Having been thwarted twice in our attempts to eat at this establishment, Mr. Dirteens and I finally succeeded this evening. Italian restaurants don't always have posted hours and they are often open odd hours, when they are, in fact, open. These temperamental and unpredictable hours cause me to build up a lot of anticipation and hope for delicious food. Trattoria Da Maria did not disappoint.
When we walked in, the place was kind of grimy. It looks like a school cafeteria, with glossy mint colored walls and the tables are covered with standard plastic red-and-white checked tablecloths. At 7:30 PM - super early for the Ligurian dining set - the place was already quite crowded. We sat on the second floor, which was serviced by two tweeny (and teeny) waitresses. The kitchen is on the first floor, so the waitresses yell orders down the dumbwaiter.
Our menus arrived very promptly. I assume they are written by "Maria," and the handwriting is quite unintelligible. Before we had a chance to look through the whole menu (Primi, Secondi, Contorni(?), and Dolci), our waitress asked if we were "pronti?" Not being ready, and as we were fumbling a bit for the Italian necessary to continue conversing in her native language, she switched to English and we pulled out an order for two minestrone alla Genovese. Dang. It was phenomenal. The cannellini beans lent a creamy texture to the soup, the parmesan was peppery, it was... pestolicious.
For round two, we took our waitresses recommendations and Mr. Dirteens partook of the "Stoccafisso." This dish consists of Ligurians taking some dried out cod, soaking it, and adding potatoes and olives. While the fish remains quite chewy, it is more delicious than it sounds. Quite tasty actually. I had the "Polpettone" It has the texture of a fish cake, and is formed like a large patty, encrusted with cornmeal or flour. Some websites describe it as a meatloaf, and that is quite accurate. However, the polpettone is lighter than most meatloaves and it is vegetarian, at least at Da Maria. Apparently, Ligurians make their version of polpettone most often on the weekends. Don't ask me why, this website just says so. In any event, the combination of vegetable, potato, cheese, and egg, was scrumptious.
Having enjoyed our waitress's recommendations, we also permitted her to choose our desserts. We were a little crestfallen when she brought out identical desserts, since it would have been nice to sample two different creations, but at practically the first bite, we were too drunk to care. From what we could tell, the desserts were a very simplistic tiramisu, absolutely drenched in marsala. I'm almost feel a little tipsy just reflecting on that first boozy bite.
In the end, this fantastic meal (we skipped wine) only set us back 21 euro!! I almost regret posting that price since I fear that the restaurant will learn how good it is and hike up the prices. Chances of that happening are mercifully slim however, since we learned during our visit, that Mark Bittman has already listed this place as one of his "favorite restaurants in the world." Chow.