Usually when I do extreme eating, I do it one thing at a time. It’s not that it’s all I can handle (although in the case of duck tongue), but it usually has to do with that’s the only thing the restaurant offered. In the case of tonight’s extreme awesomeness, I saw an event at Ornella Trattoria; I could not pass it up!
Although most extreme for me would be lamb’s head, there were other things served as well. This menu would make the nose to tail dining enthusiasts proud if they can only get past what they are eating. But at the end of the day, the whole concept of nose to tail is to not let any of the animal go to waste. I learned tonight that we really do let good things go to waste!
The appetizer of the night was Nduja, a slice of toast with spicy sausage spread on top. It was served with a slice of goat cheese, which went well with the toast.
During this time, we got to speak to the owner a little bit, and I found his attitude about what he serves most interesting and unique. We wanted to know what kind of goat cheese this was, and he could not remember. He goes by taste first, not just looking for brands. He tastes everything he serves to know if the ingredients are a high quality before he ever considers buying it.
In the case of the cheese, his strategy is spot on!
Now, I have already had bull penis earlier this year. at Kenka, but despite my negative impression of it, I was still curious to try Rocky Mountain Oysters, or fried bull testicles. I wasn’t sure if they would taste any different, but I wanted most to see if the theory “everything is better fried” could be true in this case.
Unfortunately it was not.
Although bull testicles, when fried, are easier to swallow than a boiled bull penis, the texture and taste is still there. The only real difference was that the testicles were softer instead of the hard cartridge that the penis was.
But that was the only thing that they had going for them.
Sweet bread, Animelle, was next, and it went down a little better than the testicles, but it wasn’t my favorite though. Most people at the table liked them I think though. I’m not really sure what the sweet bread actually was.
I’ve never heard a good word about tripe. It is for that reason that I’ve steered clear of it. I don’t want to spend money on something that has a good chance I’ll throw away after one bite. I was glad to see it on the menu at Ornella because it was included in the prix frix menu, so since I knew I’d like other stuff, it was not a big deal if I threw it away. However………
I liked tripe!
He served it with rigatoni in a light pasta sauce served with a tiny bit of potatoes. The tripe had no real taste, I thought, but the chewiness and texture was actually familiar. I’ve eaten so many weird stuff throughout my life thought that I could not place what it reminded me of though.
With this being said, tripe may be one of those things that must be prepared a certain way for it to be good. But I would certainly eat it again.
Speaking of food that must be prepared a certain way for it to be good, I was skeptical when I saw liver on the menu. Growing up on a farm, liver and onions was not weird. In fact, as a kid, I liked it. However, either my taste buds changed or my mom’s cooking did, because as I grew up, I started to not like it. The taste got stuck in my throat, as if I had just eaten chalk. I tried it again when my ex offered me some he had cooked. I didn’t like it then either. I thought I was done with liver and onions as much as I’m done with that ex.
But Ornella proved otherwise.
The taste of the liver was a little sweet, possibly because of the sauce it was in. It was more tender than what I’ve had before. The “chalky taste” (no, not literally chalk, but I don’t know how to describe it), was still there, but it was not potent. And most of all, it did not get stuck in my throat!
My mother should take lessons from Ornella!
And next came the part of the meal I had been waiting for two weeks to try! Some people were shocked, some people were squeamish, and I said “let me have it!”.
At least with the lamb, this part of the animal should be taken more seriously than what it is. Too many lambs have had their heads cut off for slaughter, and the head is thrown in the trash. We are wasting good meat! The cheek meat and the tongue are both very tender. Since most people cannot fathom the thought of their food looking at them, the meat would be good cut up in a stew. I don’t even know if people could really tell the difference between the meat of a lamb’s head or its body.
The brain had an external texture of blood pudding when I picked it up. The outside was very delicate, and the brain actually broke into two pieces. When I popped it into my mouth though, it was very creamy. It was like eating a really creamy cheese.
I think it’s safe to say that I”ll survive a zombie apocalypse.
But I forgot to eat the eyeball!
The downside of lamb’s head is that if one was to order it alone in a restaurant, it might be expensive because it’s a delicacy. Unfortunately, there is not much meat there. This is why I think butchers should just chop up the tongue and the cheek and sell it separately as stew.
The last course was dessert called sanguinaccio. Think of a chocolate empanada, and you’ve got it. That’s exactly what it tastes like. But no, it is a chestnut ravioli filled with pig’s blood and chocolate pudding and then fried.
Coming from someone who does not like blood pudding (I only ate an entire serving one time in my life), this dessert was good! You do not taste blood at all. In fact, if you did not know there was blood in there, you would not know.
I’m not sure if every nose to tail restaurant serves all these odd but fine foods. It will take time for the average American to get used to such things as lamb’s head. But if they are served in a certain way, they can be enjoyed by many.
If you have any interest in an eating adventure, give Ornella Trattoria a call. They do not have these items on their daily menu, as they are strictly an Italian restaurant. But if there is a party interested, it is possible that arrangements could be made.
If you don’t believe me how awesome this place is, take a look at their website, where there is channel 7 video about all their food! Stay informed about future events at this Italian restaurant in Queens here.