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Polenta alla Forno at Andiamo Ristorante | April 13, 2013

Where do you find the only truly authentic Italian restaurant in Austin, according to the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce of Texas Inc.? Not behind a Jack-in-the-Box on Rutland Drive in North Austin, you might say. Although this is an unassuming place in a strip mall, make no mistake. This is a fine dining establishment. White linen tablecloths and napkins, impeccable service, relaxing atmosphere and wonderful art of Italian scenes and countryside. Lace curtains hide the parking lot outside the huge windows that let in just the right amount of filtered light.

Polenta alla Forno

Polenta alla Forno

Andiamo Ristorante opened in 2004 and has been receiving accolades on Yelp ever since. I first discovered it on Yelp when I used to work night shifts and had a little time on my hands to kill. The reviews were just like this one: “what the hell?’ Great Italian food by real Italians, not the diluted American kind of Olive Garden fare.  I had looked at the menu on the website before going and had a good idea of what I wanted to get but had only narrowed it down to two items. So I looked at the menu again to try to settle on one. I advised my sons to also choose one item, from any part of the menu. In Italy, people generally take a very long time to eat. First, they serve the appetizers or antipasti, eat, talk, eat, talk. Then they serve a pasta course, called the primi piatti, or first plates. After more talk and more wine over pasta, then they serve the secondi piatti, or second course. This is when you get the meat and vegetables. After the second course and before the dessert, you are offered a salad. It cleans the palate before having the dessert. Then you have a sweet treat to finish the meal.

Remember, we are Americans and we have a tendency to be overweight and are prone to diabetes and heart disease. So we chose one thing and drank water (except for the secondi son who ordered a  Coke). I love polenta so I settled on the polenta antipasto. It was crispy on the outside and tender and soft on the inside. The mushrooms were flavorful and warm. In fact, the plate was really hot when brought out and I was warned not to touch it right away. This little dish had layers of flavor. As I ate my way through it, I got a totally different taste at the end which was the parmesan, I’m sure, because it was cheesy and salty but not overly so.

Nolan had the Penne con Vodka,pasta with a creamy tomato sauce spiked with vodka, laced with prosciutto and chopped onion. It was divine. Fletcher had the Linguine alla Bolagnese, which is very much like a spaghetti with meat sauce, but better, lighter.

When we first sat, someone brought us bread plates and poured a rich olive oil into each plate, then scooped heaping spoonfuls of grated Parmigiano Reggiano into each plate. That’s when I knew I was in the right place. Next time, I will get the other choice that I skipped for the polenta; Insalata di Fagioli, a bean salad, described as “green beans, Cannellini beans, Garbanzo beans, green onions, red radishes, tossed in lemon olive oil, accompanied with Andiamo bread”. I can’t wait. Oh, and say Ciao! to Daniela, the owner. She was the first and last person we saw on our visit there.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Parmigiano Regianno.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Parmigiano Regianno.

Linguine alla Bolognese
Linguine alla Bolognese
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