Nosh has often seemed like the downstairs stepchild of upstairs Silo. But with the hiring of the energetic Luca Della Casa as capo della cucina there is every reason to expect that, despite its limited menu of mainly small plates, the place will begin to distinguish itself as a destination in its own right.
Della Casa's culinary skills were honed locally in the kitchens of Le Rêve and Il Sogno, but in the Nosh menu it's clear that his Italian grandmother still casts a long shadow. Listed under "snacks," the arancini (risotto balls with peas and parmesan), similar to the Roman suppli, are coated in breadcrumbs, fried, and served with a marinara sauce. They're perfect, pop-in-your-mouth bites and needed only a little salt to pop themselves. I doubt that la nonna did fried chickpeas, but if she had, I'd bet she might have fried them just a touch longer and been a bit more brave with the cumin, fennel, and curry. Wild boar sliders with jalapeño and parmesan sound like a modern mix of Tuscany with Tex-Mex, and I leave these to you to try.
Under the "small plates" column, we find salt cod ravioli, a dish I can well envision nonna making, and as I don't imagine salt cod being on most American's culinary bucket list, it's ballsy of Della Casa to do it. Served in a light tomato "water" accented with bonito flakes, the ravioli are exquisitely delicate, the fish just assertive enough. More conventional, yet still light years away from red-sauce Italian, is the maltagliati pasta (literally "badly cut") with Spanish chorizo, wild mushrooms, and arugula; it's full of flavor but still understated. Also somewhat subtle, but less successfully so, was the sashimi of Atlantic salmon with a slaw of fennel and matchsticks of fresh pineapple. With a better fish, say a wild coho from the Pacific Northwest, this dish might work, but farmed Atlantic salmon simply doesn't rise to the occasion.
It's rare to find a house salad even worth mentioning, let alone one worth raving about. But Nosh's house with arugula, thinly shaved carrots, and pickled radish in a light, citrusy dressing would be ideal either as a palate-cleansing finale or a perky, pump primer. I could only ask for more radish; the quick pickle deserves a dish of its own. And if I had thought even farther ahead, I might have saved more arugula to toss on "the bomb" pizza.
Nosh may be enjoying an enhanced profile, but the kitchen is still small, leaving no room for a pizza oven. As a result, Della Casa partially bakes crusts, and when an order comes in the crust is topped, grilled, then run under the salamander for a final broiling. This may sound like an indignity where crust is concerned, but the result is anything but compromised, and if nonna might have looked sideways at using Sriracha in the spicy tomato sauce, she could hardly disagree with the result: combined with soppressata, just the right amount of capers, slivered red onion, a judicious amount of mozzarella, and cilantro, this is a true bomb of a pizza in the best sense. A drizzle of oil from a jar of Sicilian peppers adds the perfect final touch — as does that bit of saved arugula. All that remains to complete the picture is a punchy beer such as the "extravagantly hopped" West Coast Green Flash IPA.
I'm told that the tiramisu is indeed la nonna's recipe, no speculation required. I will, however, bet that she might not disapprove of serving it a little warmer. Apart from that, brava la nonna. And bravo Nosh.
1133 Austin Hwy,
Best Bets Arancini, salt cod ravioli, maltagliata pasta, the house salad, and "the bomb" pizza
Hours 11-11 Tue-Sat