Chef Chat

Chef Chat, Part 3: Riccardo Palazzo-Giorgio of Sabetta Café & Wine Bar

Chef Riccardo Palazzo-Giorgio of Sabetta Café & Wine Bar is on a mission to bring his customers authentic Italian food. He describes it as Italian home cooking, the kind you would find in your grandmother's kitchen (if you grandmother was Italian, that is). From the food to his focus on hospitality, Palazzo-Giorgio works hard to make his customers feel at home in his restaurant.

Sabetta's menu is designed to encourage people to try a little of everything. As Palazzo-Giorgio's wife explains, Italians don't eat massive bowls of pasta for dinner. Of course, Sabetta's does have full orders of pasta available, but you can also order a small portion to have as a second course before your entrée. The ultimate goal is to invite people to take time out of their day to relax over a nice meal and enjoy their companions' company like the Italians might do.

When we visited, we started with the homemade sausage antipasti with toasted fennel seeds on a bed of spicy, sautéed onions and peppers. Palazzo-Giorgio does not use casings for his sausage, so it is presented in patty form. The sausage was nice and crispy on the outside with a subtle fennel flavor. This is not your grocery-store Italian sausage, which has so much fennel you can't taste the sausage. One customer even asked if the restaurant would sell the sausage, she loved it so much.

Next, we ordered a small portion of the potato gnocchi with sweet gorgonzola cream sauce. The homemade gnocchi was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. One customer described them as fluffy pillows. The cream sauce delivered a pungent, blue cheese flavor that surprisingly did not overwhelm the light gnocchi. The dish was pretty rich, so we would recommend sticking with the small portion or splitting it with a friend.

For fear of having to roll out of the restaurant, we did not try one of the entrees. Instead, we opted for dessert. As you may have guessed, Palazzo-Giorgio makes everything in-house except for the bread and the gelato. It was hard to decide on only one dessert, but we opted for the one Palazzo-Giorgio has been making since he was a kid, the apple crostata.

The apple crostata is made to order and is served warm with bourbon gelato. The bourbon gelato is his wife's influence -- she comes from a family of Louisianan Italians - and it was a bit of New Orleans heaven on a plate. But what really caught our attention was the fork-tender crust that actually tasted like butter. Normally, we are all about the gooey, apple center, but that night, we could not stop inhaling the crust.

Our "authentic" Italian experience did not disappoint. Our only regret is that we could not try more. We will just have to go back.

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Jane Catherine Collins