Andiamo Ristorante: Austin’s Italian Hidden Gem
The Austin Food Junkies’ mission is to bring you the best of little guys in town. You know the places I'm talking about: the tiny, out-of-the way neighborhood places; the hidden gems that you can't wait to tell everyone about. The kind of place that, while not run by a well-known culinary superstar in the trendiest locale, is still deserving of high praise and accolades. Bearing all of that in mind I present to you Andiamo Ristorante, or just Andiamo for short.
Upon walking in, the first thing one notices is the warm and welcoming atmosphere, where it’s ok for patrons to stay for a bit, instead of the usual “turn 'em and burn 'em” approach you tend to get at most major restaurants. I had a chance to chat with the owner, Daniela Marcone, and found her to be very pleasantly passionate about what she does; a very genuine person who provides absolutely top-notch food. Her attitude extends to her entire staff as well, and the service was knowledgeable and excellent.
To start, we decided on the Salsiccia Della Casa, or house sausage. We were told that this item is a favorite for customers and it was easy enough to understand why. It is fresh sausage that has been pan-fried just long enough to warm it through and develop a bit of a crust, and is served with lightly pickled peppers. Next up was the Insalata di Finocchio, which is plated with fresh fennel sprigs, shaved fennel root, goat cheese, and white truffle oil. The goat cheese was a nice, creamy foil to the rest of the dish, so I'd order this one again in a heartbeat.
For our main courses, my daughter chose the Pollo Saltimbocca and I chose the Trota Ripiena. The Saltimbocca is a flattened chicken breast with pancetta and Fontina cheese, served in a burgundy sauce with pan-fried potatoes and wilted spinach. Everything on this plate was delicious — the chicken breast was moist and tender, and the cheese added a nice note. This all was enhanced by the wonderful Italian bacon, so what could be better than that?
The Trota Ripiena is a stuffed rainbow trout, so I was expecting to get a nice filet with some herbs on top, but I was presented with far more than that. It is in fact nearly the entire trout, minus the head and tail, boned and stuffed with a wonderful mix of herbs and spices. Prior to this meal, there were two fish that I will always remember: one was a 30-inch trout that I pulled out of Flathead Lake in Montana when I was about 14. The other was the mahi mahi atchavez, and now I have to add a third to that list.
As well as some great appetizers and main courses, we also enjoyed some of the best bread I have ever had. Perfectly baked until soft and moist, what really set the bread apart was the generous amount of spinach and cheese baked into it. They also sell it by the loaf, so I think I will be stopping by to pick up a loaf, or two, or three...