Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Changes At Posto: An Updated Review

Change has come to Posto and the intended objective is to make the restaurant even better than before. I have long been a fan of Posto so I was intrigued to see what the changes would bring. Last week, I was invited to a media dinner to check out some of those changes, and speak to them about what else might be coming for Posto. I am pleased to say that the quality of the food remains as high as ever.

Joseph Cassinelli, Chef & Owner of the Alpine Restaurant Group, recently named two inaugural positions including: Alec Riveros as Director of Operations and Chef Robert Jean as the Culinary Director of the group. Casssinelli and Riveros previously worked together in 2002 at Excelsior, where Cassinelli was Sous Chef and Riveros was the General Manager. Riveros was our host during the media dinner, answering our questions about the new changes. Additionally, at Posto, Chef Wyatt Maguire was named as Executive Chef and Vanessa Leesam named as Sous Chef (and they are pictured above). 

The menu has been revised in both substance and layout. It now is a single page menu, broken down into Antipasti (11 choices from $2.50-$14), Ensalate (4 choices from $10-$13), Paste (6 choices from $17-$19), Carne E Pesce (5 choices from $18-$26), and Pizze (12 choices from $11-$19). They have kept some of the long time favorites, like the Arancini and Nonna's Meatballs. The menu also changes around every 3-4 days, though only about 2-3 items change each time. Some of the changes are seasonal, such as taking the Bolognese and Carbonara off the summer menu though they will return when the hot weather is over. The menu continues to present plenty of diversity, an assortment of dishes that should appeal to all preferences.

They no longer offer Brunch though you could visit their other restaurant, The Painted Burro, for Brunch. (And if you go, get the meatloaf!) As for future changes to the Posto menu, they are considering the possibility of adding Charcuterie or even a Cheese program.

The beverage program has also seen some changes. The cocktail list now includes a selection of Aperitivo, Cocktails made with house infused spirits, house made limoncello and simple syrups, in addition to selections of local and international draft and bottled beer. Cocktails are generally priced $9-$12 and they carry about 15 beers and a pear cider, priced from $6-$9.

The wine list, which is about 90% Italian, offers 32 wines by the glass, priced $8-$22, with most $12 or under. They have some good diversity, including some more artisan wines, and they are seeking to expand their choices. Wines by the bottle are generally priced about $36-$100, however the markup on many of those wines is 3 times the usual retail, which means the markup from their cost is even higher. I would like to see a lesser markup, which I think would lead to increased wine sales. They are also seeking ways to keep their wines available by the glass at a better temperature.

We started the evening with an Aperol Spritz ($10/glass, $34/pitcher), made from Aperol, Prosecco, and Soda water. A pleasant and refreshing summer cocktail with a balance of sweet and bitter.

A couple Antipasti were initially brought to our table including Olivas ($5), warm olives with orange, rosemary, and chile de arbol.

We also received Pane ($2.50), hot loaves of rosemary sea salt bread, which use the same dough as they use for their pizza. This is a Posto classic that has been kept and as a bread lover, this gets my hearty recommendation. There is a spicy chili oil into which you can dip the bread, or just enjoy it on its own. The bread is also perfect for dipping into some of the other dishes you'll have.

For our first course, there were two dishes which were split between everyone. There was Barbabietola ($13), a salad of baby beet, sicilian pistachio, orange vinaigrette, and feta. I am not a fan of beets but the feta was creamy and tasty, and those who liked beets very much enjoyed this salad.

I enjoyed the Fritto ($11), a fried green tomato with fennel salad and buttermilk dressing. A pleasant start to the meal, with a fresh, juicy tomato and a light, crisp coating.

To accompany this course, we drank some 2012 Poderi Cellario Favorita. Made from the Favorita grape, a white grape grown primarily in the Piedmont, this wine was crisp and clean, with delicious pear and citrus flavors, as well as hints of floral and herbal elements. A delicious and more unique wine, it was food friendly too, and a welcome addition to their wine list.

Our second course was the Mozzarella ($14), Bufala mozzarella with prosciutto, yellow peaches, and a rosemary honey. Both the Bufala and honey are from Vermont, and they infused the honey in house with rosemary. A superb melange of flavors, this is an excellent summer dish with creamy cheese, juicy grilled peaches, salty ham and hints of sweetness from the honey. Give me some hot bread, this dish and a nice wine, and I would be very happy.

Our next course, again split among the diners, was a Pasta course. Pasta has always been a strong point at Posto and it remains so. The Gnocchi ($18) is made with braised lamb, pecorino toscano, white wine, and vidalia onion. The tender, pillowy gnocchi were accompanied by tasty, earthy flavors from the lamb. The white wine sauce was light and flavorful, accenting the gnocchi and lamb.

The Agnolotti, containing beef shin, were accompanied by thumbelina carrot and fried shallots. Again, the pasta was cooked perfectly, and the meaty filling added plenty of flavor to the dish. It was a lighter dish, perfect for summer, and the fried shallots were a nice addition.

The next wine of the evening was the easy drinking, 2009 Guido Porro "Vigna Santa Catarina" Barbera d'Alba. Light and fruity, with a touch of spice and earthiness, it is a fine food wine as well as something you could enjoy on its own. This wine is going to appeal to most wine lovers, seeking a simple wine to savor and enjoy.

Fish head time! The Trota ($22) is a piece of Rainbow Trout, sustainably farmed in Idaho, with kale, marcona almonds, onions and marrow. When you order the dish from the menu, you get the whole trout, so they added the fish heads to our dishes as a nod to that. The trout was tender and tasty, and the crunch of the salty almond enhanced the fish.

During our dinner, there was a discussion of Risotto, and I mentioned how it had always seemed rare on the Posto menu. The only Risotto they have right now is a Heirloom Tomato Risotto, which is part of the Swordfish dish. It is made with yellow tomatoes, using tomato water and not cream, as well as parmesan rind. An excellent Risotto, it was creamy with rice at just right texture, and the taste of tomato was prominent and fresh. I could have easily devoured a big bowl of this Risotto, and hope that Posto decides to add more Risotto to their menu.  

Our final savory course was a selection of four pizzas, including Caponata ($17), Marinara ($11), Mais ($17) and Salsiccia ($17). I tried 3 of the different pizzas, all but the Caponata, which is made with eggplant, goat cheese, tomato conserva, grapes, and pine nuts. This is Neapolitan pizza, with a soft, chewy crust, though people unfamiliar with this style may think the dough is undercooked, though it is not. I like this style of pizza, and the crust has always been one of my favorite parts of this type of pizza.

The Marinara, with sliced garlic, oregano, and parmesan, is a basic pizza, sure to appeal to the picky pizza lovers. The Mais comes with sweet corn, fontina, applewood bacon, grape tomato, and basil puree, offering a nice balance of sweet and salty flavors. The Salsiccia is made with fennel sausage, whipped ricotta, and a pistachio nut pesto. There was plenty of tender sausage, complemented by the creamy ricotta and nutty pesto. Pizza is always a fine option at Posto.

Dessert was up next. Though much of their dessert is made in house, they do purchase their Gelato from Christina's in Cambridge and their Cannoli from Modern Pastry. We had their Panna Cotta, a lemon basil flavor with strawberry and shortbread. Though Panna Cotta usually doesn't impress me much, this was different, the creaminess making for a more compelling dish.

My favorite dessert at Posto has long been their Tiramisu, which I think is one of the best in the area. Besides a wonderful blend of balanced flavors, it has a great texture, which doesn't fall apart or start oozing. In the past, I have taken it home and it still remains as a solid piece, rather than sliding into a gooey lump. If you have any room after dinner, you must order the Tiramisu.

With our dessert, we sipped some 2012 Vietti Cascinetta Moscato d'Asti, a crisp, lightly sweet, and fruity wine with a bit of frizzante. Nice flavors of peach and citrus, it is well balanced with a pleasant finish. This is not one of those overly sweet Moscatos that some people enjoy. This is a more serious wine, which should please many wine lovers.

As a final treat, we savored glasses of the Damilano Barolo Chinato, said to be similar to an offspring of Vermouth and Amaro. Posto has 4 Chinato on their wine list, and this is supposed to be the sweetest of the four. Chinato starts with a base of Barolo and then adds an herb infused alcohol, which contains quinine bark and some 21 other spices and herbs (such as rhubarb, gentian, orange peels, cloves, and cardamom seeds). As the quinine bark is known as "china" in Italian, that is the derivation of the name chinato. Legend states that Barolo Chinato was invented in the 1800s by a pharmacist seeking to create a medicinal potion. It is an interesting wine, with a savory blend of spices and some bitterness, though not to the level of a Fernet Branca. The sweetness, which is still relatively low, balances out the bitterness. There is plenty of complexity in the Chinato, and you get some of the usual Barolo flavors too.

Our main server for the evening was Jaime (pictured above), who was personable and attentive. She knew the food menu and wine list well and made sure we all had an enjoyable evening. Our main host, Alec Riveros, also did his best to ensure we had a fine evening. He was upfront in his answers to our questions, and also seemed interested in any suggestions we had to offer as well.

Posto remains as one of my favorite restaurants, and the changes have not diminished the quality in the least. The changes have largely been positive and I think the restaurant will continue to improve, rather than remain stagnant. My only concern is with the high markup on their wines, which is a problem with many restaurants, and far from unique to Posto. If you haven't been to Posto, or haven't been there in some time, then you should make the effort to dine there and experience some delicious Italian food, from small plates to pizza, from pasta to seafood.


Rachel Cossar said...

Wonderful recap:) I will be featuring Posto in an upcoming post on The Daily Meal - who knew it was the only Naples Certified pizzeria in New England??
Great to see you again:)

:Laurie Gorelick said...

I love Posto (but I'm a little biased, having worked with Joe Casinelli on The Painted Burro). Such great Italian cuisine for a neighborhood restaurant. Nice recap, Richard.