[Lafayette, LA] Marcello

We were staying just down the road at the Staybridge and had picked this up from the internet. A lucky pick that saw us having an excellent dinner. It’s exactly the sort of Italian place which you hope would open up wherever you live, so you could become regulars. There’s a shortish menu allowing the kitchen to concentrate on doing a few things very well. And service is on the ball, without being pushy – a rare contrast in our experience of American restaurants over the years.

Roman style fried artichokes were the real deal – the chokes halved lengthwise, tossed in lemon to preserve the colour and then fried. They came with a little mixed leaf salad and a few blobs of basil aioli. A pretty much perfect start to the meal which went well with the basket of focaccia that was put on the table (a refill was offered, but declined, after we’d scoffed the first lot). Also pretty much perfect was an Italian classic - thinly sliced aubergine, coated in polenta (?) and fried to crisp. It was topped with a well made tomato sauce.

For mains, lasagne was as good as it gets. Al dente pasta, good meat and tomato sauce, slices of mozzarella tucked in amongst things. The other plate featured pigs cheeks. Lots of them – easily twice as much as I’d make at home. This really was a generous portion of long cooked, delicious piggy, falling apart under pressure from the fork. There was a deep, savoury braising sauce, incorporating mushrooms and marsala. Alongside, a little angel hair pasta topped simply with slivers of garlic. This was a superbly conceived and executed plate of food.

For dessert, we shared a tiramisu. Now, I have my “gold standard” of how a tiramisu should taste. That comes from a restaurant near home and I’m sorry to say Marcello’s didn’t match it. It was overly sweet and, whilst there was a good hit from coffee, I couldn’t detect booze. But it was all OK – well, none of it was left on the plate.

We thoroughly enjoyed our evening. I rate this my most enjoyable dinner in our three week trip to America. Not the best individual dishes, but the best overall experience. My companion in life doesn’t rave over quite as much – she preferred a meal she ate in New Orleans.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold