A multi-course, fixed price meal is one of my favorite options when trying a new place, and recently-opened Calafuria provides just such a dinner ($39 per person) on Friday and Saturday evenings. Named for a region of the Tuscan coast of Italy with a focus on Livornese cuisine, the dishes range from rustic to refined. We chose to dine al fresco and ordered a bottle of house red wine ($20), making for a very pleasant way to spend a warm late summer evening.
Service throughout the meal was friendly and professional. The antipasto course included a green salad and a flaked tuna salad with chickpea, onion and tomato. Both salads were tossed in a light vinaigrette. A selection of thinly sliced bread, pizza and cecina—a sort of chickpea crepe—was provided along with housemade sausage, coppa and artfully prepared giardiniera. This collection of goodies would have made for a pretty nice lunch on its own. I was glad a taste of pizza was included. The thick, flavorful crust was brushed lightly with fresh-tasting tomato sauce and a dollop of melted cheese. The sausage, served in marinara, had a firm texture and robust flavor without a bit of greasiness. The dry-cured pork was nicely seasoned, combining well with the pickled veggies, olives and slivers of hard cheese.
For the primo course, my wife selected butternut ravioli with pancetta. I went with rigatoni. The ravioli filling of roasted squash and Parmesan was very smooth and mild in flavor, allowing the sauce of scallion-infused vegetable broth, sage-butter foam and rosemary-infused olive oil to stand out. The dish looked very pretty and tasted great—which made it sad that there was so little of it to enjoy. The six diminutive morsels looked even smaller compared with the pile of pasta tubes on my plate, served atop a pool of pecorino cream and topped with toasted pine nuts, oven-roasted tomato and basil-infused oil. My wife’s dish was good, but the rigatoni was incredibly good and much more substantive.
Pork belly or beef “tacos” were our secondo choices. My wife’s taco plate demonstrated a high degree of creativity, with shells of very thin, roasted celery root filled with locally-sourced braised beef, pickled turnip and spicy pepper aioli, served on roasted beets and finished with a bit of the braising liquid—again, a very attractive and delicious plate, but not without issues. Trying to get a bite of taco by hand was a messy mistake, and attempting to cut it with a fork led to tearing it apart. It occurred to me—too late—that they only look like tacos. My wife had better success by starting with the fork.
Continuing the theme of our preceding course, my plate featured two sizeable slices of pork belly, slow-roasted and then seared. The meat was laid on a bed of broccoli rapini and creamy broccoli purée. I could have actually done with more of the rapini and less of the pig, but that’s mostly because I love the veg and—for my taste—a little pork belly goes a long way.
Dolce was small and simple, a bit of vanilla cream topped with a couple spoonfuls of fresh, diced peach. After a meal like that, I appreciate a dessert that isn’t heavy or overly sweet. As we finished the wine and enjoyed the ambience and conversation, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I’d want to return for a sample of their enticing lunch menu, particularly that yummy, crusty pizza.