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1725 I Street, Sacramento

Often, I mention the excitement, importance and necessity of the “culinary adventure.” This is when food lovers, foodies, venture to the edge of comfort to try something new at the risk of a terrible tasting outcome for the sake of discovering a sweet, juicy, raspberry-red ruby of delicious enlightenment.

Always on the lookout for a worthy location to learn and try something new, I came across Michelangelo’s while walking around midtown several weeks back. The building appeared to be an art gallery, upon first impression. As I stood outside reading the small plates menu, a guy said, “Are you gonna come in? Or are you just gonna stand out here?”

That guy tried to convince me to go in and eat (even offered to buy me a drink) and told me about the local products and quality of atmosphere and eats found at Michelangelo’s. He turned out to be partial owner of Sampino’s Towne Foods and told me of the delicious sausage that his father made by hand that was served at Michelangelo’s, and how he enjoyed libations and sated his appetite most Thursdays at the restaurant, while being entertained by live music in the small, cozy restaurant.

I did turn down his invitation that Thursday, but I told him I’d come back a few weeks later, to see if I agreed with him firsthand.

I returned two weeks later, ready for food and music. But Michelangelo’s was abnormally closed for the day. Boo. But I wasn’t going to be swayed to change my food safari destination that easily, so I stopped in the next day for a late lunch.

I decided to kick off my Friday afternoon lunch right, choosing a glass of red wine with the help of the genuine, friendly, personable and knowledgeable waitress/bartender, Lisa. The tart, sweet and only a bit dry Boroli Quattro Fratelli Barbera d’Alba 2005 was $8 a glass and tasted of raspberries and cherries. I was so enthralled with my Italian wine that I almost forewent the food. But, I’d picked a unique dish that deserved my attention.

I ordered the $12 red wine gnocchi from the lunch menu, intrigued by the combination of red wine, anchovy, seasoned ricotta and lemon zest. I’m a big fan of anchovies (although I’m always careful when and where I eat them) and was curious how their pungent, salty oceanic flavor would meld with red wine.

I discovered upon arrival of my plate of potato spoon-rolled pasta in a muted mauve sauce that the blend was delish—at first anyway. The wine lent itself to a sour/tart flavor that offset the salty-fishy-ness of the anchovies. Of course, my wine helped my palate along, highlighting the robust and melding flavors. The ricotta was appropriately peppered and salted. I’ve sugared or salted ricotta before, but never peppered. Lovely.

Flavor complexity is generally a good measure of quality. That means the seasonings and spices of a dish are so well melanged that you can’t distinguish one from another and each bite is a ominous flavor surprise. My dish was such.

The only real flavor-texture problem was that the gnocchi was probably cooked a minute or two too long. It should be chewy, but more firm than chewy. The chewy-ness of the gnocchi and the sour fishy sauce did become difficult to stomach after the magical effects of the vino took hold of me (a bit too strongly) that fated Friday afternoon.

Recalling my conversation weeks back about the sausage, I couldn’t pass up ordering a side of it. The sausage was incredible, equally yummy hot or cold—not an easy or frequent accomplishment for sausage. A salty, smoke-y flavor popped at first, then a spicy herb flavor finished off the bite.

Honestly, portions were smaller than they should have been. The gnocchi probably $3 more than it should have. And for $5, I got maybe two or three ounces of sausage. That didn’t seem appropriate.

Michelangelo’s offers great Italian wines at what I thought to be a decent price. If you’re not in the mood for splurging on a complex flavor experience, you can get your cheaper thrills with glasses of vino. It’s certainly a shmancy place. You may or may not be disappointed, depending on the pretense of your visit to such a wine-derful place.

Thumbs up for romance or bromance. With close homies or with love interest.
Other circumstances don’t quite take hold of the enchanting quality of vino and vittles at Michelangelo’s.

By Josselin Basaldu