Guest Blogger Maria Reina visits Lanterna Tuscan Bistro in Nyack

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Hello, guest blogger Maria Reina here, reporting on Lanterna.

I was very excited about visiting this restaurant. The chef, Rossano Giannini, hails from one of the most beautiful cities in Tuscany, Lucca. While living in Italy during my culinary school days, I had the opportunity to visit Lucca with my husband Larry on one of his visits, and we just fell in love with it. Lucca is literally a walled city that dates back to 180 BC. The 2 ½ mile tree-lined pedestrian walkway, over 100 feet high, exists today as a reminder of their need for protection in the 12th century.

Just after being seated with our friends Cagle and John McDonald, we were greeted by Chef Rossano who was strolling around the restaurant talking to the guests. My proud husband, who can never help himself, immediately mentioned to the chef that I studied in Italy, worked at Tarry Lodge and am now a private chef. Rosanno sensing a fellow foodie chatted me up about Lucca and all things Italian! He’s charming and passionate about his food.

Larry went right to the wine list and after perusing it a bit asked for the Chef’s suggestion. Rossano chose for us a super-Tuscan wine, 2007 Agriano NC. It was a nice fruity tannic wine, perfect to get our taste buds going.

The menu, while not long and extensive, has great depth. The four of us could not decide what to get. Their HVRW menu offered a few items from the regular menu, so we ended up having part of that and a wide variety from the regular menu.

Wild Boar Meatballs with Broccoli Rabe

We each had an appetizer, starting with Cinghiale Polpettone – wild boar meatballs braised in a light tomato sauce with broccoli rabe served on the side.  Cinghiale (pronounce chin-GA-lay), is a very typical meat in Italy, and not often found here. I had it many times in Italy and encouraged everyone to give it a try. The meatballs were perfectly cooked and moist beyond belief. Wild boar can be at times strong and gamey, but these mild and delicious.

Parmesan Basket with Mixed Greens and Prosciutto

Cestino Parmigiano – a parmesan cheese “basket” was filled with tender mixed greens and dressed with tangy lemon-mustard vinaigrette and topped with thin slices of prosciutto.  The parmesan basket was deliciously salty and served to balance the salad and sweetness of the prosciutto perfectly.

Crab Cakes with Red Pepper Aioli Braised Shrimp with Cannellini Beans

Gamberi con Cannellini – the jumbo shrimp were flavorful and tender served with creamy white beans in a light herb-tomato sauce. Last, was the Polpettine Granchio – basic spicy crab cakes set off with a perfectly dressed arugula salad and a red pepper aioli with a great kick.

Waiting for the main course to arrive Larry chose a different wine, deciding to move on to a 2004 Tramonti Chianti Classico. We also enjoyed this medium bodied wine with a clean finish. Looking around the charming restaurant we just loved the décor. Small lanterns graced the 50+ seat bistro and family pictures and paintings of the Tuscan countryside on the walls. The room had a cozy warm feeling only enhanced by the attentive servers and chef. It’s no surprise this bistro has been a fixture in Nyack for 10 years.

On to dinner, which did not disappoint! Whenever we go to an Italian restaurant with fresh pasta I always make sure one of us tries it. There is really nothing like an excellent fresh pasta dish. While most restaurants need to be make large quantities using a Hobart floor stand mixer and a heavy duty electric pasta maker, you still have the human touch of someone working the dough, stretching, rolling and cutting it. You really can “feel the love” in a perfectly made fresh pasta.

Fresh Pappardelle with Rabbit Sauce

Pasta Trio

Having said that, two of the four dishes were pasta, and our table favorites. I had the chef’s choice pasta trio – Fresh Mushroom filled Ravioli, Gnocchi with Cinghiale Ragu and a basic Penne Primavera. The ravioli melted in my mouth. The creaminess of the sauce was out of this world. The gnocchi ran a close second on the dish, with soft pillows of pasta tossed with a flavorful wild boar ragu. Cagle ordered the Pappardelle al Coniglio Sugo – fresh pappardelle pasta with a rabbit sauce. Rabbit is another meat that is typical in Italy, and not really found in mainstream American restaurants. I’ve found my experience to be hit or miss with this particular protein, as it can dry out in a snap, very much like chicken breast if not properly prepared. Rosanno’s is perfect. The meat was super moist and ever so slightly dressed with his tomato sauce. The whole dish had great flavor with a slight peppery bite. Very nice!

Cod with Caponata Sauce

The men at the table opted for a fish and meat dish – both tasty too. Vitello alla Milanese – a traditionally prepared pounded veal cutlet, breaded and fried with an arugula and tomato salad on top, and a delicious filet of Cod served with caponata type sauce.

Tiramisu

Ricotta Cheesecake

We still had room for some dessert and opted for the traditional route: Tiramsu – espresso, rum and vanilla soaked savoiardi biscuits topped with a luscious mascarpone cream, along with a perfect Torta Riccota, that had a drizzle of apricot sauce. A yummy finish to a wonderful dinner.

It was a true Italian dinner, stretching over three hours – just the way they do it there. Excellent food and excellent company – what more could you ask for? The menu on the website does not reflect all of the current dishes available, but it will give you a flavor of what they offer. (http://www.lanternausa.com/menu2.html).

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Guest bloggers are encouraged to contribute to Small Bites. To submit an idea, email food editor Liz Johnson at food@lohud.com

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