Abbracci

511 N. High St. Columbus, OH 43215 (614) 224-2373
Get to Abbracci early. Fifteen minutes or so before your reservation is good. Have a drink at the bar before you sit down. It's perfect for that. The long, gently curved bar is lined with stools that appear to be held together by honest- to-God furniture tacks, just like the ones they used in the olden days – by which I mean 1977. The room is a sleek amalgam of classic, retro and modern, that doesn't feel like it's trying too hard to be any of them. Plus, one of the walls in this room is made entirely of windows, which provide the perfect vantage point for gazing at Short Northerners wandering downtown and Downtowners heading north.

Novice through intermediate drinkers should consider trying a Belini. Prosecco is always a good way to start, and peach nectar is, well... nectar. Journeymen and above might give a Negroni a try. JOURNEYMEN and above! It's the bitterest drink on the face of the planet. It's as if the gin and Campari are mad at the vermouth for being sweet, and they're taking it out on your tongue. They're absolutely delicious and the penultimate way to prepare your palate for Italian food.

The dining room, like the bar, is not really period specific. It's an ecumenical blend of classy and tasteful from everywhere and from every when that manages to be modest, even when boldly patterned. The booths are long and comfortable, with plenty of elbowroom. Lefties don't need the end seat and same-siders can dine with complete freedom of movement. Tall, soft chairs surround the freestanding tables that have been meticulously scattered about a multi-tiered dining room, accented with stained glass, an illuminated column and tulip-shaped sconces. There is plenty of good seating in this room that seems to quietly imply that you should make yourself comfortable, because you're going to be eating for a while.

Take the room's advice. Make yourself comfortable. Eat for a while. Do it like they do in Italy. Get an antipasto, an insalata, a pasta, qualcosa de carne, maybe some pesce and a couple contarni. Dine family-style. That way you can sample more of the menu. You will probably also want to try a number of the wines Abbracci features on their list. Not that there's anything wrong with grabbing a quick bite or the old salad and entree thing (Abbracci does a wonderful job with each), but there's nothing like making a night out of great food and friends.

Order something antipasto as soon as you sit down, at the same time you order your first bottle of white. Try the Mussels de Caesar with an extremely approachable and lovely Prosecco from Zardetto, or go all out and get the Laurent Perrier Rose, it's worth every penny of its premium price. The Calamari, covered in tangled sweet pepper coulis and garlic aioli drizzles, is as tender as that particular critter gets. The Perrier is outta hand with this, too, but maybe try an Arneis or a Moscato d'Asti. That might be crazy good, and if you got the Fennel Salad, and all of its orange segments, concasse tomatoes, arugula and ricotta salata, you'd be set. The solid cream of the ricotta half melts and half crumbles as the juicy oranges and bitter arugula are cheerfully chased away by that weird, and surprisingly delicious petro-chemical thing you get with an Arneis or the sweet straw of the Moscato. The Carpaccio, remember, is essential, and it provides the perfect gateway through which to introduce your reds.

Chianti. It never costs much and is a fantastic way to get from the Carpaccio or the Asparagus and Wild Mushroom Bruschetta to the peppery Tenderloin Diablo Fusilli or the Wild Mushroom with Beef Barley Soup. Save some for later, just to see how it goes with the Prosciutto Wrapped Grouper or the Chicken Speidini - in which the combination of goat cheese, mouarella, pine nuts, basil and sun dried tomatoes inside the firm and meaty chicken breasts is made even more delicious by the always inspired introduction of smoked bacon. Speidini will easily hold up'-to something even fuller bodied, like anyone of the four Bs: Barbera, Barolo, Brunello or Barbaresco. An Amarone would also do you well. Abbracci offers a couple of them that are reasonably priced .. .for raisin juice.

Pine nuts are back. They're in the Roasted Red Pepper Stuffed Pork Tenderloin, which is working with every bottle you still have on the table. The red peppers and the Italian sausage are just about the same sweetness as the Amarone, and structured complementarily. Asiago cheese is masquerading as the most astringent agent involved in every bite, until the big Bs bring their tannins and earthy fruit, by which time you're wondering if there's any of that Perrier left, because it would explode behind the Lemon-Basil Orzo that's served in the middle of the pork medallions. Whatever happens, save some of the big reds for when the Osso Bucco comes. That bad boy's been braising for hours, so it's rich and winey all the way through. It comes with Risotto Milanese, which is different from the Chef's Risotto of the Day that you should have had with the pasta course. But it doesn't matter too much, as long as you have some. Kinda like in Italy.

Take a moment. Relax. Maybe unbutton. Get an espresso and dessert. The Canoli filled with lemonmint mascarpone and topped with blueberry and mint syrup is absolutely insane. It is easily the best argument to ignore whatever that chocolate thing is. Another Belini would be great with the Canoli, if you're still thirsty. Remember though to stop one drink short, because now is a great time to head back into the bar for a grappa or a digestif. If you didn't want the Negroni before dinner, you probably don't want the grappa or digestif after, so maybe a Di Sarrona or coffee drink. However, if you started with the Negroni, finish with a Cynar or Fernet. They're supposed to help with digestion, and by now there's a lot of that to be doin.