Murray Avenue Restaurant Challenge: La Cucina Flegrea

Achievement: #2. Eat at every restaurant on Murray Ave

We had one last big-dinner restaurant on our Murray Ave list, and we chose to try it out on the night of the big World of Warcraft Cataclysm release. I think it goes without saying that an important event like that requires a healthy portion of food in preparation, and what better than a lovely little Italian spot for such a feast?

Unlike 2009, when we ate more than our share of Italian food on this restaurant Achievement (that year, we ate at every restaurant on Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield, which is Pittsburgh’s Little Italy), we really haven’t had much of it aside from the homecooked variety this year. We do love Italian food, but I had been to this last spot once years and years ago and not really liked it, so I was kind of putting it off.

Well, let me just say that the first visit was obviously a fluke, because this place is really fantastic. Maybe I just have a better understanding for true Italian food after being fed the most amazing things for a week in Agropoli on our honeymoon (seriously, if you want the best Italian vacation imaginable, you can’t beat La Colombaia in Agropoli), but we really did love our visit to La Cucina Flegrea.

La Cucina Flegrea
The night started with a bottle of 2007 Cesari Due Torri Pinot Noir and salads in a lovely house dressing, with a basket of thick, crusty bread.

La Cucina Flegrea
We got the calamari appetizer, because I insist on sampling calamari everywhere that offers it. I seem to remember the lack of a dippy sauce being an Italian thing, as well, but the plate was garnished with a lemon, and the delicate breading and lemon flavor made it not require any additional sauce. Quite good!

La Cucina Flegrea
Another thing about authentic Italian cuisine that I found strange at first was the idea that you eat your pasta first, and then your meat dish after. Americanized Italian cooking (like the Olive Garden) brings it all out together, which seems to make more sense – you get to experience the flavors all at once – but there is a benefit to enjoying each dish on its own, and really getting to savor the flavors. For our pasta dish, we got the rigatoni in vodka sauce, which was honestly the best vodka sauce I’ve ever had. Not too heavy, and seasoned well with tomatoes.

La Cucina Flegrea
For our entree, we selected the Pollo con Funghi & Asiago, or chicken with mushrooms and Asiago cheese (plus an awkward moment where we couldn’t remember if the double-l sounds the same in Italian as it does in Spanish). This was an excellent choice, as the meat was cooked perfectly, and the flavor of the sauce was heightened with the addition of the cooked peppers. I’m not always big on cooked peppers (love raw peppers, but sometimes I find the flavor of a cooked pepper a little overwhelming), but this was done just right – the flavor was supportive and not overpowering. I would definitely order this again, except, of course, that we would love to try other things on the menu!

La Cucina Flegrea
To complete the meal, we settled on sharing the tiramisu and having a cup of coffee. This tiramisu was quite good, although neither of us realized initially that the topping is cocoa powder, so that was a bit of a surprise on the first bite! This dessert was rich and delicious.

All in all, we both highly recommend this place, and I’m kind of glad we saved it for the end. It was definitely worth the wait, and when we feel like we want to be back on the Cilento Coast, but can’t afford the airfare, we will definitely return to La Cucina Flegrea!

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