Taste: Reviews: Sophisticated Sovalo

Seasonal cooking and a showcase wine list set this husband-and-wife Italian venture apart

The menu is short — six or seven starters, four pastas, five entrées, and two optional side vegetables—and changes constantly, driven by what’s at the market. This allows Scarpone to focus on doing a few things well, but it can be frustrating if a popular item goes on hiatus. Over three review visits, I never did get to try Scarpone’s signature dish, handmade ravioli filled with caramelized onion, roasted pears and fontina in sage brown butter, though I had many other things that made me very glad he and Karey have settled here.

Foremost among them is the polenta appetizer, a firm baked wedge crusted with grated reggiano parmesan, encircled by creamy taleggio fondue, topped with dandelion leaves and drizzled with a violet-purple vinaigrette based on crushed fresh huckleberries. It’s a heady combination of flavors savory and sweet, and textures coarse and smooth.

Steamed mussels, remarkably plump and grit-free, carry a subtle hot Italian pepper kick in their tomato broth, balanced by an unexpected sweet note of orange zest. Thin slices of prosciutto di Parma, shaved parmesan, peppery arugula and sweet-sour vegetables (onions, red bell pepper, saffron-tinted cauliflower), pickled in-house, make a fine warm-weather antipasto.

Soups get flavor depth from prosciutto broth, made from the hock ends of the ham. And there are extra flourishes: The white bean minestrone is packed with meaty portabella mushrooms from the grill. A pureed soup, made with fresh English peas, simmers with pickled hot peppers that are removed before serving, and is laced with finely chopped sautéed prosciutto.

Salads are colorful. One without greens brings an arrangement of roasted red beets, shaved fennel, orange slices, translucent red onion rings, and cubes of gorgonzola dolce; another is a tumble of soft Bibb lettuce and red romaine, black radish, shaved fennel and red onion, dressed with citrus vinaigrette.
The best of the filled pastas, all made in-house, is chicken-filled tortellini with English peas and vivid green pea juice, made from pureed and strained pea pods. The one dish that uses a dried pasta, a double-twist known as torcetti, is unpleasantly heavy and oily, combining chunks of crusty roasted potatoes, cooked lamb and basil pesto.