SANTA FE, N.M. — As soon as the Good Doctor returns to La Villa Real, I plan a disquisition on “Comfort Food” – what constitutes such fare and induces that certain emotional/psychological state, and why.
Until then, I will say that my Comfort Foods have been a moveable feast over the years, from chicken and dumplings (mashed potatoes and gravy will do) to my current CF, a good pasta Bolognese (penne is good) or a lasagna with Bolognese ragout.
Simple, you’d think, but surprising how hard it is to find outside one’s own kitchen.
In need of a bit of CF the other night, we popped into Pizzeria da Lino, a place I’ve passed, and bypassed, a million times over the years. It’s kind of lost in the welter of one-story shops, etc., on the west end of Guadalupe running south from Paseo de Peralta to San Francisco Street..
But the happy, reassuring Italian flag on the sign is the landmark to look for. And just slow down and pull in as there are more parking spots than you think immediately in front of Da Lino and its year-old sibling enterprise, Chili Line Brewing Co., next door.
Inside Da Lino, a cozy bar welcomes (unobtrusive TV, Italian and Chili Line brews, and a more than satisfactory wine list, only). We step into a hall and narrow, smallish rooms with tables (the mirrors help) back to – eccola! – a big, beautiful courtyard, tables under two sturdy elms, potted plants, a couple of dogs (very European, love that) and what is that amazing perfume that lady is wearing? Oh, no perfume … that’s the gorgeous, aromatic, salmon-colored roses in the corner where we sat.
Tranquillo! A courtyard and garden. So Italian. A world beyond the bustling world outside the walls.
Getting down to the business of comforting myself with food, I immediately ordered a pint of Chili Line Llorona Lager ($6.50), superb, and Calamari Fritti ($12), lightly breaded and fried, and NOT greasy and NOT rubbery, but light and delicate and maybe the best I’ve had around here, and I’ve had a lot. Next, I note (probably the last to know this) that Da Lino is owned by the well-known restaurateur and colorful personality, Lino Pertusini, owner of the fine Osteria D’Assisi across from the courthouse, and that the adjoining, accessible Chili Line Brewery Co., with chill, industrial-style bar (also some menu items, and sports on two largish TVs) is owned by Lino’s son, Alexander Pertusini. Pluperfect.
I next note that there are a great many wonderful-looking wood-fired pizzas, but that’s a whole world of essays and it’s the Spaghettini Bolognese I’m after ($14), and ordered. Comfort, thy name is Lino’s classic, Lake Como family recipe of beef, chopped vegetables and tomato-based ragout. Hearty, an exceedingly generous portion, (No veal, and I don’t think it was treated to a bit of cream added to the meat and cooked off before the tomatoes, à la Marcella Hazan’s recipe, but superb.)
My only beef (pun intended) is that – and this is ubiquitous – there is always too much sugo for the pasta. Pasta servings in Italy are essentially coated in their sauces, not overwhelmed by them. Perhaps less sugo or, better yet, a bit more pasta?
The table could not resist the Fettuccine Sophia Loren ($17 … with a joke that perhaps she might have more aptly entitled Spaghetti Putanesca … ) and like the woman herself, it was more than ample and overwhelming, a bursting-out-of-the-bowl serving of more bay shrimp than we could count, sun-dried tomatoes and spinach in a tomato cream sauce. Almost more than the table could handle, and with a dash of fresh ground pepper, absolutely, decadently good.
More than comforting, and the great values at Pizzeria da Lino and Chili Line Brewery are pretty nice, too. And takeout is available, as well. Check ’em out.