Restaurant: Branca, 683 Pittsford Victor Road, Pittsford NY (585)-310-7415
Chef: Pasquale Sorrentino
The recently opened Branca is already making a name for itself with quality dishes and savory selections. The house-made ricotta featured in the Ricotta speziata pinoli e tartufo, is a highly recommended opening act to your meal. This antipasti selection arrived at the table on a simple, but eye-catching serving board with toasted tribeca baguettes with a side of mushroom truffle sauce. Each of the three elements to the antipasti dish brought something to the conversation. The baguettes; crispy and seasoned the way you’d expect any traditional Italian dish, had hints of familiar flavors without extending too far across your taste buds. After all, the baguette is only a supporting role in this production of flavor.
The next note played is the house-made ricotta. Fluffier than any store-bought cheese, the ricotta is made from scratch with heavy cream from Pittsford Farms Dairy, then churned and separated from the curds using a traditional cheese cloth before being whipped and presented with a visually-pleasing, and tasty, garnish of finely chopped chives. The ricotta has a subtle aroma to it, and a texture that perfectly offsets the platform created by the baguette. Not too powerful of a taste, but certainly an expression of flavor that will keep you interested in the conversation.
Then the truffle joins the chord. The scent of the truffle is subtle, but certainly more demanding to your senses than the ricotta alone. The flavor demands attention and suddenly the conversation becomes much more intense. You’re experiencing a story that your taste buds are unfamiliar with, and they’re hanging on every flavor. Working with truffles is not a common occurrence in Rochester, and Chef Pasquale has a genuine enjoyment of working them into several of his menu items, including this popular appetizer. The combination of all three elements of this dish is where it truly shines. On their own they are all tasty. However, when each element is combined they perform. This dish sets the stage not for dinner, but for an enjoyable dining experience.
Part of the experience is the authenticity in each of the menu items. Chef Pasquale was born in Naples and has brought recipes from home and his travels to the menu at Branca. Popular main courses to round out your appetizer include the gnocchi, the risotto, and a pizza made with an uncooked sauce resulting in an unusual but exceptional result from special plum tomatoes straight from Italy. Be on the look out for more seasonal menu items, but don’t worry about missing out on the Ricotta speziata pinoli e tartufo, as it is a permanent fixture on the menu.
-Nick Palermo, A-List Contributor