The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 18, 2010


Dining Out

Manga A La Italiana by Laurie Aragon

L’Andana Grill, Burlington

Great Italian food is almost everyone’s favorite answer to the question “if you had to eat one cuisine forever, which would it be?” The Italian countryside, drenched with sun and chock-a-block with olive trees, tomatoes, wheat, livestock and great grapes, serves up its bounty to the world. The Tuscan region has some of the world’s best wines and its food is a perfect match for their full, robust flavors. L’Andana is run by the same group that brought us Sorellina, Teatro and Mistral in Boston so if you like those, you will like it here.

The setting at L’Andana is a mix of Italian chic and old country – the elegant upholstered chairs in warm taupe tones match the creamy café con leche walls, while the high ceiling dining room reminds one of a remodeled monastery, with the wooden slats of the ceiling providing a needed noise cushion. Sparkling chandeliers and flowers set the scene and the smoothly functioning waitstaff let you know you are in good hands. The bar is happening, and should you come without a reservation, a good bet for dinner, with its smaller, more finger food menu – sliders, pizzas and small plates to share.

If you have to wait a bit for your table, spend a few minutes at the bar picking out a martini or your favorite special cocktail. The bartender is fast, friendly but not flirty and works his magic like a professional. You can dress up or not, but the atmosphere is “see and be seen” – time to wear those killer heels, women.

Once at your table, you are greeted with a small breadbasket. The bread – chewy, with a crust – is served with a light olive oil and a tapenade of black olives or some roasted peppers.

The main menu is a perfect length – a few salads, soup, a manageable choice of appetizers and entrees, a smattering of pastas, some other vegetable-based sides, and a vegetarian plate. There is also a prix fixe menu, three courses for $38 every night but Saturday, which is a great buy. The wine list could use some more inexpensive bottles (under $50), but it is entirely adequate with some really nice Tuscan wines, and happily, dessert wines too.

I have eaten at L’Andana several times, and all of the food is very good most of the time, and some dishes, like the mussel appetizer with tomatoes and basil, are consistently terrific. The crisp calamari with peppers and lemon aioli can be light as angel food or somewhat rubbery. The prosciutto and mozzarella appetizer lacked the signature saltiness of the cured ham complementing the soft mellow taste of the fresh cheese. The mushroom soup was both rich in mushroom flavor and delicate in consistency, with a light Parmesan mist. The pasta dishes range from hearty – rigatoni in a meaty Bolognese sauce – to the delicate crab tortellini with pea tendrils and a Parmesan cream sauce. The mafaldine is a wonderful egg noodle dish with fantastically tender veal meatballs in a dark Marsala glaze, with a hint of sage. Fettuccini with wild mushrooms, lobster and truffle butter is light and filling, the truffle butter and the mushrooms making an earthy contribution to the lobster’s sweetness.

The entrees are steak heavy, with prime rib, rib eye, filet mignon, veal chop, New York strip and sirloin ensuring that all meat eaters will be pleased. The steaks and chops are huge (8 to 24 oz), and all come with potatoes in some incarnation, braised bitter greens and served with a thick wine reduction to cut through the taste of all that protein. This is a one sauce fits all, but the pleasant Marsala is simmered down to its essence, and the glaze it produces is delightful. A salmon and excellent swordfish are prepared with vegetables, the swordfish with a sprightly blend of capers, onions and tomatoes. Although the piece of fish was on the thin side, the preparation was robust. Wood roasted seasonal vegetables round out the entrees, and the side dishes include a serviceable mushroom risotto and a sensational and huge cone of truffle Parmesan fries – a meal in itself.

Desserts are seasonal, with a bit of chocolate cake and crème brulee as old standbys. The homemade ice creams are made with fresh fruits and heavy cream, and can come with cookies.

Service in the main dining room is excellent, somewhat less so in the side dining area. There you get a less elegant décor, brighter lighting and a more thorough view of the busboys at work, but they are good at making sure your water glass is full and can hail a waitress for you if you can’t seem to.

All in all, a great place for a special occasion with friends or an intimate dinner for two. Good food, good wine, great time – enjoy.

L’Andana Grill, 86 Cambridge Street, Burlington

Dinner 5 to10p.m. Monday through Thursday; until 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; until 9 p.m. Sundays

Free Valet Parking

$$$-$$$$ ∆

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