Though it’s just an ordinary Tuesday night, there’s nothing ordinary about a meal at Ticino. First is the discovery of the restaurant: tucked into the Avon Center, Ticino may be a bit more difficult to find, but it’s worth the effort. Just take the pedestrian walkway around the building and walk up onto the patio. If the weather is nice, grab a seat outside.
Say hello to Charles Frey, the owner, who is inevitably bustling around, speaking to customers and bantering with the staff. Glancing at the kitchen is first and foremost, with the delectable smell of baking bread and melting cheese wafting from the wood-fire pizza oven. After ordering a glass of red wine that Charles is happy to recommend — when in Rome, after all — start to peruse the menu.
Be forewarned: It’s an almost Herculean task to decide what to order, choosing between wood-fire baked pizza, homemade pasta and the selection of main courses, not to mention the appetizers and salads. While escargot may be considered a French dish, it would behoove you to sample Ticino’s escargot, which is a rustic and uncomplicated version featuring the tender gastropods lounging in a bath of butter studded with herbs and spices. To turn up the heat, try the stuffed peppers; the prosciutto wrapped around the jalapeños adds a wonderful smoky flavor to the spicy dish.
“It’s all about fresh, homemade food at a reasonable price,” says Frey.
That’s exactly what you’ll get at Ticino, proving that excellent ingredients combined in just the right way make for an excellent meal. Take the Costolette di Vitello, for example: slow braised veal short ribs in a white wine citrus jus. The recipe is a collaboration between Frey and his son, who played with the flavors until it was a perfect marriage between traditional and modern, the citrus adding a tartness that is not usually found in the rich dish.
Don’t worry about delicacy when enjoying this dish, explains Bernardo, who has been working at Ticino almost since it opened. Just make sure you get all of the sauce and the ribs. Advice doesn’t get much better than that.
When dinner is over, make sure that there’s a bit of room left for the homemade panna cotta, which is served in a martini glass topped with a lovely berry sauce, or the traditional tiramisu. Savor the last few bites, and while strains of Puccini soar, and it’s easy to imagine, for a moment, that you’re in Nonna’s kitchen. Charming Frey acts as surrogate padre, providing suggestions and stories while convincing you that no meal is complete without a small sip of homemade limoncello.
It’s useless to argue with family, so go ahead and indulge. It may be just another Tuesday, but there’s no reason that it can’t be special.