High notes

Chef Paco Perez cooks in the Ti Amo kitchen.

Chef Paco Perez cooks in the Ti Amo kitchen.

Photo/Allison Young

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It’s not often that I get to dine with a nationally recognized foodie, but one agreed to come with me to our capital city providing I wouldn’t use his name—he said his publicist would have a fit. There’s great ambiance in this space, a large wine rack on one wall, a rustic country Italian décor, and great Italian arias playing at a complementary level, not blaring.

It’s a complete menu ($14-$26) that includes a New York style pizza section ($7-$19) as well.

Out came roasted garlic, pickled veggies and warm bread—great start to the Italian fare. Chef Patrick Nelson started us with Prawns Ti Amo ($5), jumbo butterflied prawns that were hand breaded and pan fried and topped with a pomodoro scampi sauce. It reminded me of a warm brochette, but the succulent prawns added another flavor dimension.

They had a family style salad ($11-$18) that sounded worth a try—butter lettuce, baby greens, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, black olives, sweet red onions, roasted red peppers, white beans, salami, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. All fresh veggies—it was a meal in itself—and tossed in a house-made, slightly sweet and tangy vinaigrette.

It is a superb myriad of flavors and textures and, to tell the truth, dropping the salami would have made it one of the best salads I’ve had in a long time—not that I have anything against salami, but there was plenty of tastibles going on without it.

For the entrée, my friend was all over the veal picatta ($22), and I tried the seafood lasagna ($20). My impetus was that one might not think of seafood and lasagna in the same sentence.

The report on the veal was five stars. You could cut it with a fork, and the lemon, butter, caper and white wine sauce was a mangiare made in heaven. They used the giant, fresh caper berries, and the sides were also laudable—red and golden beets and capellini (angel hair) pasta with a marinara. The beets were a welcome change and masterfully prepared, savory, sweet and firm.

The seafood lasagna was over-the-top. Fresh lasagna noodle layered with shrimp, lobster, scallops and crab—more than generous. All of it topped with one of the richest, creamiest Alfredo sauces I’ve ever tasted.

Dessert meant the house-made cannolis and spumoni ice cream ($5). This Sicilian cannoli consisted of two tube-shaped shells of very lightly fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy but very light ricotta with a chocolate dip at each end. The spumoni was light green with the fruit. It was almost a gelato it was so creamy—bellissimo!

This little place in Carson City has a great wine list, with more than half the labels great Italians. They offer 21 by-the-glass ($6.25-$12.75), and with the appetizer and salad, I had the Fontana Candida Frascali ($7.50). A pinot grigio grape, it’s a light, tasty white wine with a dry, crisp finish that’s built on a zesty citrus backbone.

For the meal, I went with the Pio Cesare Barbera d’ Alba ($12.75). The Barbera grapes are grown in the Barolo area of the Piedmont region above Genoa, one of my very favorite grape regions of Italy. This wine has great structure, plummy and complex flavor, with spicy and ripe fruit, blackberry aroma and a hint of toasted tobacco.

And as we were about to leave, the aria playing was Puccini’s Nessum dorma with the Three Tenors and the great climax with the high note that blows the roof off. A fitting way to end this Italian repast.