NOTO A Real Taste of Italy

2016-12NOTO

Italian food is often associated with comfort, coziness and friendship. That’s because the Italians approach their meals with a zeal and ideology unmatched by any other region in the world. They don’t see food merely as a necessary survival mechanism, but relish the experience as a bridge between people and cultures, an opportunity to share stories and warmth over nonna’s home-cooked pasta and a rich red table wine. This is exactly the type of atmosphere and cultural heritage NOTO Food and People has been able to capture.

Tucked away in the cozy streets of Nueva Andalucia, NOTO is a recent renovation of the legendary neighborhood staple, Regina. Under new management, NOTO offers its customers a spacious, naturally-lit interior and a chic, modern atmosphere. During the day, there are great lunch specials and a relaxed vibe. At night, however, it turns into a busy, clamorous environment, true to the Italian way, filled with laughter, clinking of wine glasses, and communal enjoyment of great Italian food. On weekends, there is often entertainment in the form of a live guitarist or singer who perform for the guests’ enjoyment. These shows have had many great reviews and are definitely worth checking out, but make sure to call in advance because reservations fill up pretty quickly.

One thing that hasn’t changed through the renovations though, is the main chef, Luciano. He has stayed with the restaurant throughout. He has seen it as Regina and as NOTO and the menu has stayed as authentically Italian as ever. He has decided to keep the menu fairly simple and traditional, throwing in an unexpected but always innovative special dish here and there, depending on season and whim. Luckily we got to try some of these delicious dishes and were transported to the beauty of Italy with every bite.

We started with one of the most popular dishes, the fresh Tuna Tartar, a perfect mix of equally proportioned ingredients coming together in zesty scintillating harmony. The tuna’s flavour was perfectly captured with just enough citrus and complemented with fresh avocado, cucumber and wasabi. The tartar was fresh and the wasabi gave it just enough bite to tease the palate, followed by the tart qualities of the lemon.

Our friendly waiter recommended this dish to us and we were happy we chose it. Another option was the Degustation Platter, which is a great choice for any newcomer because you can choose a couple of different options and get a real sense of many of the flavours that Luciano has come up with for his menu. It’s also a great way to start the evening with your friends, accompanied by a nice bottle of Italian wine (because we all know that sharing is caring)!

Another appetizer we tried from the dinner menu were the NOTO Mussels. This dish was inspired by Luciano’s visit to Paris, when he discovered the magical taste of French mussels. He decided to give the recipe his own twist and added lemongrass into the mix. The results were divine! Cooked in a creamy shallot, chive and lemongrass sauce, these mussels are perfectly balanced in their citrus to cream ratio. They are wonderfully refreshing and tender, but not overly filling as can often happen with mussels. Make sure to pre-order some extra bread, because you’ll definitely want to soak up every last bite of this dish.

Next, as is traditional, we moved on to the pasta course. The Seafood Spaghetti was everything you could ask for from a beachtown restaurant. Bought fresh daily from the local seafood market, Luciano makes sure to get the best and the freshest ingredients for his dishes. Clams, mussels, king prawns, squid and octopus came together for an exquisite culinary delight. One wouldn’t expect spaghetti to have such a degustatory effect, but its perfect simplicity and the freshest of ingredients truly blew us away.

We also made sure to try the Squid Ink Fettuccine, a personal favourite. Luciano later told us that he worked long and hard to perfect a sauce that could accompany such an intense taste as squid ink. Its saltiness can be a difficult element to master, but we think he pulled it off marvellously. All of the ingredients seemed to fit right in with each other and the dish had an elegantly balanced palate.

Lastly, from the pasta and risotto part of the menu, we decided to try the Scallop Risotto and weren’t disappointed with this choice. The dish consists of tender buttered scallops, velvety saffron and delicate lemon over a fluffy bed of risotto. What better choices? The saffron gave the dish a subtle floral flavour which complemented the scallops very well. Luciano told us that he was inspired to create this dish when he visited Sorrento, a town overlooking the Bay of Naples in Southern Italy, where the scent of the salt water and the lemon trees permeates the warm air. The dish fits this imagery perfectly.

After pasta and seafood, we proceeded to the main dishes. If you are a meat-lover make sure to order the NOTO Fillete Steak. It is a wonderful mixture of tradition and modernity, just like NOTO Food and People. Prepared in an Amarone wine reduction and smoked with delicious herbs, this steak is tender, juicy and lean. It pairs very well with a robust red wine.

If you decide to stick with seafood for the main entrée, try the Marinated Seabass and you won’t be disappointed. Marinated with a zesty mixture of coriander, lime, red chili and daikon, this seabass melts in your mouth and reveals an extraordinary combination of flavours. Luciano loves to bring out the natural flavours of his ingredients and uses his marinades and sauces to accentuate the main dish, rather than conceal it. This strategy guarantees that every dish is light and only bears the essentials necessary to excite the palate and provide for an unforgettable culinary experience. It also allows you to move from one dish to another without being overwhelmed with flavour, but rather to taste the various ingredients that come together in magical combinations.

Lastly, we had to try the pizza. Pizza is notoriously Italian and any good restaurant can be judged by the quality of their pizza. We ordered the NOTO Pizza and received a perfectly oven-baked, thin-crust pie topped with arugula, black truffle oil, cream and mushrooms. What wonderful rustic ingredients! We felt we had been transported to Luciano’s home town in Italy and got the full experience of sharing simple delicious food made by a family member. It was absolutely delicious and it passed the 'Pizza Test' with flying colours - NOTO is a quintessentially authentic Italian spot.

Finally, after such a rich culinary indulgence, we decided to have one last degustatory experience to balance out our night. We couldn’t leave without tasting something from the dessert menu and, with the help of our waiter, we settled on the Profiteroles. Made from scratch, these profiteroles are heaven itself. They are generously filled with chantilly cream, covered in white chocolate and sprinkled with toasted almonds. This dessert will end any date night perfectly, coupled with a cup of coffee or a subtle sweet wine.

After this gourmand experience we just relaxed a little in the restaurant. The setting is perfect for this and the lighting is intimate and makes you want to enjoy your final cup of coffee or wine at your own leisure. The staff was very accommodating and let us have our space to contemplate the evening and all the wonderful flavours to which we had been exposed. We had tasted so many rich and subtle spices, herbs and sauces and we were finally fully satisfied.

Whether you live in the neighbourhood or are just passing by, make sure to stop at NOTO Food and People. Here you will be reminded what it means to be fully present and engaged with your meal. It is a great atmosphere to enjoy company and share stories as well, so make sure to invite some friends. In the fast-paced world we live in it is often easy to get caught up in the rush. However, the manner in which we eat inadvertently defines how we approach life. It is important to enjoy the little things and take time to appreciate the food we eat and the people we share it with. This is something Italians have known for quite some time and have thankfully shared with the rest of us. In particular, NOTO Food and People captured this spirit very well.

 
Copyright 2016 Society Magazine, All Rights Reserved.