Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Agatina's - Rigatoni with Fra Diavolo (Red) & Chicken Pastina Soup
Italian food is pretty easy to find throughout the Greater Rochester Area. However, good Italian food is somewhat harder to stumble across. Fortunately for Morgan and I, an Italian restaurant called Agatina's is located incredibly close by, and they have managed to provide quality food in huge portions time and time again. Agatina's looks small and quaint at first glance, and if you're cruising down Buffalo Road, it might be easy to miss...if it wasn't for the substantial number of people packing their parking lot to the brim regularly. After meeting the friendly wait staff, taking in the casual yet refined dining atmosphere, and (most importantly) sampling homemade Italian specialties from their rather extensive menu, it wasn't difficult to see why it's been an area favorite for over 26 years. Great for a fun dinner on date night, a family-friendly outing, or just a heaping plate of hot, Italian comfort food, Agatina's appeals to any occasion; it even boasts a fully-stocked bar, if you doubt the inevitable food coma is not going to be enough to make you a bit groggy.
I was in the mood for something with a little spice and zing, so I chose a dish I had tried before - Rigatoni with a red Fra Diavolo sauce. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with this particular dish (I was too, until about a year ago), Fra Diavolo is a sauce that can be prepared any number of ways - the two basic preparations are "white" (oil-based, with minced garlic and pepper)and "red" (tomato-based, with minced garlic and pepper). Agatina's prepares this sauce by request, as either mild, medium, or hot. Being a chilehead of sorts, I always order the "hot" variety, and this night was no exception. I had previously ordered the "white" variety of sauce, and found, while delicious, that it lacked the heat I so craved. As such, I ordered the "red" style sauce on this occasion, hoping to find a difference between the two preparations.
Despite ordering what I knew to be a kiddie pool filled with pasta as an appetizer, a soup and salad were included with my meal. I ordered ranch dressing with my salad, and chose a cup of Chicken Pastina Soup to start off with.
Chicken Pastina is one of my favorite soups from Italian cuisine - the finely chopped pieces of carrot, celery, spinach, and onion soak up all that great, salty chicken broth flavor, as does the pastina pasta, while the chunks of shredded chicken add some great texture and (obvious) chicken flavor. Morgan (who got New England Clam Chowder) and I hardly had to wait to have our soup served to us, and it came out of the kitchen fresh, hot, and went down incredibly easy (I very well may have drank mine).
The salad was typical and unsurprising (not that this was a terrible thing), consisting of fresh onions, chickpeas, tomato, lettuce, and black olives. Great nibble-worthy, rabbit food to tide us over while we waited for our main dishes (although I am quite a sucker for chickpeas - they're just plain awesome). The only thing noteworthy about this salad was that there were no croutons, which was forgivable, as Agatina's provides fresh loaves of bread as an additional starchy side.
Next came our main courses - my Rigatoni with Fra Diavolo basically was a huge, red swamp, with helpless pieces of pasta drowning in it. Fortunately, my fork was there to help fish them out.
Sorry about the awful pictures. The lighting in Agatina's is not conducive to the cellphone camera-wielding blogger.
Let me start out by saying that if you enjoy spicy food, and also enjoy Italian food, you must try this dish. The Rigatoni were cooked to perfection, while the Fra Diavolo was a perfect blend of sweet tomato, bold herbs and garlic, and peppery heat. Chunks of stewed tomatoes made their way into this sauce, adding a real heartiness to this dish that I did not expect, although enjoyed quite a bit. As far as the spiciness of the peppers (the waitress told me they were cayenne), I found the dish to put some surprising fire on my tongue, and a slight dew of sweat on my brow. It was the kind of warmth that spreads throughout the inside of your mouth, and for a heat fan like myself, it was really quite enjoyable.
***DISCLAIMER*** Now, Morgan thinks my tongue is broken, and anytime I tell her something isn't all that spicy, she insists that I simply am more desensitized to the "hot" taste sensation many other people are more sensitive to. This very well may be true, and in the interest of keeping wimpy weenies who can't handle heat from being misled and consequently having a horrible meal, I do stress that you ask for a sample of the sauce before diving headfirst into a plate of the "hot" variety. Now, back to your regularly-scheduled blog post.
Overall, a great, hearty, and much more than filling meal, Agatina's also provides a great environment in which to enjoy your Italian banquet. The price of some of the dishes might seem a little steep at first glance, but keep in mind that bread, soup, salad, and a gigantic plate of food are all provided, with the friendly and accommodating service I've gladly become accustomed to seeing at most of my favorite local eateries. If you can't decide between the 5034958 Italian food joints in the area, swing by Agatina's and grab a bite of very real and very good homemade Italian cuisine - just be sure to bring your appetite.
Score (out of 10): 9
Location: 2967 Buffalo Road, Rochester, NY 14624
Phone Number: (585) 426-0510