Our Gourmet: A tasty new addition to the city's menu

December 11. 2012 10:32PM

Red Sauce Ristorante
33 S. Commercial St., Manchester

Monday-Thursday 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Saturday 5-10 p.m.; Sunday 4-9 p.m.

Appetizers $6-$12; Salads $6-$13; Pasta $10-$24; Entrees $15-$26

Handicapped access: Ramp to front door

There's a new dining option in the Millyard for folks heading to a game or show, but even if you're not holding tickets to an event, the recently opened Red Sauce Ristorante is worth a trip down to South Commercial Street.

Located in the front corner of a renovated mill a block away from Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, Red Sauce Ristorante is a bright, airy space painted in muted shades of yellow and orange. A smiling sculpted pig perched atop a wine barrel greets patrons as they make their way past the hostess station and the bar. Seating is ample, with booths and tables lining the walls and more tables on the floor in front of the kitchen at one end of the room. Tall windows (thankfully reglazed and not as drafty as they must have been in the mill era) line the two exterior walls.

The menu is not extensive, confined to one page, but most of the Italian standards are included, divided between pasta-based dishes and pasta-on-the-side entrees.

Appetizer: 25/30

Our Gourmet: I wanted to start light, so from the weekly specials board I chose Tomato Basil Bisque ($4.95). I got a crock - bigger than a cup, perhaps not quite a bowl - of rich, steaming hot soup. The flavors of basil and garlic were present, but the most notable attribute of this soup was its texture: It felt like a suspension of ground tomatoes on the tongue, smoothed out (as was the pungency of the ingredients) with a touch of cream. It was very good. 8/10

Our Teenage Bottomless Pit recently celebrated a birthday, and he marked the occasion by broadening his appetizer horizons with Arancini ($7.95), a plate of bite-size balls of creamy, lightly herbed risotto, breaded, fried and served with a bowl of marinara sauce. Deep-fried deliciousness, pure and simple. Thankfully, there were five on his plate, so he felt comfortable sharing what we all agreed was the best of the three appetizers. 10/10

The Dining Companion: Driven as I am to judge this dish wherever it's served, I opted for Sicilian Calamari ($11.95), lightly fried and tossed with vinegar peppers and served with marinara sauce. (It's also available without the peppers for $10.95.) The calamari is coated with a polenta crust which, although quite tasty, is more textural and crunchier than other coatings, making it a heartier version. I prefer a lighter coating and would have liked the option of an aioli dipping sauce, but it was cooked perfectly nonetheless. 7/10

Entrees 24/30

OG: Served in a crock, my Eggplant Parmesan ($14.95) featured three round slices of eggplant, breaded and fried, then layered in the crock with red sauce and topped with mozzarella. Depending on who's cooking it, the eggplant in eggplant parm can range from crunchy to unrecognizably mushy. This version was al dente - quarter-inch slices soft enough to cut with a fork, but firm enough to maintain their shape and veggie identity. Nice acidity from the red sauce, and a fresh flavor from the eggplant itself. All entrees are served with a side of pasta with the house red sauce. 7/10

TBP: The boy opted for a favorite, Chicken Parmesan ($16.95). It came in a shallow oval dish and was constructed in much the same way as the eggplant parm- breaded, fried, sauced and cheesed. He pronounced the chicken moist and the red sauce the best part, both on the chicken parm and his side of penne. 9/10

TDC: I chose the Chicken Marsala ($17.95) - three perfectly cooked medallions of chicken with mushrooms, shallots, garlic and marsala wine sauce. I don't think I could have chosen better. The tender chicken was the star of the meal and the wine in the sauce was more of a mellow aftertaste than the overpowering ingredient that I've experienced elsewhere. Between the appetizers and the chicken, my pasta (I chose linguine) had to come home for the next day - but the two bites I tried told me I'd have a great lunch! 8/10

Desserts: 27/30

OG: For my parting treat, I went back to the specials board for a slice of Chocloate Ricotta Tart ($6.75), a delicious, semi-sweet filling in what seemed like a shortbread crumb shell that had just a touch of saltiness. Overall it was a terrific dessert; just right in terms of sweetness, size and density. 9/10

TBP: Cheesecake can sometimes be a gut bomb after a big meal, but the boy's Ricotta Cheesecake ($5.95) was anything but. Just sweet enough, with a fluffy consistency that made it a good choice. 9/10

TDC: What to order when you can't finish dinner? A dessert you can't finish, of course. As soon as I saw "...Chocloate Decadence" ($5.95) on the menu, I stopped looking. In retrospect, I wished I had gone with the tiramisu, but ONLY because this two-layer flourless chocolate cake was so rich that I had to bring half of it home. 9/10

Final thoughts: 9/10

We got very friendly and attentive service from our server, Beth, and the owner stopped by the table to say hello as we finished our entrees.

The food was freshly prepared - in fact, there was a short delay in our desserts while the kitchen made up a fresh batch of whipped cream.

Serving sizes are ample, but not excessive. In fact, when TBP finished, he announced that he felt satisfied, but not stuffed - and uncharacteristically, he thought that was a good thing. He must be growing up.

Red Sauce Ristorante has only been open for about five weeks, but its location, menu and the quality of our dining experience all seem to indicate a bright future.

Total: 85/100

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