Thursday, January 17, 2013

Osteria Ai Galli

"A rooster crows only when it sees the light. Put him in the dark and he'll never crow. I have seen the light and I'm crowing." Muhammad Ali

It's been a few years since I visited Ichnusa Botega & Bistro. I had some great meals there -- what I remember of them, anyway. They always involved copious amounts of wine and lasted at least three hours.

The other thing I remember about Ichnusa was the lack of a written menu. The chef would come out, tell you what ingredients he had available, and what he could make out of them. There was usually some back and forth with the customer before the order was settled.

That's essentially the concept at the Italian restaurant Osteria Ai Galli in Holešovice, up near Letenské náměstí.

The restaurant is on busy Veletržní street.

Inside the entrance, there is a small shop. There are cases with cheeses, salamis, mortadella, and dried fish.
There are also shelves with pasta, balsamic vinegars, coffees, and more.
A few steps further in, there are two small dining areas. One is lined with racks holding wines for sale.
There are just five tables here. They go with paper napkins in this restaurant, rather than cloth.

The other dining area is also quite small. Reservations are recommended. I called once in the afternoon for a Friday night reservation and was told they were full.

The restaurant is dog friendly. I believe this is the owner's friendly dog.
More canines came later.
We sat in the wine rack room. We started off with the house red and white wines.
Both were dry, crisp, and tart. It was a total of 290 CZK for the house-labeled bottle and the carafe. They were simple but drinkable.

The bread was fine, but nothing special.
However, the thick, sweet balsamico and quality olive oil were great complements.
For the first round, we had a cutting covered with mortadella, beautifully soft and silky prosciutto from Marche, and excellent salami from Piemonte (145 CZK).
The cheeses were Asiago and Pecorino. A dish of plump and tender sun-dried tomatoes sat in the middle.

We also had clams in a broth of white wine, garlic, and parsley (165 CZK).
The little clams were fresh and meaty. Very enjoyable.

For a main course, the waiter recommended the monk fish. Miss P asked if it could be done alla Gallipolina --- a style she enjoyed over the summer during a trip to Puglia. He hadn't heard of it, but she described it, and they made it.

The fish rolled in bread crumbs and lightly cooked.
It wasn't done quite the same way as in Italy -- there were no little black grill marks -- but it was fresh, delicate, and much appreciated. The rich sautee of porcini was fantastic. The mix of tomato, aubergine, and celery was tasty.

I had the double veal chop.
One the positive side, the flavor was wonderful. The meat was salted just enough to bring up its rich flavor. On the negative side, the chop was run through with gristle and fat.

With the dull knife I was given, it was hard to cut satisfying and easily chewable slices from it. It could have been great with better veal, but I was disappointed.

The fish and the meat cost 525 CZK and 475 CZK, but I am not sure which was which because the receipt was not clearly itemized. The service was good except it did take too long to get the bill delivered to the table. The total was 1550 CZK without tip.

We sat in the other room on the second visit. We were joined again by our furry friend.
We started with prosecco.
Then they ran out of that, so we had a raboso.
We enjoyed its light, sweet sparkle.

This time, we started with a mix of mussels and clams.
The mussels were plump, fresh, and warm. I would not describe them as hot.

I had homemade tagliatelle with Italian sausage, tomato, and parsley.
The salty sausage was fresh but one-dimensional. To be fair, I've been spoiled by a number of other great Italian sausages lately. The pasta was nice, but cooked a little past the point I like.

Miss P had the shrimp, which she liked very much.
They were cooked to just the right point and kept that special flavor you get when cooking them with the heads and shells on. It was well worth the peeling effort. The salad on the side was nothing to write home about.

I needed to try a dessert. They had tiramisu, but I went for the sweet mascarpone.
Aside from the thick dusting of cocoa on top, the name pretty much says it all. It was sweet, creamy stuff, but I wished I went for the tiramisu.

The tab for this visit came to 1025 CZK before tip.

If Osteria Ai Galli was in my neighborhood, I'd be more than glad.
Some things on their unwritten menu were great, but not everything. They didn't make me want to change my regular Italian restaurant rotation of La Bottega di Finestra and Osteria Da Clara. Miss P is Italian and felt pretty much the same way.

The bottom line is that I liked it. I'm just not crowing about it.

Osteria Ai Galli
Veletržní 71
Prague 7 - Holešovice
Phone: +420 775 439 222
Phone: +420 777 979 858

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