Cristiano’s daily Facebook posts detailing the evening’s dinner specials keep us going back to what would typically be a once-a-year kind of restaurant. This time, we seized upon our good friend Brandon coming to visit as an excuse to go back. As it turns out, Cristiano is an excellent choice for both a romantic date and a fun dinner with friends.
Having only decided to go at the last minute, we didn’t make a reservation and had to wait for a little while in Cristiano’s lounge. It’s an extremely interesting space, dark and filled with eclectic leather furniture. There’s a nice bar in the front and a few sets of sofas and chairs separated into their own intimate seating areas. A group of people to our side were sharing some appetizers at a low table. I’d like to go back some time and make a meal out of Cristiano’s appetizers in the lounge some day. My only complaint would be the odd vibe the club music creates with the unique decor.
Once we were seated, Brandon coaxed us away from our usual decision to order a carafe of the house red wine and instead go with a bottle of Riesling. Lindsay and I usually stick to reds, but the chilled bottle of semi-sweet white went well with our meal.
We started our meal with an unintentional tomato feast. The bruschetta was overflowing with so much diced seasoned tomato it was hard to see the crostinis underneath. It was a bit difficult to eat with every bite unleashing an avalanche of tangy bright red tomato onto our plates. This worked out in our favor, though, as the little bit of greens served beside the bruschetta were perfect for scooping up the leftovers.
We also had the fried green tomatoes, which turned out to be my favorite part of the entire meal. The three medallions of fried tomato were topped with a cold crabmeat remoulade. The dynamic between the cold, rich crab and the piping hot tomato combining with each bite made me regret, if just for a moment, that I had to share the appetizer.
Lindsay, once again, got the daily gnocchi: brie gratinee. Each miniature potato dumpling was so rich and creamy. Our waiter confirmed our suspicion that the gnocchi isn’t typically served as its own entree when he asked if Lindsay wanted a double portion, but the incredible richness makes it the perfect centerpiece of a multi-course meal. If Lindsay wasn’t already content enough with her choice, it turned out to be only nine bucks.
Brandon went with the family recipe lasagna. He raved about the way it was served with the sauce on the side, maintaining the pasta’s texture through every bite.
I was finally able to get the anatra, the summer menu’s duck confit entree that they ran out of the first time we came to sample the seasonal dishes. The duck leg was coated with a sweet candied fig sauce. On their own, the skin would have been too sweet, and the meat within too salty, but together they were two powerful flavors balancing out into one delicious bite. The sauteed arugula and duck fat roasted potatoes served with it were equally powerful and tasty.
We decided to hear the evening’s desserts, listening for something that the three of us could share, but nothing really struck a chord with us until we inquired further. Only then did we learn that Cristiano offers a gelato sampler, a choice of three out of four flavors. Chocolate-covered bacon immediately jumped out as the flavor we had to try, accompanied by Zabaione and chocolate (maybe we’ll try vanilla another time.) The three of us went through the flavors in order, ending with the bacon. It had a subtle smoky flavor that worked well with the chocolate. There was no gimmick to it like you would imagine hearing “bacon gelato.” I’d order it again.
This meal was more of a special occasion than our last couple visits, but I’m always thrilled to find something new and delicious at Cristiano. We don’t need to go all out every visit ordering wine, multiple appetizers, seasonal entrees, and dessert every time. We’ve had just as good a time making a meal out of appetizers, ordering the cheaper plates of gnocchi and risotto, and getting ice cream up the road at the Scarlet Scoop for dessert. So far, Cristiano hasn’t disappointed in letting us have the meal we want, no matter the occasion.
Cristiano Ristorante | 724 High St, Houma, LA, (985) 223-1130