I kept waiting for the crowd to subside at Leoci’s before highlighting my meal there – but there seems to be no let up in sight! This Sicilian–born chef has fired up his wood oven and single handedly drawn a crowd to this typically quiet stretch of Abercorn Street. The breads from the oven are fresh, hot and salt–crusted. Mussels are sweet and smoky; pizzas are rustic and infused with the taste of oak–fired coals. Beyond the oven’s goodies, it’s refreshing to find so many made–to–order pasta dishes. On most days, there are a handful of choices that feature handmade pastas – which add an additional element of joy to this experience. On my last visit, I chose pair of half orders: a beautifully flavored bean soup and pasta carbonara – topped with an over–easy egg. The bean soup has taken a couple of evolutionary steps since opening and, regardless of its incarnation, is always nicely flavored with a variety of beans, a savory thin broth and freshly sliced scallion. The carbonara – which I’ve had with both handmade and dried fettuccine – is equally pleasing with either. While I prefer the rustic look and rich flavor of the handmade pasta, there is no mistaking the great flavors that rise from this dish.
Fatty, cured pork, plenty of coarsely shredded Pecorino Romano cheese and an over–easy egg combine to create a heart–warming, classic Italian comfort food. On this day, the allocation of handmade pasta was dedicated to a special: lobster ravioli in Bolognese sauce. It looked and smelled delicious. Smart diners will call ahead for reservations. As the weather warms, there is ample additional seating on the expanded deck behind the restaurant. The growing wine list features some nice Italian choices.
To watch a video of Chef Roberto talking about his brick oven, go to: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojMnXxlMVps
606 Abercorn St./335–7027
Rancho Alegre did open early last week at 402 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd., about two blocks north of the I–16 flyover. This second location of the Cuban–inspired restaurant (The other at 44 Posey St.) kicks it up a notch with bright, spacious and shiny new surroundings. I have no doubt that Juan Manuel Rodriguez will be guiding this kitchen. He has studied food all over the world – we’re fortunate to have such a talented chef bringing another shot of international flair to Savannah’s culinary scene. Early word from Savannahfoodie.com followers is that the tamales are extraordinary!