This week I’ve been watching an old series from HBO called Rome. It’s about Julius Caesar, his rise to power and his downfall.
The show not only transports me to a different time but a different place. I’ve been speaking in an English accent (which is apparently how Romans spoke), milling my own grains, and saying “What in Zeus’ name!”
One day my millstone wasn’t spinning and it occurred to me I have to write this column. In keeping with my Roman theme, I chose to review an Italian dish that didn’t exist until hundreds of years past the fall of the empire, fettuccine alfredo.
Spaghetti would have been an easy choice but saying “fettuccini alfredo” makes me feel like riding around on a tiny scooter and speaking broken English in a sing-song fashion.
And with that -
What a tender noodle! I’m sure purists would say “Fettuccine is not a noodle, it’s a fettuccine!” Well, whatever it properly is, it was well prepared here. As I would discover via this challenge, noodle tenderness and preparation is really a critical part of any pasta dish. Maciano’s prepares a fabulous noodle: tender, pliable and easily fork-spinable.
The sauce wasn’t all that remarkable, sadly. There were obvious bits of freshly ground cheese on top of the dish, which is good but the flavor was very dairy based. I tasted the cheeses more than I tasted any spices. I have no idea what a proper, academic fettuccine alfredo is supposed to taste like but I expected just a little more out of this dish.
After several bites, I salted the dish. That really woke something up, and I ended up being very satisfied. Healthy portion, too. A plate halfway between the size of a 45-record and a 33-record cost about seven bucks.
Maciano’s Good: This dish had a nice presentation. I liked seeing the ground cheese. The perfectly prepared noodle is what I most enjoyed.
Maciano’s Bad:Fettuccine alfredo isn’t health food by any stretch of the imagination, so it’s surprising that I had to add so much salt to get some flavor going.
The fettuccine here was very similar to Maciano’s in a number of ways. The dish was all white, no flecks or traces of any color. There was clearly some cheese freshly ground on top. The plate was about the same size and cost around the same – Frisbee-sized for around $8.
That’s where the similarities stopped. This dish had less flavor than the water (to be fair, I did have a lemon in my water) and the noodles were the consistency of licorice. The sauce was a good thickness; however, even salting the dish didn’t awaken any hidden flavors. I ended up using quite a lot more pepper than I feel I should have had to.
Stonefire Good: More than enough food for an individual’s meal. The sauce was texturally ideal. Did really well holding on to pepper. Stonefire Bad: Absence of taste and a more-than-should-be rigidity to the noodles.
Rosati’s?! That’s a pizza place! Well, now that they’ve moved and feature a dining room – and the word “PASTA” appears on the signage in front – it’s a restaurant that happens to serve pizza.
This dish had more color than either of my two previous stops. There were little flecks of green and a hint of buttery yellow to the sauce. The noodles were just as tender as Maciano’s. The dish just LOOKED like the fettuccine alfredo I had in my mind when I set about these reviews.
The sauce was a little thin. I think it could have done with another minute or two of “standing” before being served, but really there were so many noodles that I wasn’t losing anything. The taste was actually present and accounted for as served, without that overwhelming, taste-it-‘til-Tuesday taste you get at places like Olive Garden.
Rosati’s Good:The dish looked and tasted like it should. At $6 plus change, this is easily the best value you’ll find for fettuccine alfredo in Yorkville.
Rosati’s Bad: The sauce was a little runny.
And the winner is: If you’ve read any of this review before here, it should be obvious. Rosati’s is the winner, flat out. Their interpretation had all the flavors and tastes you want and the noodles wrapped neatly around the fork. As well as being a dollar or two cheaper than the other two choices, you get more than enough.
It wasn’t the result I had expected but, after examining the evidence, there isn’t any question.