IT IS 7:30 IN THE EVENING, AND WE ARE SEATED BY THE WINDOW JUST AS THE SUN IS SETTING AT SUD ITALIA, A CHARMING ITALIAN RESTAURANT IN RICE VILLAGE. OUT FRONT, THE LARGE WOODEN PORCH, ILLUMINATED BY STRING LIGHTS, IS AT CAPACITY. INSIDE, THE MAIN DINING ROOM IS SOFTLY LIT BY WARM, DIFFUSE LIGHT – THE ENTIRE TABLEAU A LITTLE BIT FUZZY AND CHARMINGLY ROMANTIC.
We’ve just been greeted at the door by SHANON SCOTT, the restaurant’s pro- prietor. He’s wearing an immaculately cut black suit over a starched white shirt open at the collar, a pressed handkerchief peeping out of his breast pocket, and though it’s a little formal for the Rice Village neigh- borhood crowd, it fits the kind the experience he’s trying to give his cus- tomers.
“Welcome to my home,” he says with warm sincerity. “Relax. Enjoy. The table is yours for the evening.”
If you’ve never been to Sud Italia, be forewarned: The portions are generous. I didn’t know this when I ordered three appetizers, each large enough to feed four. There was the beautiful tower of an heirloom tomato and burrata salad – thick-cut rounds of tomato stacked upon each other with burrata in between. This was followed by one of the most gorgeous platings of octopus carpaccio I’d ever seen, a work of art made of paper-thin shavings of purple and white tentacles spread out in an almost paisley pattern. An Italian sausage appetizer in tomato sauce was too much, so we boxed most of it to go.
Our mains were impressive: U-8 scallops at least four inches in diameter, and tasting as fresh as if they’ve been lifted out of the ocean the day before. A whole roasted branzino caught that day and served tableside with the bones carefully removed by our server, was also of the highest quality.
But what most captured the spirit of Sud Italia was Puglian dish of Rizzo, Patate e Cozze (rice, potatoes and mussels), a hometown speciality by chef Sandro Scarafile. Served in a cast iron skillet, it was something you’d picture coming out of the kitchen of an Italian coastal town – hearty and delicious.
In Italy, dining is a relaxing, drawn out affair that lasts several hours, something that Scott and his wife really enjoyed during their many travels there. This is the experience they make sure you have when you visit their restaurant, right down to the delectable house-made tiramisu you can’t help but finish, and Scott’s strongly sweet limoncello, which invites you to linger beyond the natural conclusion of your meal.
FRITTATA DI VERDURE Roasted eggplant, zucchini,
yellow squash and asparagus served with fresh fruit $10
AL GRANCHIO Jumbo lump crab meat, heart of lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes with a roasted bell pepper dressing $16
RIGATONI ALLA NORMA Rigatoni tossed in a tomato stew sauce with diced eggplant and ricotta salata with a light marinara $12
SALMONE AFFUMICATO Homemade smoked salmon and fresh asparagus with a dill caper dressing $15
STROZZAPRETI ALLA SCOGLIO Strozzapreti pasta tossed with calamari and garlic $16
ZUPPA DI MARE Homeade stew of clams, mussels, calamari, red snapper, vegetables and fresh herbs in a light tomato broth $26
BRANZINO AL FORNO Whole Mediterranean sea bass oven roasted and carved table-side $39