Meals I've Eaten, Issues I've Seen & Operations Advice


Day 3 of Restaurant Week- Nostrano

People always ask me what my favorite restaurant is. Being a restaurant consultant and former health inspector, I understand the question, but it is rarely a simple answer. Recommendations depend on what you’re in the mood for…ethnic, vegetarian, breakfast, fine dining, etc.  Since Nostrano arrived on the Madison scene in 2010, they have consistently been at the top of my list when I recommend fine dining, desserts and cocktails.  What Nostrano really excels at is obsessing over the details.  I love that because it’s I obsess about with my clients. Nostrano gets almost everything right……..

Here were our RW options.

Sq soupFirst Course: Squash Soup (with Cocoa Spätzli, Pumpkin Seeds, Smoked Maple & Sage)

Bleu Mont Cheese Salad (Winter Greens, Willi’s Bandaged Cheddar, Pickled Pears, Cipollini, Mostarda, Walnut Sourdough).

Salad (2)If you are wondering what half of this is, that’s half the fun of Nostrano…they are always introducing their guests to new and interesting food (a lot of it local or house made).  My favorite first coarse item was the additive Mostarda , an Italian born spread made of candied fruit and mustard in a thick syrup.  The salad was lightly dressed, but nothing to write home about with the exception of the Bandaged Cheddar shavings (always one of my favorite local cheeses).  The creamy squash soup was perfect for a cold day and helped keep us warm in a cold dining room (Nostrano suffers from a single front door and small dining space that is filled with cold air anytime a new guest arrives). The room temperature should be adjusted to offset this.

Second courseOrecchiette (Rapini Pesto, Spicy Chicken Sausage, Broccolini, Pistachios, Fiore Sardo) Smoked Pork Shank Sandwich (Giardiniera, Grain Mustard, Pickled Red Onion, Grilled Focaccia).

Smk pork

Bread and pasta are two things Nostrano really excels at.  Every type I’ve had there has been amazing! I wish more restaurants would follow their lead and strive for better bread options. The Orecchiette had a great balance of flavors, spice and a
glorious green color for presentation bonus points. The pork sandwich, recommended by my server, was all the things I was looking for in a pork sandwich the day before. Smoky, juicy, a spicy kick from the giardiniera and rounded out by the mustard and pickled onion. All that on Nostrano’s grilled focaccia. Simply fantastic flavor!

Nostrano creates some of the best and most beautiful desserts in Madison.  We choose the Basque Cake (with Pink Lady Apples, Zabaglione, Marcona Almonds & Molasses Gelato) and the Baked Ganache (Candied Kumquats, Crispy Meringue, Toasted Walnuts, Cinnamon Gelato).

Basque cakeThe Basque Cake was undercooked in the center, but crisp on the outsides.  The delicate pink lady apples steal the show on the plate and leave you wondering, “How’d they do that?”  The molasses and cinnamon gelato are unique and flavorful, but, in our opinion, weren’t the ideal pairing with the desserts.  Five was a crowd on the baked ganache plate.  The ganache and amazing candied kumquats deserve a room of their own to continue the love affair. Divine!Ganache


As I said, I think Nostrano gets it almost all right.  I love the details, I love the decor, I love the cocktails (except their $11 price tag for a 1950’s sized glass) and I clearly love the food.  What I don’t love is the cold. The room and the service need the warmth turned up.  It’s always professional and knowledgeable, but also detached.  I’d love to see some Midwest nice make it onto the menu.






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