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Jul 27, 2008 09:14 PM

La Traviata—Favorite Items Besides the Bolognese (and Carbonara)?

I've been to La Traviata a few times this summer. There don't seem to be any recent threads devoted to LT, but the merits of their versions of bolognese sauce and their even more controversial—to some—carbonara have been discussed before. (Personally, I prefer the former to the latter.)

I was wondering, however, about the other items on the menu, the ones that I don't usually explore. How are the sandwiches that they serve at lunch? What about the appetizers? I've observed that their mixed-greens salad looks very fresh and is generously sized, but what about their other salads? How does their risotto compare to other versions in town? Does anyone prefer their "carne and pesce" plates to their pasta?

Here's my own brief chow report, based on recent visits with out-of-town visitors: The dishes that I would re-order are: the spaghetti alla bolognese [not perfect, but so far the best I’ve had in Austin], the seasonal appetizer of insalata caprese [the mozzarella and olive oil are very good, while the tomatoes are less so; in addition, their version includes capers and olives], and the dessert of orange-ricotta cheesecake [which actually tastes like orange and provides a smooth finish to the meal]. An older relative really enjoyed LT's version of chicken parmesan—with flavorful, fresh chicken that seemed hand-breaded and high-quality mozzarella—but didn't care for the sauce on the side of pasta. The lasagna bolognese was pretty good, but it is a comparatively small serving of pasta. I felt bad because this visitor finished eating way before anyone else and then left the restaurant hungry. The penne with spicy lamb meatballs was a “safe” choice, by which I mean on the bland side. The sauce was too sweet for my tastes; oddly, this pasta dish was served with a large dollop of cream on top. Another dining companion truly hated the spaghetti alla carbonara. On that day, I had to agree that the carbonara sauce was a heavy, oily, sloppy mess. This same visitor also didn't care for their dull, brownie-like chocolate dessert. (Neither do I.) The tiramisu didn't blow anyone away, but darned if someone didn't order it every time. I have mixed feelings about the prosciutto appetizer. The prosciutto they serve is fine, but I don't care for the pairing with endive, which I normally love, and sharp parmigiano reggiano: The flavor combo is too harsh and the textures don't marry. On two visits, LT over sauced the pasta dishes; on the third, it was sauced with a light hand. It was cooked al dente, however. I like the chewy bread that they serve with olive oil. I was told that it’s made in house.

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  1. Have you tried the Carbonara at Vespaio? I lack your discriminating palate but I am particular about Carbonara with a noticeable aroma of Pork and an apparent texture of egg yolk. I asked them for two creamy egg yolks and they obliged. For me it is a dish best eaten hot and they sure got it right the night I was there many months ago. The Enoteca did, or does, serve Carbonara but without the egg yolk which seems to defeat the purpose for me.

    1. My favorite there is the P. Putenesca. I don't care for all the calamari they top it with but otw it is good. I also enjoyed several of there sandwiches and the chicken salad, forget what it is called.

      1 Reply
      1. re: singlemalt

        Thanks to both of you for the feedback. To think that after all this time, I still haven't tried the carbonara at Vespaio. I'll have to put that on my list. The puttanesca looked pretty good when someone at a nearby table ordered it, singlemalt. I'll have to give that a try, too.

      2. Holy Speed Limit, BatPerson! With all the damn negativos I pick up in that post, Mr H, how could you consider going back????!!! Yeah, it's a pain, but not that much, so make the carbonara at home. First you cure the jowl. It will beat anything I've read about here, even used decent, store bought pancetta. No peas, no cream.
        Sounds like LT is not a place worthy of future drive-bys. I was there once, 2001 or so, and not very impressed. Your descriptions will keep me away. Now, about those truck sightings...will have to go read about those....up here in the hot (68 today) Pacific Northwest, we have a great one selling ricos panuchos de cochinita. Amazing, actually.

        5 Replies
        1. re: sambamaster

          Oh sure. Taunt us about the cool weather and delicious panuchos that you get to enjoy. If only we were *all* lucky enough to chow down in the PNW.

          I'll admit I did have you in mind when I wrote this, sambamaster. I like to think of what you might have done if served that day’s carbonara. :-D I couldn't even bear to look at it. But what can you do? Visitors keep asking to be taken out for Italian downtown, and Cibo has closed, so I thought I'd inquire about alternative menu options at LT. Even you might have liked their orange-ricotta cheesecake.

          By the way, Salumeria Biellese delivers, and they make a lovely pancetta. . .

          1. re: MPH

            What would I have done? Hmmmm, good question. I might have sent it back if it *looked* as bad as you say. I've only sent back food twice, once at the original Emeril's and once at Chuy's NW (my sister dragged me in)....their version of green chile stew should be made illegal. Will never step foot in there again!

            MPH: as long as you're placing an order, remember Biellese also does great guanciale, (I've had a couple) which really does make a slightly better carbonara, a la gricia, and other Roman yummies. I have a home-cured one I need to use up. After I have some panuchos for early lunch.

            1. re: sambamaster

              Sorry to hijack MPH, but o master of samba, what is a panucho? Yo no conozco la palabra 'panucho'?

              1. re: El General

                I would defer to his holiness, MPH, but he's probably out haunting some alley in SE Austin, looking for a certain truck...
                a panucho is an antojito from the Yucatan which is made up of a thickish handmade corn tortilla which has been slit so that a paste of black beans can be spread is then fried, in lard, we hope, then typically topped with some form of meat, and adorned with pickled red onion ringlets and what ever else. sometimes avocado slices. the primo version is topped with shredded cochinita pibil, another Yucatecan classic. Variations abound. I've had 'em in Merida, Mexico City and Portland OR. Don't think anyone in Austin serves them, but I hope to stand corrected. As MPH will do when he's finished his lunch rounds!!!! I hope! :-) And I am sure a search on The Google will reveal some fotos. Entonces, Sr. KPH, ¿hay panuchos por allá?