I've been wanting to try Sauce since it opened last December. I thought it brave for a restaurant to open around the holidays, when most of us, including me, are so busy and/or broke from shopping that restaurant dining isn't really an option. Early reviews from local newspapers brought raves and made me all the more excited to try it. However, a pair of bartenders whom we know and who are foodies, gave Sauce a bad review and I put it on my list of need-to-try-sometime-but-not-now. Then a few weeks ago, I was driving through Glastonbury and caught the sight of a happening place out of the corner of my eye. It was Sauce, and I realized the time is now. I checked out the website, which has a great look to it, and the menu, which is not overly extensive as Italian-American menus tend to be, with their pages and pages of pasta, seems to focus on what I'd call "contemporary Italian" dishes, made with seasonal ingredients.
I had only heard about Sauce through Amy, who forwarded a restaurant review. Other than that and the comments I heard from the aforementioned bartenders, which weren't very good, I hadn't heard much else. I did go on line as well, and was equally intrigued by the menu. But I was in Amy's hands, with an open mind, as we started last night's dining experience. Given our last "Italian" dining experience, I was feeling confident that a good meal was in store.
I started with one of their "cicchetti," or little snacks , choosing a simple salad of small pieces of fresh mozzarella and halved grape tomatoes dressed in a high quality balsamic vinaigrette. We shared this with the dark crusty bread that was offered with a hearty red sauce for dipping, while we waited for Amy's antipasto and my insalata. Things looked promising.
Years ago, my husband took me to a great Italian bakery in Hartford's Italian neighborhood and introduced me to arancine. I love arancine, balls of risotto stuffed with a variety of fillings and lightly fried so they are crunchy on the outside and soft and melty on the inside. Sauce's were exactly that and thus, did not disappoint. For $9, we received 3 large arancine (a very generous portion, in my opinion), and the arborio rice was mixed with spinach, fontina cheese, and onions, with a piece of prosciutto in the middle. They rested on a thin layer of marinara. They were delicious and I would have no qualms about stopping by one night when I'm out shopping by myself and having this appetizer and a glass of wine for my dinner.
I would like to say that I took a walk on the wild side when I did not order arugula salad, with which I am obsessed --but it wasn't particularly adventurous to order Caesar salad instead. In my defense, there are a lot of bad salads out there claiming to be Caesar salads, so it was a risk. I am happy to report that this was not one of them. The dressing was delicious. The garlic and anchovy did not overwhelm or offend. The herby croutons added a nice flavor and crunch, and were accompanied by little pieces of crispy, salty prosciutto--an unexpected and unique addition.
I haven't had a great penne with vodka sauce in some time, and unfortunately, even after last night, I still haven't. The penne was cooked appropriately al dente, and the large shrimp I requested to be added into the dish were perfect, but the sauce was too sweet and had the overpowering flavor of onions. It didn't have that red pepper bite that I associate with, and really enjoy in, a good vodka sauce. I could somewhat taste the ripeness of the San Marzano tomatoes in the sauce, but with each bite, the onion quickly prevailed. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either, and it certainly didn't outshine those amazing arancine.
For dinner I ordered the broccoli rabe with sausage and orecchiete. The dish was generous and tasty. At first I declined the addition of fresh grated Parmesan, but then reconsidered. The saltiness of the cheese added a nice bite to the slightly bitter broccoli rabe and the sweet sausauge. The sausage was browned nicely, but--for my liking--could have been broken into smaller pieces and had too many fennel seeds. Overall I liked it, but might try another dish before ordering this one again--perhaps the papardelle that the server recommended or one of their pies.
The server/busser team that waited on us was attentive and professional. The server was able to make recommendations and answer questions when we had them. The team anticipated and met all of our needs, including water refills, freshly ground pepper and grated parmesan, and other things for which we didn't have to ask. We left satisfied with all around.
That is, more Sauce, please.