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The Second Time Around: Trattoria La Bocca Revisited

A little over a year ago, my husband and I visited friends living in Landsmeer in the North Holland province of Nederland (The Netherlands). Knowing my affinity for food—and lots of it—they decided to forego cooking a huge dinner spread and, instead, return once again to the restaurant which we had visited a year before. And oh what a wonderful dinner it was. It was an exhilarating experience dining on authentic Italian fare at Trattoria La Bocca in the middle of a Dutch village in The Netherlands.

However, there was one thing that was slightly troubling to me: Was Trattoria La Bocca a one hit wonder? Had that one glorious meal that the four of us shared been just a fluke? Had we merely caught the chef on an exceptionally good night or was that evening the barometer for his usual way of cooking and, thus, considered the rule and not the exception?

Our table and vino awaited us...

Our table and vino awaited us…

Luckily, we had an opportunity to discover firsthand that not only are owners Clara and Nicola Zilli (the latter also being the chef) two of the nicest people you would ever wish to encounter in life, but Trattoria La Bocca displays the utmost consistency in the quality and flavors of their food. In fact, I would chance to say that the second time around was even better than the first.

Appetizer: Salame Milanese, Parma Ham, Bresaola, Meatballs, Broccoli Pie

Appetizer: Salame Milanese, Parma Ham, Bresaola, Meatballs, Broccoli Pie

Dinner began with two sets of appetizers: one for the meat eaters of the group (of which I am now a bona fide card-carrying member) and a separate plate for the vegetarians. The meat lovers’ plate was a charcuterie of sorts, minus cheese. I was perfectly content with this as there were so many wonderful meats on the platter, I would scarcely miss my beloved fromage.

Merely gazing at the trio of Salame Milanese, parma ham, and bresaola with intoxicatingly fragrant truffle oil did more for my taste buds than actually eating at other restaurants could ever hope to accomplish. But woman cannot live by ogling alone. As was expected, the Italian cuts of meat were extraordinary, as were the diminutive meatballs and slices of broccoli pie—and I typically have a strong aversion to broccoli that can be likened to Indiana Jones’s dread at the sight of snakes. The broccoli pie also made a guest appearance on the vegetarian plate, along with thinly sliced strips of grilled zucchini, roasted red peppers, artichokes, beets, and stuffed eggplant.

During my last visit to Trattoria La Bocca, I chose a quattro formaggi pizza that, while off-menu, was prepared to order without a hint of trepidation. While the memory of that distinctive flavor of the four cheese pizza was tempting me, I ventured to try my hand—or mouth, as it were—at something different, given my recent fall off the meat wagon. To put it mildly, I wanted meat, and plenty of it. Trattoria La Bocca did not disappoint.

My friend Gaynor informed me beforehand that Chef Zilli was known to make a mean Braised Beef in Barolo. Since hearing those four magic words earlier in the day, I couldn’t get my mind off of the dish, and I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth fast enough when it came time to order. And while I’m not one to be a total and complete glutton when it comes to food, I did display gluttonous tendencies when the stark white plate laden with a cut of beef that covered half of it was placed before me. I ate with my eyes … I ate with my nose … and then, as if the heavens had opened and granted me access to all the beauty that lay within, I ate.

Have you ever been so enthralled with what you were eating, so emotionally swept up in the moment, so taken by the flavors that are playing across your palate that you find yourself on the verge of tears? It’s okay to admit it; I do. The braised beef in Barolo had that effect on me. Unerringly tender, the malleable meat practically liquefied in my mouth. My shameless display—moaning and groaning as if in the throes of passion—was nonetheless an accurate barometer for the pleasure I was deriving from the meal in its entirety, which included mashed potatoes and a vegetable medley of asparagus, carrots, and broccoli.

Salmon Fettuccine

Salmon Fettuccine

The evening also saw a lovely Salmon Fettuccine dish dressed in a light cream sauce with green onions and fresh herbs sprinkled atop. The buzz word here is fresh and it was obvious in the flavors that Chef Zilli made the most out of the ingredients that he sourced. The al dente pasta played well on the tongue and texturally it melded well with the supple salmon which, thankfully, lacked that distinctly fishy taste that is so often associated with a bad piece of fish.

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The Chef breaking open the Dorado in Salt Crust

The Chef breaking open the Dorado in Salt Crust

And speaking of fish, the real show for the evening was the unveiling of the Dorado in Salt Crust. {To see the unveiling by Chef Zilli, click here}

The aromatic dish emerged from the kitchen totally encrusted in salt as Chef Zilli prepared to go to work. Wielding a spoon as his weapon of choice, he tapped away at the outer shell to reveal the tender, moist fish underneath that had been steaming in its own succulent juices. Working carefully, Chef Zilli plated the filleted fish alongside a dollop of fresh pesto. In a word, the dorado was stupendous. Salty? Only if a bit of the coarse salt was mixed in directly with the fish. The overall flavor, however, was not brackish as you would expect it to be after being completely encased in a cocoon of salt. The dish came thisclose to prompting my inner chef to try my hand at such a dish in my own kitchen. However, I doubt I could replicate the brilliance that Chef Zilli has achieved and thus he can feel relatively secure in the knowledge that my cooking prowess (or lack thereof) is far from a serious contender to knock him off of his rightful culinary throne.

Luscious dessert: Mille Feuille Con Crema, Torta al Limone, Tiramisu, and Cranberry Panna Cotta with Grand Marnier

Luscious dessert: Mille Feuille Con Crema, Torta al Limone, Tiramisu, and Cranberry Panna Cotta with Grand Marnier

As with any great meal, the grand finale usually centers on dessert and this meal was no exception. Torta al Limone, Cranberry Panna Cotta with Grand Marnier, Tiramisu, and Mille Feuille Con Crema—each dessert held its own richly distinctive flavor. And one by one, each sweet delight disappeared from the plate as if by a magician’s sleight of hand until there was nothing left but a few crumbs and scattered cranberries in our dessert wasteland. There were plenty of belly rubs going around the table that evening.

There are many reasons why Trattoria La Bocca is hitting all of the right notes, the first of which is the food: it’s unfailingly impressive. It is the manner of cuisine you would expect to dine on if you were in Italy proper. The price point is extremely easy on the wallet. When they say ‘homemade,’ they mean it—and they make their own bread and pasta. Add to that the wood-fired oven, which is a pizza’s best friend, and the ante has been upped a skosh. That Clara and Nicola and the rest of the staff at Trattoria La Bocca treat you like family from the moment you walk in the door hasn’t gone unnoticed, and neither has the small but wonderful selection of vino that sits along a back wall. All of these factors combine to give you a place that, once you visit, is indelibly emblazoned in your memory. No matter where you are or where your lifes’ journey leads you, you will be back. I’m already looking forward to my third visit to Trattoria La Bocca.

Trattoria La Bocca, Nieuwe Gouw 18, 1121 GX, Landsmeer, Netherlands  /  31 20 482 2406

 

 

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