Eat The Menu: Take The Cannoli

Lemon Ricotta, Pistachio Cannolis. Photos by Mike Hnida
Lemon Ricotta, Pistachio Cannolis. Photos by Mike Hnida

The Godfather was right: Leave the gun, but definitely take the cannoli. At Pinoli, they’re terrific: delicate and crunchy pastry tubes filled with creamy, demurely sweet and lemony ricotta bolstered with pistachios ($4), just the way they appear in your dreams.

And while you’re at it, take the cabbage, too. It’s an unexpected hero, a star among many on the antipasti list that leads off the kitchen’s offerings in the new Uptown café housed in the former Amore site.

That cabbage! Who would suspect the unsung peon of the vegetable world to steal the glory on a list of starters? A huge steamed hunk arrives on a bed of nutty-sweet squash puree, crowned with a crunchy coat of savory pecorino cheese under a cloud of bread crumbs: That’s it, and it’s comfort food at its finest.

Spaghetti alla Chitarra

The antipasti list ($9-14, plus a sumptuous collation of cured meats and cheeses, $23) also showcases hefty fingers of focaccia with choice of dips that include a deliriously pungent basil-pine nut pesto, a suave and creamy meld of white bean puree and rosemary (our choices) or whipped bacalao (salt cod).

Those namesake pine nuts reappear in a lavish, meant-for-sharing salad of baby greens, herbs and pea tendrils anointed with a light red-wine vinaigrette. Other starters include braised mushrooms with white beans; roasted broccoli rabe; an enticing-sounding pairing of burrata cheese with golden beets, grapefruit and pistachios, and more.

Five choices confront you on the pasta list ($12-14 for half portions, $15-28 full). If I were a rich man, as the fiddler sang, I’d opt for the spaghetti alla chitarra, $28—house-made noodles tossed with lobster, lemon, garlic, chili and butter.

Instead, we were mightily pleased with our plate of ravioli-like pansotti: plump pillows of pasta, a bit undercooked and on the firm side, cuddling generous dollops of Swiss chard and herbs softened with cream and a savory walnut pesto. Lovely! The linguine that followed was deliciously enriched with meaty braised mushrooms and a sweet-savory cashew cream (I know: Who would have thought?) Next time: the gnocchi tossed with seafood or the cascarecce, starring basil pesto and Parmesan.

Olive Oil Poached Tuna

As our secondo (6 choices, $19 for a frito misto of calamari and veggies to $46 for a ribeye), we voted for the tuna, to be poached in olive oil and accompanied by salad greens, fennel, orange and olives. I (unwittingly) expected a tuna steak, but no—instead, Triscuit-sized slices, ideally ruddy but presented cool-to-cold (intentional or not? I have no idea) with the same greens we’d enjoyed in the earlier salad, this time scented with fennel, orange and (the menu says) olives, which we couldn’t locate. I’ll return to attack the lamb meatballs or the Great Lakes whitefish, too. In the mood for pizza instead? The menu offers five inventive combos, $16-22).

And that cannelloni! Or satisfy your sweet tooth with a nutty, chocolate-rich panna cotta or, my choice when in Italy in summer’s heat, the affogato al caffe: a glass of chilled espresso harboring vanilla ice cream.

The setting is bright, spacious, and welcoming. And for parties of four or more, the kitchen will orchestrate a specially-coursed menu, $62 each (add wine, $35 pp). Service was friendly, full of info and adept. Benvenuto, Pinoli: a nice addition to the dining scene.

1601 W. Lake St.
(612) 813-0250  

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