Can't differentiate the cuisine of Italy's Friuli region from that of Liguria or Piedmonte? Chef-Owner Kevin Cleary of Burlington's L'Amante is leading a winter tasting tour without leaving his ristorante.
Starting Monday and running through the end of February - excepting the week of Valentine's Day - L'Amante will offer three-course, regional dinners Monday through Thursday night. Each week, a different segment of "the boot" will get a chance to shine.
This is the fourth year L'Amante has spiced up January - a notoriously slow month in the restaurant business - with enticing Italian tastes that have never been on the menu.
Next week's offerings come from Tuscany. The following week features Friuli, which Cleary and his wife Kathi, also his business partner, visited in September. "I think I'm most excited about Friuli right now," he says. The northern region, which borders Austria and Slovenia, is known for polenta, apple strudel and prosciutto di San Daniele - often considered the pinnacle of proscuittos. Subsequent weeks will bring fare from Liguria, seafood-rich Sicily and Piedmonte to Vermont. "We always do Tuscany and Piedmonte," Cleary notes. "We go there often and have a connection with them. The other three we'll mix up."
While the menu at L'Amante usually features traditional Italian food with a "modern or American twist," Cleary says, the regional menus are strictly traditional. Many of the dishes are simple, featuring three or four ingredients that are indigenous to a particular part of the country.
And what of the wine? Kevin and Kathi are bringing in many vini that aren't on the regular menu. Each is paired with a different course.
The full meal costs $30 per person - without the wine - and includes an appetizer, pasta dish and entrée. Desserts can be ordered from the regular menu separately. It's never too cold for basil ice cream.