La Traviata - the "other" great Italian
I may be the only one, but I seriously under appreciate this restaurant. It should show up much more frequently on my rotation of Austin restaurants than it does.
We ate there last night and as usual almost everything was excellent.
Started with a couple of primi small plates. Beets with pistachios was simple, but an interesting combination I had not encountered before. Proscuitto with peas was the only thing I wouldn't bother getting again, it was a bowl of peas with slivers of proscuitto it was like the classic pasta combination without the pasta or the cream. It tasted fine, but sort of strange as a plate.
La Traviata salad was perfectly dressed arugula with a buttermilk dressing with ample amounts of bluecheese. It's great when the dressing clings to every leaf, but there is none left on the plate. This is one salad that cracked black pepper against the soothing buttermilk dressing really sets the salad off nicely.
My companion's entree was fettuccine con funghi (or some pasta with mushrooms). One of only two things she can't ever get past ordering. The pasta was cooked perfectly and the mushrooms were earthy and meaty.
For my entree I strayed from the duck confit that I love here (and the ossco bucco that was on special and that I also found to be excellent here) for an old school, Italian-American that I hadn't ever paid attention to before - chicken parmesan. Work has taken me to Boston quite a bit lately and I've been enjoying some red sauce Italian places in the South End and bringing that craving back to Austin. And, I haven't found anywhere in Austin that does even a decent rendition until last night. While I wouldn't call it old school (the sauce was mellowed and refined with, I guess, a touch of cream that left it burnt orange - always a good thing to me), it was delicious. Again enough sauce, but not swimming in it. Two pounded chicken cutlets were lightly breaded and perfectly crisp - and they stayed that way as they were stacked against the spaghetti that was served along side. This was far and away the best redition of this dish I've had in Austin, and truth is I actually prefer it to the heavier versions I've been sampling in Boston.
The affordable and fairly straightforward winelist is another plus.
As I'm writing this what strikes me as the hallmark of this restaurant is excellent execution. Maybe we've been lucky, but we've never had anything that was poorly executed here, or even average in execution. The attention to detail - be it the crispiness of the chicken parm or the dressing of the salad from the simpliest primi to the long cooking entrees, it is always right on. Vespiao is definately more imaginative, with a wider range, but I would say La Traviata execution is more consistently close to perfect.
We'll definately be moving La Traviata up in our restaurant rotation.
We have been going to Traviata for lunches for a couple of years now and for dinner occassionally. It is one of our favorite places downtown. I especially like their Pasta Putenesca. They also have Prosecca in small bottles, although I have to fuss at them to bring me the whole bottle. I don't know why they don't since only about a gulp is left in the bottle. I especiallly like what they have done to their interior. Very Euro looking but on a larger scale than most Euro trattorrias.