Like many in the city whose last name ends in a vowel, members of my family are incredibly picky about Italian food. I grew up wielding cutlery, arguing about the exact recipe of the family sauce and working on the 17 unique enunciations of the word fuhgeddaboudit. Great Italian food was rumored in Germantown, so my Calabrian famiglia set off to explore.
With many bars and eateries on Goss Avenue going for more of a kitschy, dive feel, Sarino brings a modern, high-end ambiance along with great veggie, gluten-free Italian cuisine (Goss Avenue is quickly becoming the new Nulu of Louisville’s food and bar scene).
As our foursome including my wife and parents walked into Sarino on a warm Sunday evening, America’s “A Horse with No Name” was playing in the background. I was surprised by size of the establishment. Sarino stands out among Germantown eateries for several reasons: It is a relatively new building with high ceilings and modern fixtures and has a large, covered, outdoor courtyard. It is blessed with a large parking lot as well as on street parking.
There are several options for vegetarians on the appetizer menu, including the concha artichoke fritters and stewed eggplant, so one might be tempted to fill up before ordering a main course. The cheese and charcuterie build-your-own option has a variety of cheeses and enough specialty meats to give me gout by just reading the list. All of the pizzas and pastas can be made gluten-free. Most entrées are meat-related, although the eggplant Parm seems to be a local favorite for vegetarians.
The alcohol: The wine list is dominated by Italian classics, and Sarino also has a proper bourbon and spirits menu as well as an Italian wine flight option to mix and match some tastes without having to go all full-commitment on a glass of wine. Perfect for millennials.
Dad had a classic bloody mary ($9), while the rest of us drank Guerrieri Rizzardi Soave Classico ($39) (pronounced swa-vay, or as my wife Hope pronounces it, “gulp, gulp, gulp.”)
For the table, we started with the build-your-own charcuterie option ($21). We chose three cheeses and one dead animal: samples of a Parmigiana Reggiano aged 2 years, fontina, a dolce Gorgonzola and, on a separate plate, thinly sliced smoked duck for Dad. To accent the meat and cheeses, the platter had dollops of orange marmalade, a rich, eggplant caponata (also available as a standalone starter), crostini and green olives (pits in). We explored the combinations of flavors and bites with the strong Gorgonzola. A bit of stewed eggplant was my favorite.
We took our time nibbling, chatting and working on a food ordering strategy like we were the group tasked with bringing Apollo 13 home safely. Hope and I split a delicious Caprese salad. Our halves were plated separately so Hope could add shrimp as a little protein sidecar ($9 plus $5 for Hope’s shrimp).
The meat eaters were happy. Dad’s Bolognese ($17) was a generous bowl of pasta with meat sauce and Parmesan cheese on top, wafting smells of tomatoes and carnage. Mom‘s chicken saltimbocca ($17) included two, huge chicken breasts smothered in prosciutto and white wine sauce over a cauliflower puree with a healthy side of Brussels sprouts on the side.
Hope and I ordered the Sicilian mushroom pizza (I assume so named because the mushrooms cut each other). At $16 plus $2 for the gluten free crust, it was definitely enough for two to split, with Kalamata olives, huge chunks of mushrooms, capers, mozzarella and a reappearance of the stewed eggplant. Most impressive: The gluten-free crust was excellent. Gluten-free crusts are becoming more popular, but finding a good one is as rare as a Sasquatch sighting… or seeing someone use a turn signal on the Watterson.
As my mom and Hope considered new wine options and my dad called it one and done with his cocktail, I decided to explore the house cocktail specialties. Our server recommended the Negroni. Being a fan of gin, Campari and bad decisions, it seemed like a great end to a great meal. Also, if you are doing a progressive meal through Germantown eateries, you might want to stop in for a digestivo and a dessert such as an authentic cannoli, custard and berries or pistachio gelato. •