Chef Gerard Craft does everything with a flair. Perhaps that’s why he’s a Charles Beard award winner for his culinary prowess. His genius is again evident in the decor and menu design of his newest restaurant: Sardella. The bright and inviting space is enlivened with spiffy blue and white tiles, a long marble and wood bar, and a whimsical wall of sardine cans above the open kitchen. (In Italian, sardella is a fish sauce made from sardines.)
My First Visit to Sardella
Cyndy and I were on our way to the Peabody to hear Ina Garden—the Barefoot Contessa—who was in town on a book tour. We made an early reservation at the restaurant, arriving at 5:30 before things had begun to pick up for the evening. That meant we got to sit in what I consider their prime location, a leather, semi-circle in the far corner with a view of both the bar and kitchen.
While the menu has an Italian bent, the pairing of ingredients shows a bit of culinary whimsy on the part of Executive Chef Nick Blue and Pastry Chef Sarah Osborn. As we pondered the listing, our server took time to answer questions and tell us her favorites. She explained that plates are meant to be shared. With that in mind, we started by ordering the large dinner rolls with the black garlic butter.
Swayed by our servers enthusiasm for the sunchokes, we split the Marinated Sunchokes with Prosciutto, Jalapeno, Cashews and Fig. You ask, “What are sunchokes?” They’re what we used to call Jerusalem artichokes, a tuber with a texture much like potatoes.
We also went with one of the pasta dishes recommended by our serve: Brisket Agnolotti with Hubbard Squash, Cabbage, Brown Butter and Sage. Agnolotti (pronounced: än-yə-ˈlä-tē) are pasta squares stuffed with meat or vegetables, much like ravioli. All were splendidly prepared and presented with aplomb.
We joined in appraising the various dishes with the couple at the next table. The woman spoke highly of the Cauliflower Soup with Farro and Brown Butter, causing me to immediately put that on my list for a return visit.
Make Time for Dessert
Before hurrying off to the city, we allowed time for dessert. But which? Of the half dozen items on the menu, they were already out of three. But, said our server, the Pineapple Baba was excellent. Once upon a time, I had made a Rum Baba and with that fond memory in mind we split the Pineapple Baba with coconut, caramel and almond served with a dollop of sherbet.
Sharing dishes worked our just fine, especially since servers provide extra plates and implements needed without you having to ask. The meal was a splendid prelude to our gathering at the Peabody with Ina. For a true foodie, it was an evening to warm the cockles of your heart.
Sardella, 7734 Forsyth Blvd., Clayton. Open: Mon-Fri 7a-11a for breakfast; 11a-2p for lunch. Dinner: Mon-Thu 5p 10p; Fri-Sat 5p-11p; Sun 5p-9p.