Mezzanotte Ristorante Enoteca : First Peek at Alberto Baffoni’s New Menu

  Gerry and Adriana Sarmiento with Chef Alberto Baffoni
Media events are just that… they are a show put on for bloggers, print writers and publishers.  In the Houston food media world, they are frequently an opulent and extravagant parade of nibbles and aromas of a restaurant’s menu, ownership, service and (in this case) the creativity of the executive chef.  It is also a chance for working restaurant/food writers who seldom get in a room together to say “hello” again and to meet the newer members of that community. Such was the evening that re-introduced celebrated Houston Chef Alberto Baffoni as the new executive chef of seven-year-old Mezzanotte Ristorante Enoteca in northwest Houston (Cypress).  Owners,   Adriana and Gerry Sarmiento, beamed as they hosted a sit-down wine-paired “tasting menu” dinner and passed the tongs (baton) from Gerry to Baffoni at the end of the evening.
Dining Room (Photo courtesy of Mezzanote)
A review of a restaurant requires an un-staged full portion evening of dining, so this is merely a “heads up” of a new dining experience and an attempt to impart a sense of the direction that Chef Baffoni and the Sarmientos intend to take Mezzanote.

Balsamic-dressed Beet Cubes
topped with a dollop of Goat Cheese and a Basil Leaf

Guests were greeted with a glass of Ruffino Prosecco and the dinner was launched with a martini glass of Balsamic-dressed Beet Cubes topped with a dollop of Goat Cheese and a Basil Leaf… a simple off-the-menu starter that was sweet and simple.

 Portobello Perigourdine, Calimari in Spiedino and Vitelo Tonnato
With most offerings served slickly partitioned into threesomes, the Antipasto flight included Calimari in Spiedino (skewered squid); Portobello Perigourdine (crisply coated portobello mushrooms finished with truffle oil) and Vitelo Tonnato the show-off of the threesome (thinly sliced veal topped with a paste of pureed sushi grade tuna).  These were paired with a Tommasi Chiaretto Bardolino Doc. This wine was as well paired as any in the dinner and is a 2011 Rosé wine from the Fossa Granara estate, Bardolino Doc area (Veneto, Italy).

Strozzapreti Emiliana
Gnocchi di Patata al Funghi Bosco
Risotto al Frutti di Mari
The Primi course Included Strozzapreti Emiliana(Strozzapreti pasta tossed with spinach, sausage and red peppers); Gnocchi di Potata al Funghi Bosco (Gnocchi with a rich sauce of wild mushrooms… a wonderfully aromatic Veneto-style dish); and Risotto al Frutti di Mari(Really, really creamy rissoto with mussels and clams).  This course was served with a Piedmont, Italy Le Orme Barbera D’Asti Superiore.

Ossobuco alla Milanese
Anatra al Forno
Costoletta di Agnelo al Pistacchio

Secundi course included Ossobuco alla Milanese (a veal shank braised in red wine, tomatoes, carrots, celery and onions atop a soft polenta). Only a taste was offered, but this would be a definite plateful on a future visit.  Anatra al Forno (a crisply roasted wild duck breast with golden raisins) also fits into the category of “the next time I’m here… give me a plateful, please”. Delicious and medium rare… beautiful.  Then (and rightly so) was the moment for the obligatory lamb chop. Costoletta di Agnelo al Pistacchio was a perfectly cooked medium rare pistachio and mint pesto topped baby lamb chop that whispered to me that it was OK… no, mandatory to pick it up like a popsicle to waste none. All of this was paired with a Cortigliano Cacciagrande… a Tuscan red that was a nice complement to the strong flavors in this flight.

Dolce al Basilico
Italians are masters of exploring the many uses and homages to the versatile basil leaf and Dolce al Basilicoproved that Baffoni is an explorer in that realm with his Sorbeto al Basilico… a smooth basil sorbet that ended the evening with a little statement that garnered compliments about the subtle sweetness of basil and yet another uncommon offering from the Sarmiento/Baffoni collaboration.
13215 Grant Road
Cypress, TX 77429
(832) 717-7870

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