My Dinner Club went to Balena last week. I absolutely love this space*, so I was glad I got there early for a good look around and a drink while I waited for people to arrive. For starters, I have to say the specialty cocktails were probably my favorite thing any of us ordered. Since I've been on a brown liquor kick I was deciding between the Francesco and the Mirto. The bartender wouldn't pick one over the other so I chose the Francesco. I had two. But I tasted several others and with one exception (the Dark&Stirred), loved them all.
So awesome – we decided to just order a bunch of stuff and share. The Kale "Caesar" Salad for starters. I try and try, but I do not like kale. I also do not like anchovies but I tried those again too. I still do not like either one. The croutons and dressing were fantastic. Then we had the Brussels Sprout pizza. Out of all the things on the menu, I was the most ho-hum about the pizzas. Big mistake. It was my favorite thing we ate.
Of course I had studied the menu before we went and was deciding between the Tagliolini Nero – crab, sea urchin and chili – and the Roast Porchetta with creamy polenta and parsley red onion salad. We ordered both. The crab on the pasta was super good, but the dish itself could have been a lot warmer, temp wise. I didn't distinguish any sea urchin and I didn't care. I love black pasta though, so this was a good choice overall. We got two portions of it – good thing, otherwise we'd have each only gotten about a bite. The porchetta wasn't quite what I was expecting but it was also decent. More like a thick slice of ham with a crust of bacon around it (this is probably normal, I just wasn't expecting it). The polenta side was YUM. Better than the additional side of Baked Polenta with tomato fondue we also ordered, I thought.
Dessert. Not normally having strong feelings about dessert one way or another, I conveniently opted out of the discussion on which one to pick. If pressed I side with chocolate anything. This was the case when a deciding vote was needed between the Mocha Parma Cotta and the Caramel Pine Nut Tart. As we ordered the Mocha, Teresa snuck in the second choice tart. Both were delicious, but the Mocha Parma Cotta – I can see myself going back for just that dessert alone. It was ridiculously good. Only one other dessert comes to mind that similarly blew me away, the salted caramel cheesecake at Enoteca Roma.
And something must have been in the air because two people also ordered Caffé Corretto + Liquor. Who knows what the other liquor choice was – she sent it back to get the Faretti Biscotti Joy had chosen. I don't want to give too much credit to this shot of a coffee accompaniment, but it prompted a passing around of the small glass and sharing stories of losing virginity. Even the server delivering it was practically drooling just from it's scent.
So basically, I'd go back for sure. But I'd like to sit at the bar for drinks, pizza and dessert (+dessert coffee!).
*Our table was under the window (and kitchen!) on the right in the top image.
**All images are from the Balena website.