Za in the City
The situation: it was Saturday evening, I just got off a plane from a week in Boston, and Matt picked me up. In the front seat of the car was Jim Myers' The Rage article about City House. Matt said he had been driving around for days with the article, and the photo of real brick oven pizza. He had been looking at the pizza, waiting for a good time to get it, and see if it was any good. I hesitated. I was just quite busy in Boston for the week, but I took every opportunity to eat at fantastic restaurants for lunch and dinner, and I had a wonderful Boston food tour. I did not want to be let down from my Boston food high by going to a "poser" restaurant. I have been burned before by people who told me restaurants are good, but I should have known better because their "good standard" is Olive Garden or Applebees. But, a trusted food blogger I call Nashville Hole-in-the-Walls, had spent time in Boston, and said City House is good. NHitW told me that City House could hold its own next to any Boston North End restaurant. If anyone has been to the Boston's North End, it is one of the most serious Italian food places in the USA. Matt's look on his face was of earnest, and with evidence from Jim Myer and NHinW, I gave in, and said ok.
My expectations were not high because I just had the best tapas, Chinese, pizza, Thai, seafood, New England clam chowder, and Asian American fusion the Boston area has to offer. I just needed calories at this point because I had not eaten since the morning. We got to City House directly from the airport, and the building is a lovely old Germantown building that was re-habed to be this beautiful restaurant. It felt really great to walk into the entrance of this historic building. It did not feel like I was in Nashville (because so many restaurants are in strip malls) and I just was suspended in a different time and place. Upon entering, I asked to be seated near the open kitchen, so I could see what was going on. Tandy Wilson, owner and chef of City House was front and center with his apps and sides guy to his right and his entree guy to the left. These three were like a 3 piece orchestra working without speaking, yet making incredible music in harmony. Occasionally, there was was a 4th guy taking away used pans, and replacing them with clean ones, and he too was part of the orchestra.
The menu was short, and was about doing a few things well. The drink menu was fun. We ordered drinks, homemade Italian Sausage, and pizza. We sat their watching the show. Our food came out, and wouldn't you know it, we had our friends seated right next to us! There is nothing better than breaking bread with friends.
Wouldn't you know it, Tom Lazzaro and his lovely dining companion was seated right next to us! As you know from previous blog posts, Lazzaroli is the best local pasta maker in Nashville, with reasonable prices on his pastas. He also has many excellent Italian ingredients for sale too, like olive oils, truffles, San Marzano tomatoes, salamis, cheese, crackers, Italian canned goods, vinegars, etc. A couple weeks ago, a friend went in looking for whole wheat pasta to have a carbo-load party before a 62 mile (a metric century) bike ride the next day. Lazzaro did not have that much whole wheat pasta, sent the friend away for a few hours, and made up a nice big batch of fresh whole wheat pasta for the event. If you want fresh pasta, Lazzaro is the guy. Tom also helped me out after I was stopped by border cops and had all my French charcuterie confiscated as I re-entered the country. Tom set me up with Italian style facsimiles of what I lost. I skipped happily home with a few dried salamis and all was better.
Back to the City House food, it was great, and certainly could hold its own in the North End of Boston. I was definitely happy we dined at City House for my 1st meal back from my culinary week in Boston. The salad, simply was dressed with excellent olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper with freshly toasted fresh almonds and excellent Romano cheese. The salad was simple, excellent and we ate it with gusto. A fine salad, and possibly the finest salad in Nashville. It reminded us of the salads we had in France, simply made with the best ingredients.
Matt got the pizza, and we watched Tandy make it. It was hand stretched dough, a nice sauce and fresh mozzarella that went into the real wood brick oven. He finished off the pizza with some hand torn basil. Each pizza is baked differently because of the variability in the wood oven. Our pizza was really good, and was made in an Italian tradition. Matt had spent some time in Italy, and recalls the pizza there was bread lightly brushed with a sauce, and maybe a smattering of cheese on top. It was not the pound of cheese and crappy dough the chain pizza places have, rather the pizza was more like City House's pizza. It is our preference to have more of a char on the crust, so next time we will ask for an extra minute in the oven.
The Italian sausage was made with DW Farms pork. I got to know the family from DW Farms last year, and they compassionately raise their live stock and veggies, and they are super nice. Tandy bought a whole hog from DW Farms and broke it down, like a good old world cook would. I am impressed that Tandy did not waste anything of the hog. Tandy made his Italian Sausage from one of the DW hogs, and the sausage is the best Italian sausage I have had in Tennessee.
Do I dare say it? I think City House is now one of my favorite (if not my favorite) dinner spots in Nashville. I wrote it, now what do I do?
Labels: Nashville Eats