Tre Porcellini - Fantastic Addition to Hillcrest!
I'd noticed a new restaurant had been opened where Bite used to be on University Avenue, but (perhaps because of my last few not-so-great experiences at Bite), I was hesitant to give it a try. I'm so happy I did.
It's owned by three Italians (hence "Three Piggies"), one of whom is Chef Roberto Gerbino, who specializes in Sicilian fare, and used to chef at Il Fornaio. So many Italian restaurants have been opening lately, it's tough to stand out above the rest. For example, I was not wowed, and have not returned to, Buonissimo 2, which is just a few blocks further down on the same street. But I will definitely be going back to Tre Porcellini, because after last night's nibbles, I feel I must try everything this chef has to offer.
It was just me and David. Our water, Piero (Sicilian), obliged when I requested a few tastes of red wine. He asked what I was in the mood for, I pointed out a few, and he said he'd bring another one I might like. Turned out, Piero's recommendation was the best of the three -- meritage from the Central Coast. The bread basket featured three kinds of bread from Bread & Cie, and was accompanied by a small dish containing a mixture of roasted tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and basil that was so flavorful and well balanced, David sopped up every last bit with his bread. We began with the polenta board, Polenta al Cinghiale, which contained wild boar ragu (with juniper berries, carrots, mushrooms, and shaved Parmigiano). The polenta was not creamy as it is in other places, but it was not gummy, either. It was light and fluffy, which we could only imagine was achieved by not using cheese or cream. But all very delicious, we cleaned the board.
We both preferred my entree to David's. I got one of the house specialties, the Ravioli con l'Osso -- homemade ravioli (ALL pasta is made in house, and servers present diners with a plate of all the types of pasta for them to select from in advance). The ravioli was filled, generously, with braised veal and ossobuco, and was drenched in a wine reduction and mushroom sauce. Like, stupid yum. At the end of my plate was a slice of bone with marrow intact, and a little fork to eat the marrow with. It was recommended I eat the marrow with the sauce (supposed to complement very well), but I have texture issues with marrow, so I left that bit to David.
David got the Trio Porcellini, pork three ways -- slowly roasted pork shoulder, glazed pork belly, and pork chop milanese, served with roasted potatoes. David loved the belly, he said it was well executed -- crisped on the outside, ideal. The fried pork chop was very thin, a quarter-of-an-inch thick, perhaps too thin, because by the time the outside browned (very nicely browned and perfectly crisp), the inside was overdone, left a little tough and less juicy than it could have been if it had been thicker. The shoulder was not to his taste. David said, "It seems bland for what should arguably be one of the most flavorful cuts." He agreed that my ravioli was ridonculous.
For dessert, we shared what was essentially crushed amaretto cookies soaked in amaretto, layered with chocolate shavings and a light marscapone of the type that would be used in tiramisu. We thought we'd be too full for even a bite, but it was so light and flavorful, we ended up scraping the glass with our spoons.
Everyone there, from the busser who refilled our glasses, to Piero -- a friendly, knowledgeable server, to two of the owners (Chef Roberto came out to greet his diners and ask how everything was), was warm, smiling, and clearly aiming to please. The best part about this restaurant? We can walk there.
Actually got out to use my groupon last night, and I have to say I was relatively impressed with the food I had last night. The quality of the ingredients and the execution seemed at least a notch above most of the Italian restaurants nearby (Arrevederci, Il Postino), the Busalacchi restaurants that I've tried, and Jack and Gulio's in Old Town.
For Josh, the menu claims "hormone-free" meat, and I actually asked the host about what sort of meats they use in the food. He claimed that a lot of it was free range and that they "try to use as much free-range and organic as they can." I will say that the sausage I had was pretty decent, but at the price points they are using, I doubt they are sourcing from the same places as the linkery. (We only buy meat from Iowa Meat Farms, so we have a idea of what good meat should taste like.) My wife had the pasta dish with the seafood ragu, and she thought it was good as well.
Iowa Meat Farms
6041 Mission Gorge Rd, San Diego, CA 92120
I second Barbarella's take on this place. After reading her review, I made a last minute decision to take 5 of out town guests to Tre Porcellini for their New Year's Eve menu (4 courses for $45/pp + $20 w/wine pairing). We had originally made reservations months ago at Cucina Urbana ($65/pp without wine) but after many "mulligans" at Cucina, I was tired of throwing money at Italian food (and service) that was good, but not quite good enough. So let's try something new I thought.
Tre Porcellini did not disappoint. Three of us started with a burrata and red/yellow tomato salad, which was excellent. The others had the pork belly, which they are still talking about (they wanted to know if they could just have three more courses of pork belly). Next we had pear & bleu cheese salad (good - it's hard to screw up) and a lobster bisque, which was delicious and had many flavor levels thanks to the inclusion of cayenne pepper instead of the usual overly heavy cream concoction. For the entree, there was salmon (I was told it was great - I looked over shortly after we were served and it was gone), fillets (all perfectly cooked to order) and lobster and strawberry risotto (wonderful, but very very filling). For dessert the tiramisu was fantastic - some of the best I've had. The pantone was just ok - there was too much mascaporne masking the eggy cake.
One of the best things about Tre though is its wine list. One of our guests used to work as a sommelier in D.C. and he was practically jumping up and down when he saw their list. According to him (I'm no expert on the subject) they are carrying excellent wines with a very modest markup (around $7 just like Cucina). He was so excited that he bought us a very very nice bottle to ring in the New Year.
In short, we'll be back. I'm very excited to try the pasta.
Happy New Year!
Finally made it to Porcellini for Friday night dinner. With the abundance of Italian restaurants, I usually don't get too excited about a new one, but I was curious and wanted to use a coupon. (They are in the current Community Coupon booklet.) We read your review, were guided by your comments and were VERY happy. The complimentary tomato dipping sauce for the bread was fantastic! The pear, arugula and blue cheese salad was great, as were the veal stuffed ravioli. I loved the cream and mushroom sauce, but it was very rich. We were glad we had agreed to share our dishes. The salmon balanced things out nicely. We also had the mixed fried calamari.
We will definitely be back--thanks for your review.