Saturday, July 23, 2011

Eat Curbside - Aranchini

Risotto is that wonderful, creamy rice dish that can be found on almost any Italian menu. Done right and it will simply melt in your mouth, the myriad of flavors set against the texture of the al dente rice. As ethnic rice dishes go, risotto is probably my favorite (sorry, paella). So how did Eat Curbside incorporate this classic Italian dish into menu? By frying it up and churning out some Aranchini!

I still contend that my husband makes the best risotto I have ever had. He isn't Italian, but he knows his way around rice. My particular favorite is his porcini mushroom risotto, though we have now exhausted our supply of dried porcinis that we bought while in Italy and Spain. If risotto is on a menu, I will order it! I love risotto so much that it was the first dish I ordered on our honeymoon—a black squid ink risotto from a restaurant in Venice that was close to the La Fenice (the opera house). So needless to say, when I walked by Eat Curbside, and my eye caught their menu advertising Aranchini (note the spelling; more on that later), I quickly queued up to try them.

Arancini are balls of risotto stuffed with a savory filling, which are then breaded and fried until crispy. Their origins date back to 10th century Sicily, and today they are considered the quintessential Sicilian street food. The name means "little oranges" due to the round shape and golden color. Easy to eat without utensils, they are a great use of day-old risotto, and they can be stuffed with almost every kind of filling, from veggies to meat to cheese. There are endless possibilities for making arancini, because it's a food that uses up leftovers, but traditionally they are made with mozzarella cheese and served with a tomato ragu.

Eat Curbside serves their arancini three to an order, swimming in a pool of vibrant tomato sauce and sprinkled with parsley. They came to me piping hot, and even though I ordered another dish alongside my arancini, I started with these first. They are slightly non-traditional as they were shaped more like flattened disks rather than balls. Perhaps the "h" that Curbside threw into the common spelling of arancini stomped on the balls and squished them down flat. I'll attribute both of these nuances as Eat Curbside's way of mixing it up and making this dish their own.

There was a soft crunch as I slid my fork through an arancino for my first bite. Inside the creamy risotto lay a smoky, stringy mozzarella cheese. There was a wonderful blend of textures—crispy coating, buttery risotto and chewy cheese, a perfect trio I could sink my teeth into. The sauce, which was barely sweet but very tangy, clung to the arancini for a piquant finish. I gobbled them down while they were still hot and didn't initially think that three would be so filling, but I was wrong! These are hearty little balls; three were more than enough to satiate.

I love that Eat Curbside surprises me with items like this on their menu. Plus, while we were waiting they handed out some free Fried Mac n Cheese. It was a giant fried, cheesy love fest between me and Eat Curbside, and I will surely be back for more. Bellisimo!

Rating: 4/5 (ratings guide)

Eat Curbside (@eatcurbside) $6.00 for an order of three

Does reading this make you want to try this vendor? Tell them that you saw them at I Left My Cart in San Francisco and support San Francisco street cuisine!

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