Austin, Tx 78703
Before I start this review, let me apologize for not posting in the past week. Laura's living the high life in Mexico and I've had 2 midterms. Life sucks sometimes, but we all have to remember what is important - food...Laura and I went to the Tasting Tuesday at Specs last week. I know I went last time and just raved about it, but I wasn’t all that impressed this time. The food was the same, the wine was still cheap, and the people that frequent it are entirely too old and suburban for my tastes. Wait. Maybe I’m becoming old and suburban. Shit. Laura and I still managed to have a fairly good time despite the “housewives gone wild” vibe the place had. We even met up with two of my new friends Linda and Nate. Well they’re really my brother’s friends (or more specifically Nate is my brother’s boss), but I like them and they’re fun to hang out with. Anyway, none of the wines were really worth writing home about, always noteworthy is the incredible goat feta served by CKC Farms out of Blanco. Their marinated feta is to DIE for. After we were finished drinking (well after Laura and I had sampled everything and Nate and Linda had wussed out and thrown in the towel) we decided to go to Cipollina to grab a quick bite to eat. Laura and I were going to hit up some free pre-SXSW parties so we decided to try something central and I wanted pasta.
We all drove (in 3 cars, we’re so American) to Cipollina on W. Lynne. Its in a really nice Central Austin neighborhood. Its surrounded by other local favorites, Galaxy Café, Zocalo, and Jeffry’s nestled in the cute Clarksville bungalows. Its in a strip mall next to a grocery store, but in Clarksville somehow that normally bland description transforms into a quaint and inviting actuality. There’s not a lot of parking so if you come during peak hours be prepared to park in the street. The actual restaurant itself is not very large - maybe only 20 tables – with a large granite topped bar that opens to the kitchen. The atmosphere is warm and inviting with large mirrors hung from the ceiling to provide a more open feeling.
You order at the front register, get a number and sit down. After eating at the likes of Primizie and Mandola’s, the menu offerings at Cipollina seemed a little small. There were half a dozen each of salads, pizzas, pastas, etc. Each one sounded tasty, but not the gourmet fare I had been used to. I went with the ravioli, Laura got the rosemary and truffle pizza, Linda got the duck confit salad, and I currently forget what Nate ordered. The food arrived promptly and looked very appetizing. The ravioli were fat stuffed squares covered in a light broth. The pizza was thin and covered with wall to wall white cheese. And the pulled duck was mounded high and inviting on the confit salad. Unfortunately the reality of the food didn’t live up to the appetizing vision before us. It was fresh but wasn’t really to my taste. The ravioli just wasn’t what I was looking for. I thought is would be cheese ravioli in a meat/broth sauce, but instead it was meat stuffed with nary a pocket of cheese to be found. It was very filling too. I could only finish 2 or 3 or the half dozen raviolis offered. Laura’s pizza was tasty, but without all that rosemary! They literally put clumps of the stuff all over the pizza and it was way too overpowering. I had a couple pieces of her pie and took to picking it off. With just a hint of the rosemary flavor it was quite a good pizza. They should really think of chopping it up or switching to rosemary oil to get the proper flavor balance. Linda’s Duck Confit salad was pretty tasty with shredded duck pieces heaped on top of a bed of fresh greens. We opted not to get dessert as Laura and I were heading downtown to meet up with Eric to hit some of the pre-SXSW shows.
Laura's note: I get what they were trying to achieve through simplicity, but I could have gone out to the garden and retrieved a handful of rosemary to sprinkle about the top myself. The failure to integrate the rosemary into the dish was a huge disappointment, but as Mariah pointed out, the pizza sans rosemary was tasty. I'd actually been to Cipollina once before and had an amazing salad. In fact one of the best salads I have ever had. They could do with expanding their menu... and keeping their staff off the Redbull. I thought the guy behind the counter the last time I was there was going to have to run some laps around the block before taking our order. Overall I find the food good, but the restaurant a little pretentious. Maybe a great place to take your in-laws or that college student you are dating and trying to impress with your casual sauve-ness. But back to what Mariah was saying...
We parked on 7th thinking we were going to the Beauty Bar to see the Mercers but apparently we missed that show and Eric had moved on to Mrs. Bea’s. When we called him he said Mrs. Bea’s was like half a block from Emo’s so we decided to head over. We walked a block east of Emo’s, then another and before long we were bumping up against I-35 and there was no Mrs. Bea’s. We called Eric again and he assured us it was just on the other side of I-35. But as some of you may know, parts east of 35 are known for being a little rough. So we assumed our best “I’ll kick you in the nuts if you fuck with us” faces and ventured into lands unknown. We walked and walked and walked and FINALLY came to a run down Mexican cinder block bar. We asked the guy cooking sausages out front where Mrs. Bea’s is and he said this was it. Well it didn’t look like much but we went in anyway. The party in the back was like something out of movie. 19 year old tragically hip college students (and I say tragically because I know they were going for totally hip, but come on, who really wears red jump suits and sports plaid sports jackets??) dancing around to a half way decent band. We found Eric and his friend Matt and boy were we in for a surprise. Eric was TOTALLY soused. We had a great time dancing to the first band, then making fun of the second band – an all girl trio who thought music was mumbling into a microphone while a repetitive electronic beat thumped in the background. It was awful. Laura took off at some point and had a life evaluating conversation with a 19 year old college student on her walk back to her apartment. I of course decided to stay and partake of the festivities. The bands got worse – the third band was a hip-hop/rap group that made us get low, so low that when they dropped to the ground and started shaking and convulsing to their music. At that point we decided it was time to split. Eric accosted the poor sausage merchant in his frenzied attempt to get a sausage (note to Eric, don’t drink on an empty stomach dude), ran into oncoming traffic on the I-35 frontage road while walking back, then peed on a car for a $1 in the parking garage. It was awesome. A fruitful night.
Bottom Line: Average Italian or Below Average Gourmet Italian – you pick
Mariah - 7