tom valenti is a rockstar. i got to eat at valenti's new trattoria (on the UWS, of course), 'cesca, on friday night and it was fucking great. service is really warm and accomodating. i was with a couple new acquaintances, and i'd forgotten that 13-year olds don't really eat out in places like 'cesca. so it was kind of funny that amy ordered milk with her dinner, but the server didn't bat an eye and whisked it right over with our wine (and in a wineglass, to boot). to start, i had the sardine, butterflied and breadcrumbed, with poached egg and asparagus. taaasty. but even better was amy's roasted mushroom, polenta and sheep cheese dish. like the best cheese grits you ever had. amy's mom had the garlic soup, a really beautifully aromatic broth with chips of garlic softened and mellowed from cooking and a huge crouton to soak up all the goodness. i've been trying to determine what lends the broth its milky coloring. my main course was the gnocchi, perfect little pillowy clouds, covered with a savory braised duck (that was heavy on celery). amy had the chicken ragu; her mom, the shrimp raviolini -- which has to be one of the most amazing filled pastas i've ever tasted. the flavors had this remarkable intensity -- sweet shrimp with a follow-up black peppery kick-in-the-pants. wow. i thought the much-lauded pizzelle with pistachio gelato was alright, but i think i might have been too stuffed to properly appreciate it.


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