Laurel Street Turnover, Part I – tratt.
The year 2020 started off with two new restaurants at prime locations on Laurel Street. Taurus Steakhouse recently opened at the old Piacere location (stay tuned for the review), and earlier this month Trattoria da Vittorio at 617 Laurel Street reopened as tratt. (yes, the lower case and period seem to be officially in the name). Even though it has a new chef, new menu, and new owners, the similar name has unfortunately caused a bit of confusion, implying a relationship between the two restaurants (for example, some comments on Yelp have been about “bringing back” certain dishes). The interior layout and decor, save for the wall decorations, is basically identical to its predecessor. Nevertheless, despite the preponderance of Italian food in San Carlos, this is a very different restaurant.
tratt.’s chef, Marco Cerruti, has a strong pedigree with experience at top restaurants, including Noma in Copenhagen, considered one of the finest restaurants in Denmark and one of the top in all of Europe. He brings that flair to his dishes in tratt., giving us a twist on the usual Italian-American fare. He also warmly greets each party at their table and is happy to explain his technique for cooking any of the dishes. The menu is unusual in both its overall selection of options as well as some of the specific ingredients within those choices. The menu has a combination of family-stye and individual dishes; the former includes items from the raw bar (oysters, beef tartar, hamachi, and caviar) and a selection of pizzas (not named but rather numbered 1-8) that are mostly different combinations of cheeses, vegetables and herbs. The pizza was very tasty, with a chewy Naples-style thin crust and a selection of a modest amount of fresh tasting ingredients on top.
There are only two salads on the menu, both very good and slightly unusual, including a shaved brussel sprout salad on top of something Chef Marco calls “brioche bread cream” (he actually explained how he makes it, which he described as simple but seemed complicated to us). It added this crunchy and creamy element as a bed to the well-prepared brussel sprouts. The remaining menu is just a handful of pastas and main dishes, and all of which we sampled were excellent. None of us were daring enough to try their claimed signature dish, which is bucatini with uni cream sauce with crab and uni (and optional caviar) – one doesn’t get sea urchin in typical Italian fare. Two members of our party ordered the polpo (octopus) which is a very hard dish to prepare well (most octopus is way too chewy), but tratt. definitely pulls it off. The risotto was rich and creamy, and the halibut was prepared in an unusual but very tasty way.
There is only one item on the dessert menu, but it was worth trying. The “brownie-wich,” a brownie surrounding smoked salted caramel, is an ample sized dessert (move than enough for 2-3 to share) and is tasty without being super sweet.
With the sheer number of restaurant choices in San Carlos, the biggest challenge for tratt. will be whether it’s eclectic menu will have enough appeal to create the volume to fill its large space. We’re rooting for you!