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Jun 9, 2011 08:26 AM

Tried New Menu At Mina's Cucina Rustica

I joined a party of five guys to taste some of the dishes on the new menu at Mina’s last night. Apparently, there is a new chef although Mina is watching everything and cooking too. The new chef is a very talented young Italian fellow who, from our experience last night, is really into cooking. He is not averse to doing untraditional things but is staying with an overall Italian sensibility. The restaurant continues to have a bottle of that terrific Colluccio (same as Frantoia, I think) olive oil on every table which is a nice touch. Another thing that I like very much is that they have, if you ask, is grated Pecorino cheese as an alternative to Parmagano. My mother being from Calabria we grew up grating Pecorino (Locatelli brand) and eating Parmagano.

Some of the notable new menu items were:

Asparagus Rollatini, which is not a new item but is one of my favorites, the asparagus were thick and meaty and with a touch of fontina cheese then wrapped in prosciutto and topped with a few crunchy bits of bread crumbs and roasted for a few minutes. This is a creative and delicious dish.

Calamari Fritti is a beautiful rendition, the calamari were very lightly coated with what seemed like panko, and fried perfectly crispy and were very, very tender. The tentacles were included which indicates to me that the kitchen was not buying just frozen rings. I in fact asked and was told that the calamari was fresh. The dish was unique because it included crispy fried, and delicious, broccoli rabe and lemon chips. The aioli was a nice sauce but not really necessary for me as the whole dish was so delectable.

Grilled baby octopus was very straightforward but very skillfully done, charred crispy on the outside but juicy on the inside. It was served on house made foccaicia and had a light citrus dressing; a simple dish but succulent just the same.

Bruschetta with shrimp was nice particularly because it included a house made burrata. Burrata is a cheese that I love but cannot easily get out here in the suburbs. It also was garnished with some other things that included pine nuts and sun dried tomatoes. There were other tastes in the dish and it was complex and creative and certainly, not dull. The shrimp were of a nice size and cooked just the right amount of time so that they were juicy.

Ravioli Casatelli in which the raviolis were made, I was told, only after we ordered it. They were probably the best and most delicate ravioli that I have had in years. The little puffs were obviously hand made because they were so irregular, just like grandma used to make, and very, very tender. The filling was a rich and creamy ricotta, definitely not supermarket stuff, with lemon zest and it was topped with a sage brown butter. This was a killer dish.

A really outstanding dish was the halibut. A thick, pristine, white, piece of halibut was steamed perfectly using a broth of cocoanut milk; not exactly traditionally Italian but wonderful nevertheless. The portion was large and the dish was delicious. Its’ appearance reminded me of watching Eric Ripert (le Bernadine) poaching halibut on tv. It was topped with an eggplant puree and a very light lemon sauce that complemented but didn’t at all mask the fresh flavor of the fish. This is a fish lovers dish!

All of the pasta dishes were great as usual, the Bolognese a favorite as always. There is a new pasta dish with eggplant, mozzerella and tuna and capers that was served over bucatini which we all loved.

There were other things on the menu that I would have liked to have tried like the fennel salad and the Caesar with a poached egg but they will have to wait for next time.

We had a great meal, the service was excellent, the staff was friendly and it was fun

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  1. We were there Tuesday night (the night before they rolled out the new menu) and Lisa gave us a preview. Can't wait to try it. On Tuesday, though, they had a soup special: vichysoisse. It was delicious! Lisa says there will be cold soup specials on the menu throughotu the summer.

    1. I see they have a filet mignon on the menu, have you ever tried it?

      1. Sounds great, I can't wait to try the ravioli! We had lunch in Little Italy in Baltimore on Mothers Day and had the best ravioli I ever ate. The ravioli as you described them is exactly how remember them- delicate and creamy. I still dream of those ravioli.. if I can find them 5 minutes from my house I will never leave..

        Also glad the bolgnese is unchanged, that was another favorite!

        Little Italy's
        306 Roseberry St, Phillipsburg, NJ 08865