As mentioned in a previous entry, Nostrano opened Oct. 7 in the space formerly occupied by Peppino’s. It’s an Italian restaurant that follows the same formula as other nearby restaurants, such as 43 North, in which portions are small relative to the price.
While the newly remodeled space–which includes a larger bar–is impressive, the food was not. For example, the braised beef shortribs weren’t tender (they should melt in your mouth) and the accompanying gnocchi needed more of the sauce to give it some life.
Meanwhile, the crispy chicken thighs were just ordinary, though the fennel puree helped provide some contrast in texture. I was looking forward to the grilled sturgeon, a rarity on Madison menus, but after eating it I wish I had ordered something else, as the fish just didn’t seem to mesh well with its accompanying salsa verde and chickpea aioli.
Dessert is a specialty of one of the co-owners, so we made room. We tried the crema, which featured milk chocolate cream and pumpkin sponge, a tasty combo. We also had the sorbetto, a plate of pomelo sorbet, white chocolate mousse, tapioca and elderflower. The presentation was nice, but the elderflower did not belong on this plate. The mousse was very good and helped an otherwise so-so sorbet.
The specialty cocktail menu was a robust list of original concoctions, but at $9 each, they were a bit steep. For reference, I had the cognac old fashioned and the Our Word (gin and chartreuse).
Other oddities: we went on a Monday night and were the first in the restaurant, yet the hostess was hesistant to seat us without a reservation (only two other groups came in during the time we ate) … our waitress didn’t bring us any bread, despite bringing the other two tables bread (we didn’t say anything to see if she would notice) … our food took so long to make that they brought each entree out one-by-one.
Nostrano is open for dinner Monday-Saturday.
See more photos.