When I had originally accepted the invitation I asked to dine at my neighborhood store on Campbell Avenue, but then found out that there was major kitchen renovations happening the night we wanted to visit. In fact, the shop is closed for the entire week!
So I opted for the Grant Road site instead and was truly happy with the whole evening.
I was totally surprised at the space. While the other three spots in town look relatively the same with a pleasant but spare décor that caters to a quick bite, the new restaurant is more sophisticated with beautiful lighting, large sliding windows that allow for mountain views and sort-of indoor patio feel. The industrial look is still there, but this time with a little polish. It wasn’t nearly as noisy as the other sites either.
But enough about the décor, this blog is supposed to be about food.
The classic Sauce items are still on the menu but new appetizers, salads, pizzas, wines and even a new dessert are now part of the mix.
We began with all three of the Light Bites: Capers Skewers,Sopressata and Asparagus Bruschetta and Tomato Concasse Bruschetta.
We also ordered a glass of pinot noir and a glass of Sangiovese that are new to the menu.
The skewers are commonly found items these days, but this skewers were uncommonly good. Maybe because the tomatoes were so fresh that they popped in the mouth, all cold and sweet and flavorful. Maybe it was the freshness of the mozzarella. Or the drizzle of balsamic? Certainly each element was quality.
The bruschetti were tasty as well. The one with sopressata had a spread with pesto goat cheese, two thin spears of asparagus, a bit of lemon zest and then a slice of spicy sausage that had been artfully arranged. Each bite was spicy and savory; creamy and crispy.
The tomato concasse was a real surprise. The rough chop tomatoes had been lightly seasoned and they sang with tomato freshness and a slight spiciness.
This time the cheese was ricotta and a little Parmesan. Another order and a salad and another glass of wine, would’ve been a most satisfying meal.
The two salads we ate were both gluten free. The roasted vegetables were a nice mix and the dressing boosted the fresh flavors. The other salad was a mix of quinoa, golden beets and arugula. A gentle toss and the goat cheese on top almost melted, making the dressing lightly creamy.
We also had two pastas. Sauce has really kicked up their choices in this department. Instead of just plain red sauce or cheese sauce on orecchiette, they’ve made the switch to cavatappi (corkscrew in Italian), a spiraled tube about an inch long. Apparently, there were problems with the orecchiette clumping together. This new pasta grabs the sauces nicely.
Those sauces have moved up as well. Yes, they still have a cheese sauce, but they’ve added spicy chicken sausage and poblano peppers making this standard dish a riot of flavors, sort of Tucson meets Tuscany.
The second pasta dish was also a take on a traditional sauce, this time pesto. An even hand reigned here. All too often, chefs get a little carried away when it comes to making a good pesto. They overdo the basil and drown that with too much garlic. Not so here.
This was a light creamy pesto that was enhanced with tiny, tiny tomatoes. Like the tomatoes we tasted earlier, there was a pop of flavor and a slight tang thanks to the light marinade. The whole dish was topped off with more parmesan, this time shaved. The heat of the pasta melted the parm….a great dish, indeed!
Ah and then there was pizza!
We decided on the thin crust, the original one that helped make Sauce famous.
A white pizza was topped with large slices of prosciutto, plenty of arugula and bite size pieces of sweet figs. The flavors were so traditionally Italian but done up in a most modern way. The sweetness of the figs were in a nice balance with ham.
The red pizza was basically a regular cheese pie with Brussel sprouts and bacon. Again this was a nicely balanced pie. A bit of this, a bit of that all coming together to delight the palate.
We finished off the meal with another glass of wine each and cannoli. I love a good cannoli and lord knows there are plenty of so-so versions out there. But they are pretenders compared to the ones served at Sauce. Flecks of chocolate and a bit of lemon zest bring were great additions to the creamy filling; again honoring tradition, while making it 21st Century.
I must mention the great service we had that night.
Yes, we were there as members of the press and so we got special attention, but Kristen and Brandon really took care of us. We never lagged for food, yet were given the right amount of time to enjoy whatever was in front of us. Each dish was explained but not in that robotic memorized way; these guys love the products and their jobs. Thank you Kristen and Brandon for making the experience top notch.
This menu can be found at all of the Sauce restaurants and word is that the upscale vibe is how all the future Sauce restaurants will have. Word is too, that an expansion is in the works. More about that in a later post.
I want to go back in the daytime to sit by the open windows and enjoy the views of the Catalinas. I also want more of that pasta and some pizza and some bruschetta and, of course, a cannoli or two.