Lisa and I have finally found a worthy Italian restaurant in this mostly Pacific Rim cuisine city. Wallingford’s Asteroid Café, despite its non-Italian name, has some of the finest Italian food and wine we’ve seen since leaving Boston. Just down the street from Dick’s, with twelve tables barely fitting in the storefront in front of the open kitchen, the atmosphere was nevertheless festive and the food was spectacular.
Perhaps because of the mad cow scare, osso buco was off the menu, replaced with rabbit in a white wine, sage, and rosemary sauce with tomatoes and olives over polenta. Knowing how Lisa feels about polenta, it will perhaps come as no surprise that I enjoyed the rabbit while she had the duck, which was served with a sauce made from stonefruits and berries over balsamic-tossed cabbage. With such divergent meals (I kept quoting Looney Tunes in my head: “Wabbit season! Duck season! Wabbit season!”), and the 125 Italian reds on the wine list, we could very well have fallen into vinicultural disaster, if not for the timely intervention of owner and sommelier Marlin Hathaway. He recommended a fantastic Nebbiolo from Lombardy that was made with part dried grapes for an Amaronesque slight sweetness that played off the rabbit sauce and the cabbage. We had a great conversation with him about Italian wines, the difficulty of keeping a good white wine list in a restaurant that’s barely big enough to have a bathroom (you have to go back through the kitchen to find it but it’s there), frozen desserts, and the neighborhood (he remarked that I looked familiar, but maybe it was just because I resembled Dave Matthews, who apparently lives a few blocks away).
I think we’ll definitely be going back.