Info at : www.nostranomadison.com

So I had to choose a place for me and my two employers to eat today. This was extremely stressful. In a panic I threw out a suggestion that was as unobjectionable and as boring as possible: Olive Garden.

THIS WAS NOT ONE OF MY BETTER MOMENTS.

One of them now won’t stop making fun of me.

After the merciless teasing over my restaurant choice I decided on either Fugu or Nostrano, and we went to Nostrano.

Great service, nice venue. As usual, I got a charcuterie plate. I usually frown on crostini but their slices weren’t nearly as painful to eat as, say, Underground Kitchen’s. I guess I shouldn’t say bad things about Underground Kitchen, since they burned down it’s kind of like saying bad things about a dead person. But for the record it wasn’t that good.

Their rillette was the best I have had in Madison so far. It was incredibly creamy and did not feel fatty at all. The sealing layer of fat doesn’t count. The country style pâté with pistachios was interesting, but the pistachios did not add a lot to the flavor, and the extra texture isn’t important to me in a pâté. Flavor is important to me in a pâté, and this one wasn’t memorable. The entire plate could have used a third element, something slightly saltier. The whole grain mustard was good, the other pickles were sparse and merely ok.

I was disappointed that the carnaroli risotto I had planned to order was not on today’s menu. I made do with a seafood brodetto. Drawing my spoon across the bottom of the plate, there was a noticeable amount of grit, and there was also grit when I ate my mussels, but whatever, it’s shellfish. Grit is practically unavoidable. The tomato-fennel broth was lovely, extremely flavorful. The promised chile oil was almost nonexistent, however, and would have been a great addition. The broth was great for drenching bread with, and the bread they served with the stew was perfect. It held up no matter how long I soaked it, and had a very complementary, slightly sour flavor. The bread was a little charred in places though, and went beyond simply imparting a slightly smoky element to just being charred.

I also tried the whole wheat pappardelle with lamb ragu, and that was decent from what I could tell. The noodles had a good texture, and the ragu had pleasant nuances of cinnamon and spices. I really wanted to have a bite with a bit of preserved Meyer lemon because that sounded really good, but didn’t want to poke around too much in someone else’s dish.

All in all, seems like they have good recipes and execution.

Verdict: Good. Would go back sometime in the future.