Saturday, January 13, 2018

Dining Up North

Ed and I had lunch at North Italia this week, the first time for both of us.

The restaurant is located in La Encantada, the only upscale luxury shopping center in Tucson, Arizona.  This is one of the nicest areas in town, for both shopping and living, which is why earlier this year everyone was shocked when a shooting took place at Firebirds Grill, which is right next door to North.  I guess you can't be too careful anywhere these days.  

Anyway....we were in the area to go to the Apple store and decided to hit North for an early dinner.  The place was nice, very open, minimalistic casual decor, open kitchen, a giant pile of bread on the counter as you entered the dining room.  
This restaurant is owned by Fox Restaurant Concepts, which owns several other restaurants in town we've dined at - Wildflower, Blanco Tacos, Culinary Dropout - Sam Fox has worked hard for years building his restaurant empire and he seems to have a real knack for churning out popular restaurant chains.  The food is typically very good and the atmosphere is visually beautiful, modern, and inviting.

Today we started with an appetizer oddly called Zucca Chips ($7) - I say oddly because "zucca" in Italian means pumpkin, but the appetizer was actually zucchini.  Shaved thin and fried, like potato chips.  Very good, although a smidge too salty.

The salty part seemed to be a theme throughout the meal.  We both ordered salads - I had the Simple Salad (farm greens, baby tomato, toasted pine nut, gorgonzola vinaigrette...$9) and Ed had the Caesar (romaine hearts, shaved radicchio, grana padano, classic crouton...$9).  Perfectly acceptable as far as salads go.  I liked the pine nuts.

For our entree, I definitely wanted to try something with pasta since they make it fresh at the restaurant, but I just had pasta the night before so I was hoping Ed would order it so I could have a taste.  He did.  He ordered the Chicken Parmesan (crushed tomato, aged provolone, mozzarella, parmesan rigatoni...$19).  Pretty basic, tasty chicken parm and the pasta was good, also.  

I ordered the Diver Scallops (parmesan risotto, roasted butternut squash, brussels, crispy shallot, pancetta...$25).  The scallops were seared perfectly, I saw maybe four brussels sprouts leaves so I'm not sure why they were included in the description, and although the dish was delicious, it was way too salty.  I'm thinking the parmesan in the risotto and the pancetta, plus possibly a little salt and pepper on the scallops before searing, just made the entire thing a little too salt-heavy for me.  But it was a nice portion and I was happy I ordered the scallops since it's not something I make at home.
For dessert (not pictured) we shared the Almond & Mascarpone Tart (cranberry orange compote, basil, and saba...$7)  I was pretty happy with the dessert.  I didn't take a picture because by the time it came to the table, I was blinded by the setting sun since I sat facing the windows - make a note to yourself NOT to sit facing the windows if you're going to be there anywhere near mid to late afternoon, it was brutal and they don't have any blinds or curtains for when the sun is piercing your eyeballs.

The almond tart was great.  Dense, like a tart should be, with the subtle but definitely there flavor of almond paste.  It had a dollop of mascarpone on top and was served with orange sections and cranberries swirling in the saba (which is like a thick, sweet balsamic) and sprinkled with torn basil.  The fruit component was a little too sweet for me, but it was offset by the not-so-sweet almond tart.  And I loved the basil! 

Overall, the place was pretty good.  Enough that I'd give it another shot.  I did really love the decor (modern, rustic farmhouse, in my opinion) and the patio was very inviting - lots of greenery, citrus trees and flowers planted in galvanized tubs, and potted snake plants everywhere.  I'm totally stealing this idea for my backyard!

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Promoting International Cooperation

2016: Truly A Man Of Leisure
2015: Beer Run
2014: Field Two
2013: We Are A Very Rich, Blessed, Lucky, Fortunate Lot Aren't We?
2012: Passion Creates Pure Art
2011: Reflecting On The Day
2010: Crunching The Numbers
2009: Looking Grand At The Grand Canyon
2008: Overshadowing Government
2007: Miami International
2006: Did You Check The Solenoid?
2005: Sorry, no post on this day. The blog didn’t start until May 2005! 

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