Last night started inauspiciously: the Wallyhood’s “date night” was canceled at the last minute due to an unexpectedly crabby Baby Z. Disappointment was palpable.
Still, we decided to make the best of it and loaded baby Z into his stroller (the BOB, not the dangerous one) and headed out for a lulling walk through Wallingford. We found ourselves on 45th near Wallingford Center, where we remembered that Avila (1711 N. 45th Street), the new restaurant Alex Pitt and Jared Carpenter have built where Bella Cosa used to stand, opened this past Tuesday. Baby Z had finally agreed to sleep, so we snuck in for a bite.
The transformation from upscale lunch deli to fine dining was remarkable. The layout, the lighting, the wood, the waiters in their sharp black, everything created an ambiance of something special (which, when your date night has just been dashed by a crying a baby, is something special indeed).
The menu was filled with intriguing and sometimes intimidating options: smoked salmon and crawfish strudel, sauteed frogs legs with parsley bouillon and sweet garlic, crispy walleye pike with scallion pierogies and bacon hash. We decided to go with what we liked, while still pushing the envelope a tad:
- baked gnocchi, dungeness crab, horseradish breadcrumbs
- soup of young radish, bone marrow beignets
- spinach ravioli, pumpkin veloute, chanterelle mushrooms
- loin of roosevelt elk, gingerbread, huckleberries, pumpkins, chestnuts
It was all delicious. Even the bread that came with the meal was remarkable: chewy, dense and moist. We’d have taken a lighter hand to the salt in the soup and may have opted for a firmer gnocchi, but oh, dipping the bone marrow beignets in the young radish was heaven, and the roosevelt elk with the gingerbread and huckleberries just melted in the mouth. (Apparently, we got the last of the elk, though: they’ll be replacing it with a duck dish, shortly).
Even Baby Z, who opened his eyes as we finished our appetizers, found himself enchanted with the food, and sunk from a fretful waking into a quiet delirium as he munched the huckleberries from around the elk.
We got a tour of the house from new front house manager, Peter, and appreciated Alex pulling himself away from his very active kitchen to say hi. The back deck is going to be a favorite spot in the summers, and they’re in the process of finishing off the upstairs dining room, which is available for private parties.
Congratulations again. We’re looking forward to seeing what they have for Sunday brunch.