Andiamo buonissimo and Jen’s new start

    Jen‘s been pushing me to push this post out of the drafts, just as I’ve been pushing her to publish her very first post on Where’s the Seitan?, her blooming, Chicago-based vegan food blog. Her lively, conversational writing draws you in, just as Jen herself. 🙂 When she reaches a million views per month, I hope she’ll still like to share a meal and talks about movies with the humble me.

    During lunch break on Tuesday, after a fantastic plate of fresh fruits and cucumbers at the cafeteria (if I eat at St. John cafeteria long enough I’d turn into a fruitarian), we could hardly wait until dinner to eat something real, so we dived into Yelp and Google Maps in search of a “good but inexpensive” place (Jen’s request) closed enough to the bus stop. Coins were tossed, rock-paper-scissor was played, phone calls were made, decisions were revised, and a reservation was confirmed: 7:15 pm at Andiamo.

    Our group has diversity: one strict vegan, one vegetarian who loves goat cheese, one omnivore who is allergic to all dairy except butter, one omnivore who doesn’t like goat cheese and doesn’t really care about any cheese, and one omnivore who loves potatoes. We start off sharing some Roasted Beet Salad ($7.75) and Caponata Bruschetta (eggplant bruschetta, $7.5). Cheese on the side.

    The soft but not mushy eggplant, sauteed and deeply seasoned with balsamic vinaigrette, offers a nice contrast with the toast. Nonetheless, it loses to the refreshing simplicity of the roasted beet.

    Even more points for the beet salad is the tapenade on the accompanying focaccia slice, which reminds me of pâté, and anything that reminds me of pâté reminds me of joy.

    I asked the vegetarian who loves goat cheese to rate her Chilled Gazpacho (vegetable soup, $5.5) from 1 to 5, with 5 being the best, and her response was a shrugging 3. I forgot to ask about her main course, but judging from her smile eating that slice of Pizza Margherita (mozzarella, parmesan, basil and tomato, $8.25), I think she would give it a 4.5.

    The omnivore who loves potatoes ordered, surprisingly, the Chicken Marsala with roasted fingerling potatoes ($16.5). I would admit that for a second, I was wondering why an Italian place would serve Indian food, but the Marsala with an “r” is the name of the wine used to make a stark, rich wine reduction sauce for this braised chicken. The potatoes were good, of course.

    The omnivore with dairy-‘cept-butter intolerance offered me to try a tentacle-full squid head in his Spaghetti Puttanesca with Calamari ($14). The tentacles are the best because they soak and store up so much sauce in their bundling-up state. I didn’t try the pasta, but you bet it was some tantalizing red sauce.

    The omnivore with an indifference toward cheese treasures the Crispy Duck Leg. I went with the smaller order ($14.25 vs. $19.75), and it was plenty. The meat fell off the bone, the spinach sleek and sodden with a sweet sauce, the turnip al dente. If I had to complain, it would be about the unnecessary softness of the grilled polenta, it’s simply too homogeneous, like cheese.

    The vegan customized herself a cheese-less pie with portabella (I like how the Italian name has a grander ring to it than “button mushroom”), arugula, roasted zucchini, roasted garlic, basil and olive oil. I can’t describe her pizza better than her, so I won’t even try. The most interesting thing is that she has found a combination on pizza that tastes “almost as good as cheese”.

    And I’ve found a combination that makes Andiamo stand out in my mind when it comes to Italian food: steal potatoes and squid tentacles from the friends’ plates, eat out on the patio in the summer Santa Fe evening, watch the sun sink behind the adobe cake-like houses, and let out a sigh over the empty street, then good food becomes exceptional, and you really feel the lazing peacefulness of this town.

    Address: Andiamo
    322 Garfield Street
    Santa Fe, NM 87501
    (505) 995-9595

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