A nice local place
There is a restaurant in the City that gets good reviews called 54 Mint, which we haven’t been to yet. Then a couple of days ago I heard that they opened a branch in Concord, in the shopping center at the corner of Oak Grove and Treat, next to Trader Joes. So tonight I took Gail and we tried it.
It isn’t anything fancy–a storefront in a strip mall. Their “patio” is 5 tables set on the sidewalk in front, bordering on the parking lot. They don’t have any overhead heating elements, but I expect that they will want to get them installed before the cooler weather sets in–they need the seating.
Inside, the design is strange because the kitchen area is larger than the dining area–easy for the cooks, but a waste of space. There is a counter where they put thing out at lunch, which is a very informal affair in this location, a hand-written menu board which we were completely unable to read, and seating for perhaps 35 inside.
They were quite busy when we got there at 6:45, but we managed to score a table because someone cancelled their reservation. I didn’t make a reservation, which I normally do, because they are not on Opentable–they use that system in San Francisco, but feel that the Concord outlet is too small to justify it.
Everyone who works there is Italian–like fresh off the boat Italian. The service is great and the accents make you think you’re in Rome. So, fortunately, does the food.
They don’t offer a simple house salad. Gail and I split the Caprese con Mozzarella di Bufala ($12), fresh tomato slices with pesto and a huge ball of exquisite fresh mozzarella. She didn’t think we could eat all that cheese, but it is so light and airy we had no problem at all.
Gail’s entreé was the Scaloppine di Vitello al Marsala di Sicilia con Ragu di Funghi e Polenta ($23), which is the Italian way to say Veal Scallopine with Marsala and mushrooms on polenta. I don’t cook much veal and absolutely NO mushrooms, so this was something she’s never going to get in our house. Gail loved it all; I tried a tiny bit of the polenta which was uncontaminated with mushroom, and it was great.
My dinner was the Fettucine al Pesto Trapanese ($15), which is advertised as including fresh tomatoes, but there were none present. Nonetheless, I love fettucine al pesto, and this was a good one. In an interesting twist most likely related to the market price of pine nuts, they make this pesto with almonds, which cost less than half what the traditional pignoli cost. The pasta tasted homemade, the pesto was perfect, I scarfed every bit of it.
The wine list is entirely Italian, as you might suppose. Whatever they gave Gail when she asked for “something like Savignon Blanc” seem to go down well. My iced tea was just fine.
So we like 54 Mint. It isn’t fancy, but it’s a great local place for a good Italian meal without much in the way of pretension. There are place mats instead of tablecloths, but the napkins are cloth. The silverware comes from IKEA, which is smart in this economy. We’ll be going there again.