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Mambo Italiano

BY BEN VERHILLE | OCTOBER 17, 2013 5:00 AM

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Some of the best things in life are those that are hidden in our everyday lives.

And there’s something to be said about being hidden in plain sight.

Maybe it’s the direction you’re facing, or maybe it’s because you weren’t looking, and nothing exemplifies this better than Baroncini, Ristorante Italiano.

Located on Linn Street near Iowa Avenue, this Italian specialty restaurant is named after its head chef, Chef Gianluca Baroncini.

With experience ranging from culinary school to executive chef status, both in Italy, the Baroncinis have come to Iowa to bring an authentic flavor using local ingredients.

I found this location to be very calm and enjoyable during the lunch hour, but during night, this exquisite venue is more formal — white table cloths and candles on the tables. Try to take it seriously when you are eating here; it might be a special occasion.

This visit will also be an experience; my server was more than attentive and helpful,  actually bringing me extra rolls instead of pretending I didn’t exist. I mean, unlimited isn’t spelled out here like other places, but unlike the garden, they actually bring me more.

The management also makes an appearance here. Both the chef and general manager came out to talk to the guests during my visit. A little above my level, my Achilles heel of food is definitely Italian food, but those of you with a bloodline in Italy would definitely appreciate the conversation.

Just make sure it isn’t too busy — he might be swamped in the kitchen.

But enough about the location — the food is why I came here.

I ordered the Ravioli con Ricotta e Spinaci Nella Crema di Parmiggiano.

I just told them I wanted the ravioli with ricotta and spinach, my Italian isn’t quite so good.

But the ricotta- and spinach-stuffed fresh pasta, served in a Parmesan cheese cream, was more than enough to convince me.

First impressions came from the appearance and aromas of the plate. The cream of Parmesan cheese provided a smell that sent me to a faraway land. The fresh-cracked pepper and grated cheese on top seem to be staples on Italian plates, but the quality is always a cause for concern. Not here.

But the size of the ravioli, the fullness of ingredients inside, that was the biggest disappointment for me. With Chef Boyardee being my personal ravioli cook, I’ve been used to fully stuffed ravioli. This is not the case.

Baroncini is a little better with the ingredients inside, the ricotta cheese and spinach is vastly superior to the taste I normally find inside the ravioli. There just isn’t enough of it to satisfy me.

The highlighted portion of the dish was the only part that there wasn’t enough of. The strongest parts of this plate came from the taste of the pasta itself and the sauce.

Not a place for your pregame, but a place to enjoy an entire course (or three) and follow every avenue of conversation you can imagine.


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