Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Memphis Nosh: Strano! Sicilian Kitchen & Bar

I don't think anyone is shocked when I say that I love eating out.

I love cooking too, but there's something so fun about going out, trying new foods, and spending time with friends.

Luckily for me, most of my friends love eating out too, or, even better, work at amazing restaurants and can tell you, repeatedly, that you should come eat at their place and describe, in excruciating detail, how good the food is.

Even MORE luckily for me, my friend Matt happens to be one of those friends and he works at Strano! Sicilian Kitchen & Bar. He finally got me to come out last week to Strano, which is in the heart of Cooper Young and you know what?

I'm so mad at him for not making me visit sooner.

(Just kidding Matt. Sort of.)

Strano opened a couple of years ago under owner and head chef Josh Steiner, who, according to his bio, grew up surrounded by Sicilian cooking and who later lived and studied in Sicily, and who worked at several other Cooper Young restaurants before opening Strano. He's also a really nice guy who is clearly passionate about food, quality ingredients, and being a part of the Cooper Young community. 

For example, Strano has gardens where they grow basil, mint, parsley, and other herbs for the restaurant. And you can tell!

I started with some wine while I looked over the menu - Strano has a large selection, and, maybe most impressively, they have a great variety of glasses to go with it. I got my Zolo Malbec, Cupcake Riesling, and rosé (that I will never remember the name of even though I've had it 20 times) all in glasses that matched the wines I was drinking (thinner, thicker, smaller, larger, etc). Matt knows his stuff, and it's great to find a place, especially one that's not super fancy, that takes wine seriously.

I asked Matt what was good and he made a few suggestions, but first he brought this amazing bread and olive oil situation out.

The bread is baked fresh daily, and they make their own house blend olive oil - seriously, it's in a big wine bottle and they shake it up and pour it into a bowl and let you live all your dreams. It's got a ton of herbs, and the bread is warm and squishy on the inside but with a firm crust. 

 For an appetizer, I chose Grandma's Meatballs - "family recipe of meatballs in house made tomato sauce with melted mozzarella cheese and topped with shaved Parmesan" - and holy cow. They were the perfect blend of herbs (lots of rosemary, my favorite) and cheesy tomato goodness.

It's really dark in the restaurant, so I brightened this up a little so you could see that amazing texture on the sauce and bread - seriously, this is some of the best sauce I've ever had. I wanted a little more heat on the meatballs, but I want everything I eat to be spicier. You definitely can add some crushed red pepper for zing!

And, I found out, you can ADD MEATBALLS TO A PIZZA.

Do it.

Matt also wanted me to try a piece of bruschetta - it was also Taste of Cooper Young the night I was there, and they were carrying trays of bruschetta past me all night, so I didn't hesitate!

The kicker here? It's on that same bread, just toasted, but seriously, those are the freshest tomatoes and basil I've ever had in a restaurant. And the cheese?


Aka the love of my life.

For my entree I got the most life-changing pasta I think I've ever eaten. Seriously, here are my notes from while I was eating (yes, I am that person):


So this is the Chicken Florentine - prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, lemon, garlic, angel hair, and charred broccoli.

I mean, I may have swooned a little.

My number one pet peeve with pasta is when it's overcooked, but this was perfectly al dente, with an amazing sauce (see above notes...), and some of the best prosciutto and chicken I've ever had.

But let's take a second to talk about the charred broccoli. I (of course) couldn't eat all this, so I took some home. Sloan took a bit and got some of the broccoli and said, swear to god, "I could eat this every day. What is this magical broccoli?"

So there you go.

Magical broccoli.

So there I am, eating my amazing pasta and my magical broccoli, getting fuller by the second, and Matt asks if I want dessert.

It's like he doesn't even know me.

This is...dear lord.

Have you ever had a perfect bit of food? My first bite of the dessert on the right (caramel bourbon pana cotta with a fudge sauce underneath and that gorgeous drizzle of hot caramel sauce on the right of the plate) was absolutely perfect. The amaretto tiramisu with almonds and strawberry on top wasn't far behind. And those little dollops at the bottom? Chocolate chip cannoli filling, and some of the best I've ever had at that.

I was sending pictures to a couple people while I was eating, and this is the convo my friend Kerry and I had about this dessert after I sent her the photo:

Sorry Sloan.

So basically Strano's food is amazing.

But more than that...it's just...nice.

Knowing the bartender (especially a bartender who won the Memphis Flyer Best Bartender 2 years ago!) certainly doesn't hurt, but from the chef down to the waitress who brought me that magical dessert to the people who came in for Taste of Cooper Young, everyone was just pleasant. And it's a cozy spot, with lots of great art and kind of a wine cellar - if your wine cellar was on a corner in a great neighborhood - kind of vibe.

(It wasn't hot that night, but I have mad respect for Memphis restaurants that have fans. #summerhater4eva)

Strano would be a great date night spot, a great bar to sit and read at (or watch sports - they do have a couple of tvs), or, and this is what I want to do, an awesome spot to get a group of friends together for a fun night of eating and drinking wine and people watching. The prices are reasonable, the portions are huge and delicious, the wine selection is impressive, and it's comfortable and welcoming.

Go see Matt and Chef Josh at Strano soon.

And send me pictures.

Or just invite me.

Actually, yeah, just invite me.

*I did receive discounted food since I was writing a review, but all opinions are mine and in no way influenced by an discounts, comps, or gifts.*

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