Several months ago, Eric and I were in Baltimore, meeting friends for dinner. We got there with hours to go, and hadn't had lunch, so we were left in a hunger purgatory, where eating a full meal at that point would have ruined dinner later, but waiting until dinner might mean fainting in the middle of Barnes & Noble from low blood sugar. So as we wandered through Little Italy, we happened upon a place called Da Mimmo. We walked into the dimly lit restaurant that forked into the bar on the left, the dining room on the right. We were the only ones there, and it took a minute to find a live soul. Then again, we almost left because on a day that was sunny and beautiful, I could hardly think of staying in a place that would close off all the brightness and leave me in darkness.
"We're looking for a snack right now, really," we said. The maitre'd smiled and was more than willing to seat us. What to get? We looked at the menu, and everything was appealing. The maitre'd said, "If I may recommend something, the Spaghetti alla Campania is delicious, and I could split the plate for you."
"Yeah, but there's no meat in it, and I really like to have some kind of saturated fat with every meal," I said, in so many words.
"You won't be disappointed," he said, and then it was done.
The dish came, searing hot, with a vegetable ragu of grape tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, onions, mushrooms, and possibly some other vegetables, laying on a bed of Spaghetti al dente. I'm sure it was a very simple recipe - there wasn't great complexity, and yet, it was, perhaps, the best pasta I had ever had. Truly. Really. I hardly noticed there wasn't any meat, because I was in love with eating the dish exactly the way it was.
We vowed we would be back.
This past Friday, we picked up my mom from the Baltimore airport, and we headed straight to Da Mimmo for a full Italian meal. We were seated by an open window on the second floor, where we could glimpse the waning sun and catch a cool breeze. The servers at Da Mimmo really want you to relax. They don't even give you the menu until you ask for it. At first, I thought they were being neglectful. I mean, come on, we're at a restaurant for goodness sakes, can we have the menu? Then I caught myself. Rare is a restaurant that doesn't try to push you out the door as soon as you were seated in order to increase turnover and sales. At that very moment, I started to relax.
We all ordered something from their very extensive specials menu. Osso Buco served with risotto, Veal with a black truffle sauce, and Chilean Sea Bass on Penne with Puttanesca sauce. All this only after our appetizer of what else? Spaghetti alla Campania. Oh, and some of the most stellar garlic bread I've ever had. 1,000 calories each slice, I'm sure, but eaten in moderation? Gosh, it's worth it...
The Chilean Sea Bass was delicate and perfectly cooked. The tang from the capers and olives of the puttanesca sauce was inspiring, but this dish was not my favorite of the night.
The Veal in black truffle sauce was tender, and the sauce reminded me of an Asian fermented black bean sauce - a savoriness where a little goes a long way. It didn't come with a starch or any substantial vegetables to speak of, which would have greatly leveraged a very special truffle sauce, or at the very least, helped to cut the saltiness. Still, not the favorite.
Lastly, the Osso Buco. An incredibly generous portion of bone-in veal braised in a sumptuous sauce that laid on delicious risotto. I can't remember all the details, I'll just have to refamiliarize myself with the leftovers in the fridge. But this. This was the star of the night. So why do I have so little to say? Because there was a harmonious fusion of sorts, when all the ingredients come together and just meld. It's at that point that I just don't care what all the elements are. I just know they taste good together.
We left hundreds of dollars poorer, but happy. Sometimes, it's worth it.