trattoria lepri - ellington ct
new place on rte 83 in ellington with 10 tables. have been twice and loved both visits. italian based menu with wonderful apps: aged provolone and eggplant caponata where wonderful. the mussles and clams had a very different, appealing broth. menu was different both times we visited [a week apart -- it was that good.
a few of the entrees we tasted:
short ribs with blue cheese potato gratin/papparadelle with roasted mushrooms and braised beef/roasted sea bass with artichokes/rotini with homemade sausage and peas/sea scallops
and the warm bread -- made on the premises -- rosemary bread sticks/parmesan rolls/sunflower wheat - the waitress comes around with the basket.
it's out of the way, but worth the visit.
Ah 'Trattoria Lepri'...it's so easy to get back to posting positive when you're speaking of such a clearly well regarded restaurant. Despite still having to work around that policy of "noooo reservations" and racking up the miles on the Chowmobile to land here it continues to be well worth our dining time. As a Chow-couple, Lepri made our 'Shared Top 5' rather easily and we're glad to have made it to this relative newcomer more than our fair share in rather short time. The tweaks and new additions to the menu are welcomed and hit the mark but we still find ourselves usually working in a menu standard or signature dish for good measure. Some good news which should serve them and their customers well: a handful of tables have been added in an area set behind and accessed at the far back wall of the main dining area. This should no doubt accommodate at least some of the parties that would otherwise have to crowd the outer bar/waiting area during their busiest hours.
Since the most recent stop fell on a prime night we found ourselves going through the same drill as the first visit to avoid a wait in this small capacity seater. With the cold weather there were fewer outdoor campers but still plenty awaiting the dinner bell in the comforts of their vehicles. My co-pilot rightfully sent me on my way to stand outside the door as I joined another couple(with the woman wearing a full-mask covering winter hat) as well as another gentleman waiting to give his dining companion the sign to to turn off the car and join the par-taay. My own sweetie waited only a minute or two to come out of hiding as Chef Frank's wife soon opened the doors when first seeing her gathering of anxious early-birds.
We both ordered and started to enjoy the first of three wines we each chose by the glass that evening while awaiting that standard-setting basket of breads which has come to define their offerings. She first went with the usual Chard/Viognier blend and moved to trying new juice throughout the meal with a different New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and then the winner of her bunch a White Bordeaux of Sauvignon/Semillon(hey-ooh to that chateau). I started with their Spanish Godello white before moving to featured glasses of a Cotes Du Rhone and then a Malbec from where else but Argentina baby. The individual ramekins of white bean puree with herbs and truffle oil, their triangular slice of fresh unsalted butter, and the herb infused oil were quite good but almost not needed as the choice of breads were downright delicious on their own(caramelized onion focaccia, "everything" bread twists, and parmesan rolls). The smiley lady across from me had to revisit the appetizer of 'Spiced Shrimp with a Sambuca "Glaze" over Field Greens and Red Onion Salad' but we also went to untried territory with the starters of 'Fig, Prosciutto, and Aged Provolone Flatbread' and the superb 'Herb Gnocchi with Sweet Peas in Pancetta Cream Sauce'(♫"...the best I ever had, the best I ever haaaad"♫).
With their entrees having remained so VERY reasonable for such quality we made a tasting of three with ulterior motives for leftovers, a midnight snack for moi or a more sensible next day lunch for her: the 'Seafood Risotto'(clams, scallop, shrimp, and crab with sweet peas and parmesan), the Lepri fan favorite of 'Slow Braised Beef Short Ribs'(with candied vidalia onions and their incredible gorgonzola gratin), and the 'Veal Duo'(a winter veal and vegetable stew plus a pancetta wrapped veal meatloaf with wild mushroom gravy and scallion mashed potatoes). All were at the level we've come to expect as the stock used to impart such flavor to the risotto impressed, the gratin pleased as much as the billed short ribs, and the plating of the stew in a mini-crock alongside the winter warming meatloaf and spuds made us forget the chill outside.
Desserts in the glass were a Passito di Pantelleria and an Elderton botrytis semillon while desserts on the plate were the 'Caramel Banana Bar'(with cookie crust, banana gelato, and fresh whipped cream) and the 'White Chocolate Bread Pudding'(with amaretto cherries and white chocolate liquor). Both were more subtle in flavor and "lighter" than the descriptions might indicate but we've certainly come to enjoy the desserts more with each time out. This place simply does everything that well and is among the most appreciated of our handful of favorites(with an added bonus of value)...they just plain hit the note: "♫Oh-oh say can you see..Trattoria Lepri♫" :) .
Show me the funny- "Test........":
I finally got to Trattoria Lepri Saturday night and was not disappointed. Reading that no reservations are taken and that there are only ten tables, we got there at 5:08. There were still tables available and we were quickly seated. I had the Seafood risotto and also got a taste of the Rigatoni Bolognese that one of our dining companions couldn't finish. Both were excellent. The bolognese was beautifully prepared. The pasta was al dente and the sauce contained three different meats and a just a touch of cream. I shared the flourless cake with my wife for dessert and was happy I did. Service was attentive without being intrusive. They comped our desserts because they said our appetizers took too long to get to the table but to be honest we hadn't even noticed. As we left (about 7:15) we noticed a huge crowd at the bar waiting for tables. We typically eat late (7:30, 8) and driving home at the time we usually arrive at a restaurant was strange but, all in all, a very enjoyable and pleasant evening.
Knowing that it's difficult to plan a visit to Trattoria da Lepri, I wasn't sure that we'd be able to enjoy a meal there as soon as we did but it was well worth the effort...and quite the amusing of exercises trying. Putting many miles on the CT Wine Trail mobile that day I "just so happened" to be "conveniently" passing through the area not long before dinner service was to begin. ;) My co-pilot saw it coming and wasn't surprised as we then made a defined dash in the name of dining. We arrived some twenty plus minutes before opening to find a couple of vehicles already parked up front(from left to right in order of arrival?!?)..seemingly claiming their place "in line"(a line before the actual line?). Hey, we'll play. Another couple arrived just after us and parked on my better half's side as the driver quickly cracked a smile and rolled down her window to say: "Yeah, you know the routine". "I'll race you to the door" I joked in response. Ten minutes before opening I got out of the car to rearrange that day's wine purchases which the earliest-arriving couple on my side apparently saw as my possible bolt for the restaurant's door, so they then quickly made their own speed-walking sprint for glory as they looked over their shoulders...I had to laugh. A few tables worth of those in the know(which then grew quickly) waited outside for a short time before Chef Frank's wife Debbie graciously opened, greeted, and seated. My lighthearted suggestion that those who traveled the furthest be seated first wasn't amusing to couple number one but was laughed at by the rest of our front-door friends with senses of humor.
The restaurant is indeed small but by no means cramped. Neat, new, and comfortably appointed you'll immediately see the rather large and impressive hand-written chalkboard menu listing that day's choices. We are mindful diners(especially on "prime nights") so considering its capacity with no more than a dozen tables we immediately sensed and greatly appreciated the relaxed pacing and efficient but unrushed service. Having sampled our fair share of wine that day we continued with the theme of variety by choosing their wines by the glass instead of the bottle. The selections were interesting enough, a French Chard/Viognier blend to start followed by an Italian Chard for her and a Primitivo, a Barbera, and a Chianti for me. After seeing a particular Spanish white wine varietal that I wasn't familiar with(Godello) on their list, we were gladly given a sample...a nice gesture.
A server arrived with a beautiful basket of warm bread to choose from that included a great country-grain with a touch of cranberry and sunflower, herb bread sticks, parmesan rolls, and two others(we both blanked out..can you see why with such a selection?). A plate with individual ramekins of seasoned bean puree, a long triangular slice of "Ssweeeet" butter, and a delicate zucchini infused oil was left for the table. We ordered the Marinated Olives(even better than Ibiza Tapas!) and Speck ham from the Antipasti offerings as a starter before getting the spiced Sambuca Glazed Shrimp over Field Greens and Red Onion Salad(tastefully done and easy to see why they're a signature appetizer) and the Roasted Beet "Ravioli" with Goat Cheese plated with Pistachio Vinaigrette(enjoyed this as much as a similar starter that was once a favorite at Carole Peck's). Again, the pacing and unrushed service was welcomed as we were first gladly given the antipasti and then the perfectly timed appetizers to follow.
Entrees were the Seared Diver Scallops(served this night with a Wild Mushroom Risotto and a sauce that sent my co-pilot swooning) and the Lamb Trio which was 1)Oven-Roasted Rack with Rosemary-Chianti sauce and mashed spuds, 2)Smoked Loin(chilled) over Sun-Dried Tomato and Artichoke Salad with Tomato Aioli, and 3) Deep-fried Lamb-Parmesan Raviolis/"Wrappers" with Roasted Onions. Seeing other's plates come out of the kitchen, I'm now looking forward to trying Lepri's Braised Beef Short Ribs with Candied Vidalias and Roasted Fingerlings next time out as I don't think they'll ever be able to take this apparent favorite off their menu.
Desserts were a Flourless Chocolate Cake unlike any I've seen before in texture and presentation which hushed my company in a good way(or was it her B-52 coffee?..crazy lady) and a Cannoli whose filling was filled with a hint of cranberry and studded on the ends with pistachio along with a great Italian dessert wine that I've never seen, heard of, or tasted before(the next best kind of "Italian sweety" if you ask me). Prices are VERY VERY reasonable and it's easy to see how some of the Chow posters here would dine there as frequently as they do. I wish that Trattoria da Lepri was closer to home for myself but it's saying something that I wouldn't hesitate to return, even if there's a race to the door. So try it sometime. Ready? On your mark, get set,...GO already.
Next on the list: Luce and an overdue visit to Pip(to complete a Scallop throwdown).
from The Times 10/09:
Nice review--and I dig your new avatar. <HA HA HA! We DO apologize!> :) Hmmm, that's quite the scallop throwdown you've mapped out. Luce's appetizer and Brasserie Pip's new main are serious contenders and two of my all-time faves. May the best mollusk win!
46 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT 06442
Trattoria da Lepri was featured in today's Hartford Courant. Anyone been lately? I'd like to go! Of course, so will anyone else who read the article and the reviews on this board...(there are other threads, too) :)
Just saw this so didn't get to say thanks for the link to this Courant feature, once again your sharing is much appreciated. I had missed this one but was certainly reading with interest the posts in a couple of the threads here.
It doesn't seem that it will be any easier to plan a meal at Lepri because in addition to other write-ups..could there have been a recent review in "that" CT Mag? Friends recently went and said they saw others that had gone with what looked like to be this review in tow while looking to get in. I was hoping to go VERY soon as a surprise on the way back from Sharpe Hill(just tasting this time out) and Taylor Brooke but it seems that even with arriving early and their small capacity..it's no guarantee.
Giving it a shot anyway(right after we get two more stamps and submit the winning passport). Hello Spain!
You're welcome. The Thursday food section is my favorite part of the Hartford Courant (followed by the calendar section).
Agree, the lack of ability to plan for Trattoria da Lepri seems to be a real issue. Don't know about CT Mag, but I haven't seen the latest (maybe I'll notice it at my next doctor visit, LOL). Perhaps in the dead of winter, once the buzz has died down, it'll be easier to give it a try.
P.S. Sending you good vibes re Spain. ;)
I'm really pleased to have found this review!! I have actually been there 5 times since my 1st visit a month ago.
Chef Frank does a wonderful job with braising - the short ribs or the Pappardelle with braised beef is unsurpassable. Also the calamari is extraordinary. Very personalized service as well.
Honest downsides: they do not take reservations, and their popularity has left them overbooked on weekends. Saturday's visit for a table of 4 turned into a 1.5 hour wait. Deb, the owner was nice enough to treat us to dessert for the inconvenience. They also seemed to indicate the crowds were as a result of a couple of articles that came out right before the weekend.
Also occassionally Frank's fresh pasta dishes come out tooo al dente for my liking. So unless you like FIRM pasta, I would request extra cooking time.
Agree with you on the short ribs, pappardelle with braised beef and the calamari. Have been 6 times since they opened and only had one mediocre plate (pork saltimbocca-very overcooked and dry). Didnt want to send it back because it was a pretty crowded night so just asked for some sort of gravy or au jus. At the end of the meal the chef came out, apologized, and said that since Deb told him we were "regulars" , he deducted the meal from our bill. Very professional/ very nice.
Yes, I would advise arriving early if you dont want to wait. They do have a nice bar but it is not that large. The waitstaff is friendly, yet professional.
Last time we went was the Friday after Christmas (before the review articles came out) and I was surpised that it wasnt crowded when we arrived (about 6:00) or when we left.
One change on the menu that i noticed was that you could pick 6 antipasto plates for $15 (i think). 2 meats, 2 cheeses, 2 vegetables (marinated olives, roasted red peppers)- pretty good deal but the tray (board) that held the 6 plates had to go across the table diagonally because of its size. Nothing wrong with that, just kind of funny.
My wife and I had a great meal and experience at trattoria. The chef-owner used to be a top chef at the French restaurant Pasti’s in Harford and visited my wife chief school. The wait staff was professional and helpful. We enjoyed and appetizer of flat bread with prosciutto ham, figs, fontaine cheese, a nice salad, and, for the main course, clams on pasta with a broth base and the scallops on a bed of light crispy potato rosti. Everything was fresh, made from scratch, and well presented. We found out that one of the wait staff used to be the owner of the Mansfield Depot which used to be one of my favorite lunch spots before it burned down. We highly recommend this out of the way, best kept secret of scenic Ellington CT. You can find the restaurant in a small strip mall at the cross roads of Route 83 and Middle Butcher Road. Thanks for the review kelgia!