For the Gourmet Walks summertime staff meeting, we headed to NOPA, one of the neighborhoods featured on our walking food tours. On a dubiously warm summer evening, we gathered on Ragazza's outdoor terrace to share stories, taste chocolate, and eat a delicious family-style meal together. Not having eaten at Ragazza since our summer staff meeting in 2013, I was excited to see how the menu evolved.
The meal commenced with warm olives seasoned with lemon and rosemary. The pitted olives shriveled like prunes and blackened like a roasted pepper. Served in an elongated casserole dish, the olive green, licorice black, cafe noir colored olives carried their own distinctive flavor, despite being seasoned with the same ingredients. This was a a fun finger-food appetizer to start off our Italian meal with a California twist.
One of my favorite things at Ragazza that never escapes the menu is the arancini. These are rice balls stuffed with smoked mozzarella, coated in breadcrumbs, fried and then served in a bath of spicy tomato sauce.
Fresh, hand-pulled mozzarella outlined our first summer salad of farro, corn, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and purslane. With notes of cashew and the tang of the vinaigrette, this is a great variation from a heirloom tomato and mozzarella salad.
The house favorite salad is this little gem lettuces salad with avocado, radish and green goddess dressing. Creamy but crisp in texture, it is easy to see why this is their most popular salad.
Next, three thinly rolled pizzas with bubbling crusts popped out of the oven. We tried the Moto Pizza which was heaviest on the meat and sauce with tomato, chiles, mushrooms, red onion, mozzarella and sausage. We tried a white pizza, "Bianca Pizza", with onion crema, shaved garlic, preserved lemon and arugula. My favorite was the Heirloom Tomato Pizza with mozzarella, applewood bacon, basil and wild arugula. The thick slices of tomato popped on the table with their vibrant red color and cap of green arugula.
For dessert we shared a generous portion of traditional Italian desserts. The tiramisu, which means "pick me up cake" in Italian due to its coffee flavor, came served in three large square slices. The coffee dipped ladyfingers were layered in a sweet mixture of eggs, sugar, and mascarpone cheese and dusted with cocoa. Easy to taste by the spoonful, this is a great dish to pass around the table. The olive oil cake is a moist and dense Sicilian inspired cake. Rich in flavor, the freshly whipped cream on top only enhances the luscious mouth-feel texture.
See you next time, Ragazza! It is always a treat dining here with the Gourmet Walks team.