Dec 30, 2010

A Good Bloody at Blue Grotto

Restaurant: Blue Grotto
Food: Brunch, lunch and dinner w/ Italian flare
Service: Normal waitstaff
Atmosphere: Charming. Features wood fire oven.
Price: Brunch entrees $6-$10, Drinks for $3
Rating: Two napkins

Word is slowly getting out that Blue Grotto, the tasteful Italian/wood-fired pizza restaurant in Brookside, serves a mighty fine brunch—and $3 breakfast cocktails to boot.

We made the trip a couple weeks ago after waking up on a cold weekend morning and thinking brunch near a warm hearth with a bit of alcohol in our bellies would be a great way to ease our way into the frigid day.

There were several folks at the bar when we arrived, each keeping to him or herself and reading a newspaper. Perhaps these were the worst of the hangovers BG was helping nurse that morning. A few other diners were seated in the main sections of the restaurant and a few more trickled in after we were seated. It wasn’t busy, but it wasn’t depressingly slow, either.

We were led to the quaint and scenic upstairs loft area, which gave us a great view of the centrally located open-air kitchen below, where a chef busied himself amid breakfasty ingredients. Being picky about seats, we were quite pleased.

We’d been to Blue Grotto before and found their pizza to be one of the best in the city, if not comparable to the best Napolitano pizzas in bigger cities across the country. But brunch was of particular interest to me because though its dishes often are so similar, the quality can vary so widely. Would Blue Grotto be the soggy, watery and unripe type? Or would it be among those that stand above?

The first advantage of Blue Grotto’s brunch is that it is not a buffet. No Styrofoam eggs tasting of metal chafing dishes. No sterno-burnt pancakes or overly greasy, soggy bacon inadvertently poached in its own rendered grease. All the dishes appeared to come straight out of that stone oven that ascends from the back of the kitchen on the ground floor all the way up to the ceiling, infusing the dishes placed inside with beautiful wood fire scent.

After giving our orders, we were brought our $3 – yes, $3 – drinks: a bloody mary for me and a mimosa for Elizabeth. The bloody came in a boulevard pint glass with a wedge of lime and spear of three pimento-stuffed green olives. Plenty of girth to appease my rumbling stomach. It was perfectly done, spicy but not too spicy, thick but not too thick. No huge chunks of garlic of horseradish to chomp, which I find a little off-putting at that hour of the day… in a drink. I honestly can’t claim to have had a better bloody mary ever. Mimosas tend to be uniform, but this one was at least served in a pretty tall glass. It, too, hit the spot.

Service was quite slow. There only appeared to be one server but from our bird’s eye point of view, we saw both the chef and the bartender roll their eyes and complain to each other about her performance while we were there. We became slightly agitated with the wait but our food came before we ever came close to complaining. Those who are apt to complain, though, may have done so. Still, she was friendly and we were quite content to sip our delicious beverages as we shook off the cobwebs.

The menu is in a small state of flux as told to us by our server. Currently they list things like Panne Fratau, Pizza Benedict, Omelet, Quiche, B&G, Corned Beef Hash, French Toast and Granola. I ordered a staple, the Biscuits and Sausage Gravy. Elizabeth ended up choosing the Omelet.

I can’t say there was anything exceptional about the B&G, except that it was B&G, which, to me, is always exceptional. I would marry a plate of biscuits and sausage gravy if I could. In fact, I made a point of making B&G with my brother on the morning of my wedding as a sort of “last breakfast” before taking the plunge. And those B&G were comparable to the ones at Blue Grotto.

The biscuits were delicious – a brown crusty exterior protecting a light, fluffy interior. Certainly seemed to be made from scratch. The gravy seemed a little lacking in sausage flavor somehow, though I think I like an unusually high proportion of meat in my sausage gravy.

Elizabeth’s omelet surprised me. It was the best-cooked omelet I’d ever had (hopefully the photo of it here shows that), which is to say that it wasn’t at all overcooked. So often an omelet is overdone on the outside – airy and dry - with uncooked, watery ingredients inside. This one, filled with artichokes, peperonata and asiago cheese, was uniformly correct in its doneness and such a pleasure to eat. The savory artichokes and peppers were just right for that “I’m not breakfast but I’m not lunch” meal.

Being honest, the cubes of herbed breakfast potatoes on the side were terrific, too. So much flavor from the freshly chopped herbs. The salad on the side was a total throwaway – just lettuce and a little vinaigrette. Something a little more inventive could have been better paired with the dish.

Each of us received a ramekin of fruit on the side – cantaloupe and red grapes. They weren’t especially great, but requisite, I guess.

And so it was, in the end, a satisfactory brunch, indeed. There are more inspired options in town, but if a breakfast cocktail is on your mind, Blue Grotto gets a big leg up on the competition. That bloody mary was a standout.

Rating: two napkins

Blue Grotto on Urbanspoon

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