By David Minsky
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By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
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By Laine Doss
The bread barricade continued to shrink as my friend used it to sop up the last drops of herb-infused olive oil in her dish. We'd polished off most of this amuse bouche anyway -- spiced olives; extra virgin olive oil; a hummus exuding a faint, unidentifiable sweetness; fennel-raisin bread; focaccia with rosemary; and long crunchy pepper sticks. And I was feeling fine after a Trinatini, the house's signature cocktail (like most drinks on the extensive list, it's mixed with homemade fruit and herbal infusions), a $12 cocktail that reveals itself like a burlesque dancer, saving its sexy pool of lavender-infused syrup for last. We asked our waiter to recommend a glass of wine to go with the ricotta cavatelli pasta ($12 appetizer, $24 entrée). He did -- bringing the bottle to the table and offering a taste before I committed. Nice!
Homemade ricotta cavatelli is one of Pintabona's standards. It appears in his wonderful biographical cookbook, The Shared Table, and at Trina, you might find it served with braised oxtails and horseradish crème fraiche or tossed with wild mushrooms, duck meat, and almond cream sauce, as we did, or presented in some other fanciful elaboration. Mushrooms and duck are always an inspired, earthy pairing; the almond cream pulled the dish off the ground and sent it up into the air. The cavatelli was delicious too, with a pillowy/chewy texture almost like gnocchi. It's a rich dish for an appetizer; I recommend you share if you want to be able to move beyond it.
A plate of pan-roasted diver scallops and sweetbreads ($24) was marginally less thrilling than the appetizers. Sweetbreads are usually the veal's thymus gland, which runs from the throat to the heart; they're tender and white, with a delicate and pleasant, organ-meaty flavor. These were stacked over the big scallops in a tier, the whole held together with a length of bacon. The bacon infused everything with a nice smoky flavor, but the scallops were gritty and the sweetbreads just slightly dry. I doubt if I'd order this dish again. My friend's herb tagliatelle with lobster shellfish broth ($28) came swimming with shrimp, clams, and mussels, a dab of jumbo lump crab meat, and a soothing, buttery broth full of seafaring flavors. She loved it.
I've been back since then for lunch, when I lingered for a ridiculously long time over a thin and crunchy, brick-oven flatbread topped with sweet, briny rock shrimp, chorizo, slivers of bitter-toasted garlic, and rapini ($14) and a cold glass of chardonnay. This simple lunch on the beach isn't easily topped.
Because it's set in a hotel, Trina is open for breakfast from the crack of dawn, when it serves banana-stuffed French toast and a lineup of paninis; it remains open through lunch for salads, sandwiches, flatbreads, and grilled fish, and parties until late in the evening, when the bar crowd finally moves on. As an almost 'round-the-clock gourmet restaurant, it's unique to our neck of the woods.
As for Mautone's wine and beer lists: He's gone to some trouble to buy hard-to-find boutique wines that pair with the dishes on Pintabona's menu, and the beer list is a gas. You could start a serious brew habit at Trina, beginning with the Dogfish Head stout (it's made with roasted chicory, organic Mexican coffee, St. John's wort, and licorice root).
A pit stop for dessert and coffee on the patio (almond milk panna cotta, chocolate cherry tart, a selection of artisanal Mediterranean cheeses, priced from $8 to $15) would also set you up nicely for a late night.
Trina is named for the triangular, three-legged Medusa on the Sicilian flag. If I remember correctly, Medusa was punished by Athena for daring to compare herself to a goddess. I'll just sit quietly with my soup then, letting go of any fanciful comparisons with the Madonna-goddess, grateful that the two of us have, if nothing else, a chef in common. I don't want to tempt fate. We need to hold on to this place.