Monday, December 28, 2009

Scent of a Woman: Adriana's

With the close of the year coming up, and a wide frontier of restaurants still to track, hunt, clean, season, and devour on the horizon, Hans and Mendez decided to celebrate. No longer content with feeling like royalty as they were playing Pretty, Pretty Princess, they felt the need to drive over the Grand Avenue Bridge, to feel like explores, or like those who throw caution to the wind like now obsolete "detour" sign. Opened after three years of repairs, Hans, Mendez, and New Haven culinary champion Jack Xenon, a fellow lover and contemplator of food gleefully threw their hands into the air crossing the bridge. We thought where better across the Grand Ave Bridge to eat than Adriana's, an Italian restaurant we knew existed but had never dined.

We briefly touched on the history of Fair Haven and it's main street Grand Ave during our last post. We are sure this will not be our last chance to learn and share about the history, food, culture of this misunderstood section of the Elm City, but this will be the first and only time that we talk about the unrealizable, unspeakable, and unsneezable Mafia. Blogging about the Mafia on these fair blog pages is like so many bare skinned boys huddled around in locker rooms talking about dirty dug out doozies or la carta donkey rubs. Giggling because of the romantic imagery while constantly looking behind them for opened ears. Lives are kept only if secrets are like wise kept. The two bloggers and there lunch guest, however, had no fears. "Best veal chops in the city," lingered on our minds while we consecutively excused our self to visit the restroom, searching the old fashioned toilet for any planted weapons that might be there.

We entered Adriana's, Mendez still wearing the crown. Hans' dangling green earrings drew stares from the host. Xenon carefully sniffed the air in search of God knows what. As Mendez reached into his breast pocket to pull out his blogging badge, sweat beaded on the host's forehead, suspended on his brow, never to dampen his two-hundred dollar white collar. The restaurant's eyes turned to the door, and a collective sigh of relief was heard when the innocent cardboard badge was produced. The badge had an aura of prestige even with two of its googly eyes falling off and the multi- colored pipe cleaners in desperate need of a hot gluing.

The waiters are so Italian they are inhuman. One has a broken arm, the mystery of its happening can be seen in shifty eyes. On the walls are paintings of wine glasses, wine bottles, and whine barrels. On the stereo various R'n'B tracks played at various volumes, from too quiet to train horn loud.

Joe Cocker began, "You are so beautiful," when the complimentary salads were placed before us. This tune worked the two times that DePalma used it in Carlito's Way, but juxtaposed in a restaurant caused three grown men, professionals even, to almost choke on their salads laughing. The salads are as elementary as a salad can get: lettuce, shredded carrots, red onion, and a dogmatic tomato slice. They are served with creamy Italian on the side. The creamy Italian is the default dressing because it is necessary to tone down the too potent raw red onion. The mildness of the attractive tasting dressing is lost because the diner must glob several table spoons onto his plate. This creates something which looks more like cold clam chowder than a green salad. We speculate the salad came from a bag. In addition to our appetizer we received Italian bread, baked on the premises, which came with a salsa cruda of chopped celery, onions, and peppers in olive oil. It was light and tasty, surely to be enjoyed by those with a tongue for spicy food.

Our culinary champion, in his deep Russian accent, ordered for the table: Spinach Salad, Carpaccio, and Oysters for appetizers and a veal scallopine named after the owner's wife, Adrianna, as the main course. We looked out the window to the passing highway traffic. Truck after truck purred by. By just sitting at our table for the hour or so while we dined at Adriana's, looking out onto the highway divide where 91s forks off into 95s, 95n and exit 1 to New Haven we knew exactly which trucks were destined for New Haven, New York, and New London or Providence. If we were so inclined or connected we could have made some serious black-market money occupying that strategically placed table.

The Spinach Salad never came. The oysters, stuffed with crabmeat and topped with hollandaise made up for the mishap. The slightly warm temperature of the crab meat made the oysters enticing. We wanted more. And like how in our blogcave where our dishes have childish pictures on them to reward the dedicated diner, the oyster, buried under the crab exclaimed to our tongue, "You did it!" The Carpaccio di Manza is a dish of arugala, with hints of cheese and cold filet mignon on the side. The filet tasted like it was soaked in lemons for half a year. The parmesan cheese was thinly sliced like the bean in Mickey and the Beanstalk. After the complimentary salads the carpaccio felt unnecessary.

Now, Hans and Mendez understand the cruel practice of veal. The baby calf is kept in a cage and forced to listen to Gene Simmon's solo album to be underdeveloped, yet lean. The veal Adriana is served in an egg batter dip, covered with pine nuts, and drizzled with some Grand Marnier. There is spinach on the side. We also ordered escarole and white beans for a side. The veal is so-so; we imagine the dish named after the owner's mistress to be the better of the four veal dishes on the menu. The spinach was surprisingly good, though. Hans and Jack thought it maintained a unique flavor. Mendez argues the mediocrity of the dish allows the spinach to stand out. The escarole and white beans tasted exactly like garlic and garlic.

The bill came to around sixty dollars, not bad split amongst three people. We felt like we ate a lot of food, but we didn't feel satisfied. Xenon put it like this, "It was a hand job. It did what it was supposed to do, but left you wanting more for the next date. Fifty more dollars for food and transportation, two more hours of chit-chat. Maybe next Saturday."

771 Grand Avenue
(203) 865-6474