If she wasn't cooking, Sandra Stefani of Open Kitchen would
be traveling across the country on her Harley, tasting along the way. Lucky for us,
Stefani finds joy in serving those in need of her signature Italian Soul
Food cuisine. So much so in fact, that she and business partner Ines Chattas
recently started serving up dinner on Thursday nights. "I missed doing
dinners," said Stefani, "It's my way of sharing my home, and many of my
favorite dishes to cook are not exactly lunch-friendly"
When we penned our last review, the cozy
caterer was only open for lunches, monthly wine dinners and specialty cooking
classes. Inevitably, this proved not enough for Stefani's dedicated following,
and thus the Thursday night dinners dubbed "No Reservations" at Open Kitchen were born.
The menu changes weekly but customers can generally expect old favorites from Casa Toscana like the hearty Tuscan-style grilled beef steak topped with arugula and pecorino cheese ($29), as well as an array of "non-lunch-friendly" dishes.
Typically, the menu will be limited to one or two options for each course. To start, try the grilled eggplant stacked with balsamic tomato, wilted spinach and melted gorgonzola towers ($12), and an order of oh-so-trendy and tender veal meatballs ($13), in a tomato dip spiced to your liking. The pasta course last Thursday featured a summer-inspired colorful blackberry basil risotto with mascarpone cheese ($18). Colorful, contemporary and fresh enough to make fool you into thinking a risotto could trim your waistline, this risotto is a must for this summer and will be popping up on the Thursday night menu throughout the season.
Summertime Blackberry Basil Risotto
Photo by Jen Mangham
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Also offered as a pasta course was wheat-thin pasta topped with a chunky shrimp and tomato sauce ($20). For the main courses, Stefani prepared a polenta crusted trout ($27), the epitome of Italian Soul Food, paired with a delicate asparagus risotto cake. The limited menu is curated by Stefani and Chattas to make the most of the season's offerings, just as you would find in Italy.
Pasta Course, wheat-thin pasta and shrimp
Photo by Jen Mangham