walk out. Doing battle with her is not worth it.
  • Post #10 - May 25th, 2005, 4:09 pm
    Post #10 - May 25th, 2005, 4:09 pm Post #10 - May 25th, 2005, 4:09 pm
    My experience at OVS was much more middle of the road. Good service. Ok to good food. I think my wife summed it up best when she said," I'm glad we went. We had a good time. I don't really think we ever need to go there again." We are lucky to live in a city with so many wonderful dining opportunities.

    best,

    veeral
  • Post #11 - May 25th, 2005, 4:11 pm
    Post #11 - May 25th, 2005, 4:11 pm Post #11 - May 25th, 2005, 4:11 pm
    VI: I can't imagine what would be wrong with a paper thin machine sliced drape of prosciutto. It seems to me that all the skill involved in becoming really deft at hand slicing, would involve trying to emulate the perfect sharpness and steadiness of the machine. I suppose a great hand-slice will have just a bit of unevenness that translates into a bit more sensory fun on the tongue, but it hardly seems a deal breaker. Whereas a too thick hand-slice is instantly and utterly irredeemable.

    Antonius: Bucca di culo indeed! :wink:
    "Strange how potent cheap music is."
  • Post #12 - May 25th, 2005, 4:32 pm
    Post #12 - May 25th, 2005, 4:32 pm Post #12 - May 25th, 2005, 4:32 pm
    Vital Information wrote:
    mrbarolo wrote:VI: I can't imagine what would be wrong with a paper thin machine sliced drape of prosciutto. It seems to me that all the skill involved in becoming really deft at hand slicing, would involve trying to emulate the perfect sharpness and steadiness of the machine. I suppose a great hand-slice will have just a bit of unevenness that translates into a bit more sensory fun on the tongue, but it hardly seems a deal breaker. Whereas a too thick hand-slice is instantly and utterly irredeemable.

    Antonius: Bucca di culo indeed! :wink:


    Ever had hand sliced lox?

    C'mon guys, why be fish for Rich. That's the point of my post. Machine sliced proscuitto can be ok. Atlas made pasta can be ok (or probably better than ok*). A little bit of fennel can be ok. A sweet ragu can be ok. But why settle for ok.

    My ire is that LEY preys exactly on this settlement for OK. They sell themselves on taking the time and the effort to do something special (and I'm AM a sucker for this pitch), but then they do the bait and switch thing. They figger out all the little short-cuts they can take. How can we sell the concept they ask. What can we do to make it *seem* right.

    But enough with *seeming* right. I want it to be right. It's not so hard to hand slice the ham. I go to a little Czech place, Operetta, an inordinate amount (I guess inordinate 'cause I'm not like a big lover of Czech food), but I go 'cause they try so hard with their food, my food. It pisses me off because Osteria via Stato DID NOT try.

    Rob

    *And regardless of the Atlas thing, the pasta was just not that special, not any better than any other pasta.
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #13 - May 25th, 2005, 9:16 pm
    Post #13 - May 25th, 2005, 9:16 pm Post #13 - May 25th, 2005, 9:16 pm
    Rob:

    I can speak only for myself but I know with a considerable degree of certitude that I am not a “fish for Rich.” As I said, I’m no great fan of Lettuce Exploit You (nor am I inclined to say that all his places are in all ways bad merely because they’re part of his nefariously profitable empire). I can imagine OSV being fairly bad, as it was for you, or not so bad or even pretty good, as it was for others who have written in this thread –– I don’t have direct experience with the place and can’t say. And probably, I’ll only ever be able to read about it...

    So then, my point is very pointedly pointed: You say part of OSV’s badness lies in a sort of cheapness, giving the customer pasta probably rolled flat in an Atlas hand-crank device and prosciutto sliced on an infernal electric machine. I say:

    1) I think that for their price category and what they are here in Chicago, those two shortcomings, as it were, neither surprise nor disturb me. Now, at Spiaggia that would perhaps be a different kettle of pesce altogether, but in the US for a plate of pasta in a two course meal for about 25,000 (or even 35,000) lire, I don’t expect there to be a grandma in the back rolling out the pappardelle. Nor do I expect the prosciutto to be hand shaved as per l’uso antico. I would expect very good to excellent quality handmade pasta (either from the kitchen or from a local purveyor) and one of the basic top level (but not exotic) imported prosciutti (Parma, San Daniele, etc.), in good condition and with an appropriate ratio of meat to fat, sliced very thinly and laid out properly; however they manage to get it onto my plate in that condition, at 25,000 Lire or whatever the local currency is here, I’d be happy. And, incidentally, slicing prosciutto really properly thin by hand probably isn’t so easy to do.

    2) I think the implied (or wasn't it a tad more than that?) claim that pasta is ruined by being rolled out for flat shapes with a hand-crank roller of Atlas type is completely absurd. Is it better if done completely by hand? Yes, I think so, though don’t put me to a taste test -- and I’ve eaten homemade Italian style pasta (of various kinds) for almost half a century and have been making them myself for over a score of years. All things being equal, hand rolling is probably better by nature, but there are lots of factors that go into the quality of handmade pasta and that one difference is NOT the difference between excellent and dreck; I would guess it would be more likely the difference between sublime and most excellent or excellent and very very good (all else being equal).

    Anyway, I understand your feeling of dissatisfaction with the difficulty of finding a reasonably priced Italian restaurant that gets the little things right but then, I guess why that’s why God made Italy.*

    But getting down to the real basics, how was the bread?

    Antonius

    * Atheists: do not be offended. This was only a pseudo-literary turn of phrase. And, in point of fact, I worship the Devils (i.e., Mssrs. Lamoriello, Brodeur, Stevens, etc., etc.).
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #14 - May 25th, 2005, 9:58 pm
    Post #14 - May 25th, 2005, 9:58 pm Post #14 - May 25th, 2005, 9:58 pm
    I've not been to OVS, but can report the following as reliable gossip. Tonight Mrs. JiLS and I finally made it to Alinea (after missing our opening night reservations; more on the Alinea experience elsewhere and later; short version: best meal I've had in 18 months). Seated across the way from us was a group of men who, from their conversation, were clearly food industry professionals (no, I am not immune to eavesdropping, although it's of course harder to do with the lovely Mrs. JiLS at the table ... still I manage). Anyway, one of them was going into great and enhusiastic detail over the OVS "bring me wine" program, the wine list, and the wine service in general. He also seemed to like the food. The interesting point is that he engaged one of the Alinea wine servers in a 5 minute discussion of how good the wine selections were at this other, cheaper restaurant -- including the lowest cost selections, which both agreed were very interesting choices, etc. So maybe they blew their creative wad on the wine list design and wine service at OVS, but it was interesting to hear such favorable and presumably expert opinions about the OVS wine program. (Oh, but one of the guys did indicate the ham sucked machine-sliced eggs. :twisted: )
  • Post #15 - May 26th, 2005, 7:26 am
    Post #15 - May 26th, 2005, 7:26 am Post #15 - May 26th, 2005, 7:26 am
    Antonius wrote:2) I think the implied (or wasn't it a tad more than that?) claim that pasta is ruined by being rolled out for flat shapes with a hand-crank roller of Atlas type is completely absurd. Is it better if done completely by hand? Yes, I think so, though don’t put me to a taste test -- and I’ve eaten homemade Italian style pasta (of various kinds) for almost half a century and have been making them myself for over a score of years. All things being equal, hand rolling is probably better by nature, but there are lots of factors that go into the quality of handmade pasta and that one difference is NOT the difference between excellent and dreck; I would guess it would be more likely the difference between sublime and most excellent or excellent and very very good (all else being equal).



    Let me be more clear.

    I did not say that pasta gets ruined by an Atlas machine (and if I implied that, sorry :oops: ).

    Nor do I contend that pasta has to be made by hand (as I think you and I are in agreement that most of Italy relies on dried, machine-made pasta).

    Now, we all have our forms of bed time reading. Some might read a passage or two from the bible. Me, I'm prone to pick up my well worn, early edition of Eating in Italy by Faith Heller Willinger. I always find this an excellent guide to the esoteric food of Italy's Northern regions (unfortunately the book does not include any regions south of Umbria). For each of the regions covered, she gives an overview, then a run-down on the regional menu by salumi, antipasto, primo, secondo, contorno, formaggio, dolce and wine list. Then, she does brief bits on special regional items. For instance, in the Piedmont section she covers chocolate, hazelnuts and chestnuts (as well as truffles!). For Emillia-Romagna, she of course, covers pasta:

    La sfoglia ("the sheet"), golden, egg yolk-rich pasta, translucent, paper-thin, elastic, and resilient, with an almost leathery texture...In this region pasta-making has become an art form; not only is it homemade, it is tirata a mano, hand stretched (or rolled or thrown). This is accomplished with a two foot long wooden rolling pin, not a metal machine [emphasis added]


    I just want that when I hear "home-made pappadelle with meat ragu". Offer me a classic dish of Emillia-Romagna, give me the damn dish :evil: .

    I guess the fundamental disagreement we have in this thread is over expectations, especially expectations at a price point. Me, I just do not see it as asking too much at the price point of OVS's lunch. This was $20 for a bit of soup, once tiny slice of fennel and a basic green salad, assuming that many of their customers would not even choose the papadelle as their entree affects the price structure as well (i.e., the mark-up on all food items is not the same). On top of that, you have the wine program and dinner to make money. These lunches are often supposed to be a good deal.

    I believe that if the expectation was there for things different, then that's what they would serve. In South Florida, not a single bagel place I frequent serves lox or nova that is machine sliced. In Chicago, it is quite unusual to find hand sliced lox or nova, yet a lox and bagel sammy is abut the same price in both places. Those alter kockers in Miami will not frequent a place with machine lox. It's the same thing here, for Italian food.

    Rob

    PS
    I also want to add, that I am not wedded to the $20 price. I would have paid more or expected to pay a bit more. So, maybe part of my issue is the LEY is suffering from the McDonald's syndrome. They a certain price point and are willing to dumb down the product to meet that price--still, I contend they could have done better even at the $20 level.

    PPS
    Let me also add this. If making *actual* Bolognase style pasta and sauce is too hard. Don't offer it. Let's say they offered bistecca alla Fiorentina on the menu. I would not expect meat from Tuscan Chianina cows, nor would I *have* to have the meat grilled over charcoal. But I would expect a high quality t-bone steak that was grilled at least over gas. Any other piece of meat/cooking method, and I would feel the same as above.
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #16 - May 26th, 2005, 9:35 am
    Post #16 - May 26th, 2005, 9:35 am Post #16 - May 26th, 2005, 9:35 am
    I must say I do enjoy this sort of tussle. Strong opinons well-expressed with no descent into personal invective as so often occurs...er...elsewhere on the web.

    Anyway, I find myself in full agreement with VI's basic principles, and disagreement with almost all his examples of same. To wit:

    "If making *actual* Bolognase style pasta and sauce is too hard. Don't offer it."
    Hear, hear! So often a menu announces some national or cultural archetypal dish only to skimp, short-cut, substitute ingredients or otherwise ruin it. If you can't do it, don't! Hence the deep appreciation for a place with a focused menu whose ambitions don't outstrip its resources.

    But then, VI adds: " Let's say they offered bistecca alla Fiorentina on the menu. I would not expect meat from Tuscan Chianina cows, nor would I *have* to have the meat grilled over charcoal."

    Ahime! Giusto ciel! Maladetto! I would refer back to the statement of principle and say, NO!. If you're going to call it a "fiorentina" then it bloody well ought to be the right beef prepared the right way. If chianina can't be sourced, or fetch the necesary price point, as Kobe apparently can, then forget it. Just call it bistecca and be done with it. It will still be tasty and you won't be LYING and pulling what Rob identifies as the ol' LEYE bait-and-switch.

    I also think that the lox vs. prosciutto comparison is slightly off. As lox is meltingly soft, the variations from slightly thicker to transparently thin in a hand slice all provide sensory interest. Yum. But prosciutto simply needs to be sliced very, very thin or else it's just leathery. Slightly thicker lox - maybe very nice here and there. Slightly thicker prosciutto - can't be chewed.

    Not every machine since the cotton gin has actually made things worse. For cured meats, I think a sharp, steady slicer is worth having.

    None of which undermines my belief that Rob's lunch was indeed a sad travesty of what it ought to have been at any price point - with or without the Atlas roller.
    "Strange how potent cheap music is."
  • Post #17 - May 26th, 2005, 9:44 am
    Post #17 - May 26th, 2005, 9:44 am Post #17 - May 26th, 2005, 9:44 am
    mrbarolo wrote:But then, VI adds: " Let's say they offered bistecca alla Fiorentina on the menu. I would not expect meat from Tuscan Chianina cows, nor would I *have* to have the meat grilled over charcoal."

    Ahime! Giusto ciel! Maladetto! I would refer back to the statement of principle and say, NO!. If you're going to call it a "fiorentina" then it bloody well ought to be the right beef prepared the right way. If chianina can't be sourced, or fetch the necesary price point, as Kobe apparently can, then forget it. Just call it bistecca and be done with it. It will still be tasty and you won't be LYING and pulling what Rob identifies as the ol' LEYE bait-and-switch.



    I concede that my example is not perfect or ideal. I guess it comes from the belief that push come to shove, a decent American steak is BETTER than a Tuscan product, so I could accept the substitution. On the other hand, you cannot serve regular beef and call it Kobe. (Or for what it's worth, the steak analogy rests more on the cut of beef and preparation than the actual meat.)
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #18 - May 26th, 2005, 10:18 am
    Post #18 - May 26th, 2005, 10:18 am Post #18 - May 26th, 2005, 10:18 am
    Vital Information wrote:I just want that when I hear "home-made pappadelle with meat ragu". Offer me a classic dish of Emillia-Romagna, give me the damn dish :twisted:


    I understand your frustration, having recently had a similar disappointment...

    While the dish itself may be a "classic" dish - how classic should the execution be (here) given the average clientele? I doubt that OVS serves only dishes from Emilia-Romangna. In which case, if OVS were located in, oh say Sicily, and advertised
    "home-made pappardelle with meat ragu" - would it be objectionable if the pasta were machine rolled?

    On a somewhat unrelated note: If a (Chicago) restaurant had a limited time menu offering a "Taste of X region" (say Tuscany*) and listed a dish (say Pasta e Fagioli*) from region Y (Umbria* which borders X; but otherwise no similarity), what would your reaction to otherwise well executed food be?

    *My apologies if the specific examples are incorrect
  • Post #19 - May 26th, 2005, 11:23 am
    Post #19 - May 26th, 2005, 11:23 am Post #19 - May 26th, 2005, 11:23 am
    Rob:

    Just for me to be clear, my sense that you were implying that the pasta in this case was and in general can be ruined by an Atlas type roller was based on this fairly strong sounding statement:

    Vital Information wrote:And you know I am not gonna like the pasta. It may have been made in house, but I suspect it was done either with an extruder machine or an Atlas machine (if really made in house), because at the end of the day, it had none of that toothsomeness, that feel of real home made pasta. Like so much of the lunch, it seemed lifeless and joyless.


    The way I read that was as saying that the pasta had bad texture and that said bad texture was due to use of an extruder or roller. But I'm glad you have furher clarified your position in saying that you do not believe an Atlas roller necessarily ruins pasta.

    ***

    Nor do I contend that pasta has to be made by hand (as I think you and I are in agreement that most of Italy relies on dried, machine-made pasta).


    In this regard let me observe that somehow, the general Italian notion of the line between fresh and dried pasta has never been really grasped by many here, including many -- if not most -- 'foodies'. There still is a deep-rooted, widespread feeling that fresh pasta is better than dried pasta. Well, I can definitely sort of agree with that but then only to a very limited extent. Yes, fresh pasta is certainly more special than dried pasta in some ways but it is also in some ways simply a different category of foodstuff, despite the obvious similarities between the two. For most (not all) of Italy, the two general forms of pasta fill very different rôles in the overal cuisine, and I think it fair to say that this has been the case for quite some time now.

    I'm not sure what the citation of Ms. Willinger brings to the discussion here beyond demonstrating what was already stated and never at dispute. With regard to pasta, I do not talk through my hat and, while I'm willing to agree that fresh egg pasta is an especial specialty, as it were, of Emilia-Romagna, the basic process Willinger observes is that which I from earliest childhood on have observed in the kitchens of my relatives and involves nothing more than a large wooden board and a rounded stick.

    But this is a good occasion to comtemplate the cost involved in turning out a sufficient volume of wholly handmade pasta at an establishment the size of OVS (I assume they do a high volume of business) in a country where there are vanishingly few artisans available who either grew up around the regular making of pasta fresca casalinga or were properly trained to be essentially full-time pastificii. I stand by my previous statement that, however wrong it is for OVS to claim that it offers something it does not, it is equally foolish to walk in there and expect to get silky pappardelle fatte a mano all'uso antico artigianale of the sort you would find in Italy at small artisanal pasta shops, serious restaurants (not necessarily the most expensive but of a certain traditionally oriented mind-set) or better family kitchens.

    ***

    Let me also add this. If making *actual* Bolognase style pasta and sauce is too hard. Don't offer it. Let's say they offered bistecca alla Fiorentina on the menu. I would not expect meat from Tuscan Chianina cows, nor would I *have* to have the meat grilled over charcoal. But I would expect a high quality t-bone steak that was grilled at least over gas. Any other piece of meat/cooking method, and I would feel the same as above......

    I concede that my example is not perfect or ideal. I guess it comes from the belief that push come to shove, a decent American steak is BETTER than a Tuscan product, so I could accept the substitution


    I really have to disagree about the bistecca alla fiorentina. Now, I don't think I would be scandalised by a restaurant offering a steak under that name without importing the meat itself from the Valdichiana, though, for a higher end place, I would fully expect them to go to some lengths to offer meat that was at least similar in style (i.e., not basic corn-fed, hormone laden, etc.). But let me make two points: 1) I think it quite wrong to assume that an American steak is of better quality than the steaks that come from this particular zone of Tuscany. The beef from the Valdichiana is both lean and tender and also very flavourful -- I've had no better steaks in my life than those I've had in Tuscany (though I won't make the different and indefensible claim that they are "the best"); 2) it is going too far to my mind to throw a t-bone steak on a gas grill and call it bistecca alla fiorentina; the right cut (fairly thick, by tradition preferably with both fillet and strip present on the bone), cooked over real charcoal and dressed with nothing more than coarse sea salt, black pepper and lemon wedges on the side, that at least is the Florentine-style, even without the actual beef that would be used in situ.

    ***

    mrbarolo wrote: But prosciutto simply needs to be sliced very, very thin or else it's just leathery. Slightly thicker lox - maybe very nice here and there. Slightly thicker prosciutto - can't be chewed.


    Really good quality prosciutto that has been kept in good condition should not, if slightly thickly cut, be quite at the level of leather, but mrbarolo is certainly correct in suggesting that the thin slicing is in great measure a way of rendering the prosciutto texturally delicate. It also enhances one's ability to enjoy the complex flavour of the meat. Badly cut prosciutto (which is also quite possible to achieve with an electric slicing machine) is one of my pet peeves and I disfavour certain salumerie on precisely this point of how they handle their prosciutto, even if they have lots of other things going for them.

    One of the reasons fastidious Italians prefer hand-slicing is (or at least so I've thought) that an electric slicer can heat up the fat on the ham and -- I certainly agree with this -- when one is eating a slice of prosciutto, the fat is texturally less pleasing if it is too warm (or too cold, for that matter). Note too that a bone-in prosciutto, presumably a better tasting beast, cannot be easily sliced on a basic machine. I believe I've seen in Italy holders for prosciutto that would allow the carver, after slicing one half, to turn the ham over to slice the other half. But perhaps this was merely a dream vision. In point of fact, as someone wrote above, hand-slicing is pretty uncommon these days and I've never once actually seen it done here in the US (except at my house :D ).

    ***

    In the end, just to recap, I'm not disputing anything about the experience of eating at OVS. My dispute was with the idea that a rolling machine necessarily produces fresh pasta with bad texture. I know that to be false. But beyond that I did make the further claim that I think it unwise to go to a place like OVS and expect the kinds of fine details of execution that one would find in -- as I like to call the genre -- serious restaurants in Italy or, for that matter, in traditionally-oriented Italian home kitchens. Now "serious restaurants" that produce great Italian food also exist in the States but nowadays I think they tend to be at the high end of restaurant dining options. Given that and given the fact that Italian cuisine is the cuisine I have lived with my whole life, I don't eat Italian food out all that often and when I do, I am fairly careful about what I order. I almost never order pasta of any sort out (unless I have specific knowledge of the quality to be expected) because, in my estimation, it is almost always a tragedy in a bowl.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #20 - May 26th, 2005, 2:13 pm
    Post #20 - May 26th, 2005, 2:13 pm Post #20 - May 26th, 2005, 2:13 pm
    For what it's worth, every pastificio artigianale that I've ever visited in Italy has cut and (usually) rolled its pasta fresca by machine. There are simply not enough nonne with Popeye-sized forearms to go around.

    See below for a sample back-room:

    http://www.pastificioartusi.com/negozi.html
    "The fork with two prongs is in use in northern Europe. In England, they’re armed with a steel trident, a fork with three prongs. In France we have a fork with four prongs; it’s the height of civilization." Eugene Briffault (1846)
  • Post #21 - May 27th, 2005, 11:48 am
    Post #21 - May 27th, 2005, 11:48 am Post #21 - May 27th, 2005, 11:48 am
    ok... so where can I go to get hand rolled pasta in Chicago?

    *I confess that I use my kitchenaid attachment...
    "Yum"
    -- Everyone

    www.chicagofoodies.com
  • Post #22 - May 27th, 2005, 12:12 pm
    Post #22 - May 27th, 2005, 12:12 pm Post #22 - May 27th, 2005, 12:12 pm
    I can vouch for Andrzej Grill on Western and Katy's Dumplings in Downer's Grove. If you count cavatelli and gnocchi as "pasta," then there are quite many a mano Italian options. Otherwise, it's hard to say...
  • Post #23 - May 29th, 2005, 7:04 am
    Post #23 - May 29th, 2005, 7:04 am Post #23 - May 29th, 2005, 7:04 am
    Vital Information wrote:Ever had hand sliced lox?

    If you know where to get hand-sliced, REAL (not nova) lox in Chicago, please share the information!
  • Post #24 - May 29th, 2005, 7:33 am
    Post #24 - May 29th, 2005, 7:33 am Post #24 - May 29th, 2005, 7:33 am
    LAZ wrote:
    Vital Information wrote:Ever had hand sliced lox?

    If you know where to get hand-sliced, REAL (not nova) lox in Chicago, please share the information!


    Onion Roll on North Ave in Oak Park

    (PM me LAZ, I'll take you there...)

    Also, I believe Max and Benny's in Northbrook *may* have hand sliced lox, but maybe just hand sliced nova.

    Rob
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #25 - May 29th, 2005, 8:03 am
    Post #25 - May 29th, 2005, 8:03 am Post #25 - May 29th, 2005, 8:03 am
    Vital Information wrote:
    LAZ wrote:
    Vital Information wrote:Ever had hand sliced lox?

    If you know where to get hand-sliced, REAL (not nova) lox in Chicago, please share the information!


    Onion Roll on North Ave in Oak Park

    (PM me LAZ, I'll take you there...)

    Also, I believe Max and Benny's in Northbrook *may* have hand sliced lox, but maybe just hand sliced nova.


    Ashkenaz Deli at 12 E Cedar also has hand-sliced lox, but it may also be nova.

    Best,
    Michael / EC
  • Post #26 - May 31st, 2005, 3:07 pm
    Post #26 - May 31st, 2005, 3:07 pm Post #26 - May 31st, 2005, 3:07 pm
    Osteria Via Stato has recently changed it's lunch format to include an A La Carte menu as well as the $17.95 "Italian Lunch" Option. There is also a lunch Antipasti option that does include the salumi and the house cured salmon and other antipastis that are normally offered at dinner ($9.95). As for the prosciutto slicer. It is Berkel Slicer bought especially for the slicing of prosciutto. If you were to visit Mario Batalli's restaurants in New York they are using the same slicer. The theory behind the slicer is that it is non electrical (hand crank) because the heat of the machine (if it were electronic) would heat up the meat of the prociutto and cause it to tear if it were to be sliced at the proper consistency. This also proves a point that there was a lot of thought that went into OVS when opening and trying to keep with "traditional" methods of Italian cooking and presentation.
  • Post #27 - June 1st, 2005, 8:24 am
    Post #27 - June 1st, 2005, 8:24 am Post #27 - June 1st, 2005, 8:24 am
    Bruego1 wrote:Osteria Via Stato has recently changed it's lunch format to include an A La Carte menu as well as the $17.95 "Italian Lunch" Option. There is also a lunch Antipasti option that does include the salumi and the house cured salmon and other antipastis that are normally offered at dinner ($9.95). As for the prosciutto slicer. It is Berkel Slicer bought especially for the slicing of prosciutto. If you were to visit Mario Batalli's restaurants in New York they are using the same slicer. The theory behind the slicer is that it is non electrical (hand crank) because the heat of the machine (if it were electronic) would heat up the meat of the prociutto and cause it to tear if it were to be sliced at the proper consistency. This also proves a point that there was a lot of thought that went into OVS when opening and trying to keep with "traditional" methods of Italian cooking and presentation.


    Bruego1,

    Several of us have noticed that your post seems to suggest a somewhat close familiarity with operations at Osteria Via Stato. Your profile indicates that you are a cook; do you work at Osteria Via Stato? If you do, please edit your post to clarify that association. You might also post a notice on the Professional Forum.

    You are certainly welcome to LTHForum, and we value your professional perspective, but if you have a professional association with a restaurant, we need to know that too.

    To quote the relevant portion in the Posting Guidelines:

    Disclose any special relationship (be it owner, employee, friend, or frequent customer) you have with an establishment you're discussing. Make sure you provide enough information so that readers know where you're coming from.


    Again, welcome, and we look forward to your continued participation.

    Hammond, for the moderators
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #28 - June 2nd, 2005, 12:32 pm
    Post #28 - June 2nd, 2005, 12:32 pm Post #28 - June 2nd, 2005, 12:32 pm
    Vital Information wrote:I guess in my mind, making papadelle by hand, truly by hand, does not seem that hard. Not that I've ever done it--but I've seen Molto Mario do it :wink: For a pasta like papadelle, moreover, it is rather customary to roll out and cut (no?). The taste and texture of pasta from the Atlas machine (if that was used) is just not close to really hand rolled pasta.


    For the record, MM use Kitchen Aid roller but then makes sure to add the disclaimer about how us pals in Emillia Romanga walked out of some Tuscan joint when they realize the pasta wasn't hand-rolled :)
  • Post #29 - June 3rd, 2005, 8:21 am
    Post #29 - June 3rd, 2005, 8:21 am Post #29 - June 3rd, 2005, 8:21 am
    I don't have any experience with or opinion on Osterio Via Stato, but as a reality check, even the little Pompeii at Sheffield and Wellington hand-rolls its own pasta. (I haven't been in a couple of years, but don't imagine they've changed, considering they had the guy positioned in the window.)
  • Post #30 - June 5th, 2005, 12:13 am
    Post #30 - June 5th, 2005, 12:13 am Post #30 - June 5th, 2005, 12:13 am
    Bob S. wrote:I don't have any experience with or opinion on Osterio Via Stato, but as a reality check, even the little Pompeii at Sheffield and Wellington hand-rolls its own pasta. (I haven't been in a couple of years, but don't imagine they've changed, considering they had the guy positioned in the window.)


    So what is this reality check? And, for that matter, which alternate reality are you talking about?

    The point here was that VI said the pasta at OVS -- house-made pappardelle -- was clearly not (completely) handmade -- I don't dispute his judgement on that at all. What took off as a sort of bone of contention was the degree to which a basic hand crank machine (of the Atlas sort) is in and of itself something that ruins the texture of fresh pasta -- I say 'not'. (But, nota bene, from the start, I acknowledge that the old-fashioned traditional method all by hand is optimal).

    Be that as it may, is your claim then (see highlighted quoted text above) that 100% hand made (i.e., with nothing more than hands and a matterello) is common or at least not exceptional?... and here, in Chicago??

    Time to ask Scotty to beam you up.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.

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