This recap from last week’s 48 Nights dinner is a little late. Okay. Really late. I couldn’t find my photos. Lost the menu. Got a little busy. Life happens. But here it is at long last. If you’re not familiar with 48 Night’s concept, each week acclaimed local chefs donate their time and talent to cook a prix-fixe meal for 30 people. The makeshift restaurant — open in a vacant Oak Cliff taqueria — is only open Mondays and Tuesdays. Proceeds benefit the Mass Care Task Force. Half the fun is discovering who the mystery chef is that evening. The other half? Eating the food. My surprise chef last Monday night was Julian Barsotti of Nonna fame. I practically squealed when I spied him through the dining room window. Want to know what I ate? Jump for it.
We received our menu via email 24 hours before our reservation, still not knowing the identity of our mystery chef. But the very Italian menu was a tip off. In a city not known for great Italian cuisine, Barsotti is a lone wolf. Before service, chef Barsotti shared that the evening’s menu was inspired by a recent trip to Italy where the communal nature of the meal and the emphasis on local ingredients blew him away. We were as well. This was a meal to remember.
First course: Sformatino of asparagus, roasted favas, and green garlic with pesto (similar to a soufflé but not as light with plenty of woodsy flavor). Marinated cream peas and oven roasted petite shiitakes (served in a mason jar). Assorted salumi and cheeses. Braised lentils with homemade sausage (could have had this as a main course — so good). Squash blossoms stuffed with house ricotta and baked in a plum tomato ragu.
Second course: Tortellini neri of white gulf shrimp. (The pasta was made with squid ink, making for a visually startling dish.)
Third course: Slow roasted Berkshire porchetta with creamed mustard greens and Anson Mills polenta. (Here’s where the crowded room of 30 got quiet except for the occasional moan. Yep. It was that good. The fatty pork roast and the savory, sharp greens were a perfect pair.)
Dessert: East Texas strawberry panna cotta (a nice light ending)
Barsotti was a charming host, and the communal nature of the evening made this true event dining. Sure, there were a few bumps. Our 8:30 seating turned into a 9:15 seating. The room got a little warm at times. (I did mention this is a makeshift restaurant/kitchen in an abandoned taqueria, right?) But local design guru Mike Thompson’s kitschy flea market decor, friendly diners willing to share their wine (it’s BYOB and why yes I’d love to have a glass of your Opus One, new friend), and, of course, Barsotti’s fine fare made this a memorable night. If you have $75 to spare, sign up now. There’s still two spots left in July and then that’s it. 48 Nights closes shop.