Ristorante Damiano

Small plates pack a big punch
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  March 11, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars

Still not full? Well, you could roll across the street for some cannoli, but a wild-mushroom risotto ($12) is another rich little dish. I think the wild mushrooms are dried, and the rice is not al dente (which I personally endorse in risotto), but the vital wine, cheese, and stock flavors hold their own against the mushrooms.

The wine list is mostly Italian and fairly and interestingly priced in groups. Omaka Spring 2007 sauvignon blanc ($12 glass/$40 bottle) is a pine-pineapple kind of white, less floridly tropical than the New Zealand average, but all the better with food. Monte Luce merlot 2005 ($8/$30) is soft with some smoke from the oak barrels, but still quaffable. A 2005 Montefalco montepulciano ($16/$55) is serious wine, with structure, cherry-berry fruit, and a backbone that works with the meatier dishes — which top out at a $25 mini version of steak Rossini. Nero d'avolo Pojo di Lupo ($16/$55), from the same great vintage, is Sicily's response to the montepulciano, and another big red for big flavors.

Damiano is located in a tiny duplex storefront, with exposed brick, Tuscan yellow walls, and a very tall café window. It's good for service, but not ideal for winter drafts. You may want to keep a sweater on if you are seated near the door. The tables are small, and one wonders where everything will go, but servers paced us well and shuffled plates in and out. The tasty food kept us moving along, as well, so there was no friction.

Noise doesn't get impossible, despite a techno soundtrack and a full house on a weekend evening. The small restaurant works in favor of the customer in at least two ways: less escapes the chef in the undersize kitchen; and the distance from stove to table is reduced. We hope it works for the owners, too. (Is it just me, or did our young, articulate waiter perhaps work in financial services last year? There was something of the young wealth advisor about him as he described the menu . . .)

Robert Nadeau can be reached at robtnadeau@aol.com.

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