The idea behind this series is fairly simple: My girlfriend and I will go out to eat at a Chattanooga-area restaurant and then describe our dining experience there. Keep in mind that this is not a food review per se, but instead an attempt to relate to readers our single, one-time experience at a restaurant. It just is what it is, as they say. There will also be pictures. Lots of pictures.
I am a 30-year-old voracious eater of anything weird, while my girlfriend, age 24, is the complete opposite. This makes dining for us a strange affair. I enjoy a tremendous amount of flavor and complexity, but her M.O. is “simple, no frills.” These dining adventures will test both of us at various restaurants around Chattanooga. This week, we decided to don our fancy clothes and visit Boccaccia Ristorante Italiano.
Located in one of Chattanooga’s most unique buildings-the Southern Saddlery Building on Broad Street-Boccaccia is an upscale Italian restaurant featuring delicious homemade pastas and traditional Italian fare. The setup is simple, with large, wooden tables and Christmas tree lights hanging from the wooden beams. It should also be noted that Boccaccia, like a few other Italian places in our area, will give you a free pasta dish and dessert on your birthday. Bring an ID, though. They check.
Walking up to Boccaccia for the first time, you get the idea you’re about to step in a speakeasy run by the local mob. I cannot confirm nor deny a mob tie, but I can confirm that I don’t know what I’m talking about. It is suggested you call ahead for reservations at Boccaccia, which is exactly what we did. Lauren and I arrived at 6:15 p.m. and were seated in a corner table near the bar. Jennifer, our server, helped us navigate the expansive wine list. I don’t know how long she’s been a server, but Jennifer’s expertise was evident. She had no problem explaining the menu and answering questions about wine. Her service was prompt, but her presence was only felt when we needed it. Otherwise, we were left to our romantic dinner and conversation. My only gripe was the temperature in the room; it was almost uncomfortably chilly inside the restaurant. We’re talking nipples-cutting-glass frigid. However, I couldn’t complain; it just meant I had to drink more red wine.
Lauren ordered a glass of Kendall-Jackson chardonnay, which, according to Jennifer, is the owner’s favorite and “always on hand.” I chose a Santa Cristina chianti. You cannot have an Italian dinner without wine. To do so would be a travesty and an insult to Dionysus, Bacchus and all of the other gods of fun. For an appetizer, we ordered the “torre Caprese.” This traditional dish featured sliced mozzarella, grilled eggplant and basil over ripe tomato. Lauren commented that the eggplant was “charred to perfection.” We also received a basket of Italian bread and an olive oil dipping sauce. Like peanuts at Logan’s Roadhouse, bread and dipping sauce are required even at the lesser Italian restaurants. The dipping sauce contained the perfect amount of Parmesan cheese and seasoning, which included just a touch of red pepper flakes. Lauren described the bread/oil combination as “addictive.”
After a few questions to Jennifer, I settled on a selection new to me called “involtini val d’aosta.” I tried to translate that from Italian to English, but the phrase broke the Google. Here’s what I know: The dish is a chicken breast wrapped with prosciutto ham and fontina cheese with a reduction of balsamic vinegar. Fettuccine alfredo is served on the side. Lauren chose a much more simple plate, the capellini pomodoro. For all intents and purposes, her dish was essentially spaghetti, VERY good spaghetti, according to Lauren. “It’s the simplicity and quality ingredients that make it so good,” she said. The appearance of my involtini was a bit weird. It appeared as if a giant egg had been birthed (laid?) on my plate, and then BP came by and spilled oil all over it. Gross, huh? The flavor, though, was incredible. The chicken breast was perfectly cooked, and the saltiness of the prosciutto and fontina cheese was in perfect harmony with the sweetness of the balsamic vinegar. The fettuccine alfredo was good, but the giant, stuffed chicken meat-egg was the star of the show. We were almost too full for dessert. Almost.
Lauren needed chocolate (not a surprise), and I wanted something lighter with a little less heaviness, which is the definition of “lighter.” She ordered a chocolate torte that was presented in such a way that you would expect to find a picture of it hanging in an art museum. The raspberry sauce was drizzled in a checkerboard pattern underneath the torte. Lauren took a single bite and moaned through every successive bite. “If it were socially acceptable, I would be licking the plate right now,” she said as she took the last bite. My “lighter” dessert consisted of two scoops of lemon sorbet with a shot of SKYY vodka (I saw them pour it). I got a little frisky with Lauren on the way home, both a sign that the meal was a success and that I hit my alcohol threshold.
Would we go back?
Our tab clocked out (what?) at $85 after tip, making Boccaccia strictly a restaurant reserved for special occasions. To answer my own question, of course we would go back. The combination of atmosphere and quality servers helps elevate this restaurant to elite status for us. We appreciate restaurants that are only as nice as they need to be. The food, atmosphere and service are all in line with the price you pay. Chattanooga is lucky to have Boccaccia, and we’ll most certainly be back the next time we have cause to celebrate.