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Tasty Omaha: Della Costa

The Midtown Brix location was a much-loved and often-visited spot for me and my husband. Typical date nights included dinner and a movie at Midtown Cinema, followed by dessert at Delice. All of this was preceded by a glass of wine and a niblet or two at Brix.  When Brix closed its doors early this year, we were crushed. Not only did we enjoy the seemingly endless array of wine, but the closing meant no more date-night kickoffs in Midtown. No more summer nights sitting out on the patio overlooking the ritzy area while drinking sangria. No more sitting close to the fireplace with a bottle of Italian Cabernet Sauvignon. We were all, "What the hell, man?" 

Then murmurings of a new restaurant to take its place began. The buzz grew louder over the spring, and finally, the doors reopened. The restaurant is Della Costa, a Mediterranean/Italian fusion restaurant with a special seaside emphasis. 

I grew more curious to check the place out, especially after learning that half of it was to be a bakery. Given the excellent location and space, Della Costa had big shoes to fill. 

I went with my husband and my parents near the end of July. I made reservations through Yelp (I'm probably late to the party per usual, but that's a thing now--super convenient) for an early evening time. We were given a nice table next to the window that overlooks Farnam Street.

We began by ordering glasses of their sangria--two red, two white. 

The red was luscious, rich, and sweet, bursting with fruit flavor. A triumph, if you're a fan of red sangria. The white was my favorite, however. Less sweet, with a dry bite to the wine reminiscent of Chardonnay, and the peach slices perform triple-duty--elegantly simple garnish, a subtle fruity essence, and a hint of sweetness. 

The menu is divided into sections, with emphasis on small bites in the form of amuse-bouche (single bite-size appetizers), crudo (raw fish small bites), preferiti (larger than amuse-bouche, tapas-style), soups and salads, mano alla boca (sandwiches), piattini (small entree-style plates), pasta, and piatti (larger entrees). The menu can be rather overwhelming at first glance, but our helpful server explained everything in detail and answered all of our questions. 

We started with some selections from the amuse portion of the menu: chile-lime peanuts, focaccia, and hummus. 

My dad is a peanut-monster. Therefore, I was not able to capture a photo, but I was assured they were "delicious." 

The hummus was some of the best I've ever tasted. There's a delicate balance that must be struck with the perfect hummus (which I personally have not been able to find in my own cooking). It can't be too dry and crumbly, yet it can't be overly moist. It must have enough garlic for flavor, but too much is overpowering. It has to retain enough chickpea flavor to be recognizable, yet not so much the other flavors are lost. Della Costa has found and nailed that balance. The accompanying slices of pita are house-made and more tortilla-like than in accustomed to, but lacks nothing in flavor. 

The focaccia was easily my favorite selection here. I know. "Meredith loves bread? OMG, THAT IS BRAND-NEW INFORMATION." Hear me out, though. This focaccia is glorious--fluffy, buttery, with a hint of salt on the outer crust that's been baked to a perfect golden brown. It comes with olive oil and an herbed butter made in house that, combined with the bread, makes me want to give up all dietary carb-control for the rest of my life (as well as any other necessary life-sustaining nutrients) and subsist solely on this. It is, I repeat, one of the finest things upon which you will ever nosh. If you eat nothing else at Della Costa, go there for that. I mean it. Run, don't walk. So I can trip you and beat you to the bread so I can eat it all. 

We ordered a bottle of red wine, because you can't go out to eat with Lori Ma (my mom) without doing so. It's a family law. I am no wine connoisseur, so I can't speak about the notes and such. It was just plain good. If you like cabs, you'll like this. Boom. 

For the main course, we all agreed to order something different. I went with a relatively basic pasta dish compared to the rest of the menu. I like to see how restaurant do the basics, sometimes, so I selected the Fettuccine Tre Colore. As the name suggests, it's fettuccine pasta already tossed in a pecorino cream sauce, and comes with a roasted garlic-tomato sauce and a pesto sauce. 

I was a little surprised at the presentation--much simpler than I was expecting. The amount of pasta I received was smaller than what you typically receive in a restaurant setting. That said, it was actually the perfect individual amount, and was generous even then. I could have finished it all in one sitting, but (based on the amount of bread I had already eaten), I opted to eat about two-thirds of it and take the rest home. I added in all of the tomato sauce from the bowl and all of the pesto from the little dollop on the presentation plate. I could have used more pesto. Always give more pesto. 

They do simple well. The noodles were the perfect al dente. They weren't drowning in sauce, but there was enough of the pecorino cream to cling to and coat each noodle. The sauce itself was, again, that perfect balance of creamy, savory, and flavorful. The tomato sauce was good; however, it was pretty basic, so it was underwhelming. I'm not sure I understand the logic of putting a bowl of it next to the pasta rather than drizzling it into the pasta. The presentation there had me scratching my head. The pesto was also delicious, but there was so little of it that it was lost when I mixed it into my bowl of noodles. I suppose if one was going for the true "tre colore" experience, you'd have to dunk and dip rather than combine. Overall, though, it was enjoyable. 

My mom got the pan-seated corvina, which arrives in a bed of sweet potato-chèvre purée and a side of broccolini.

Dad got the Bucatini Putanesca--grilled, fennel-seasoned sausage, anchovies, capers, kalamata olives, and fire-roasted tomatoes make up the decadent sauce. 

My husband got the grilled ribeye, with a delicious bordelaise, and sides of the sweet potato-chèvre purée and broccolini.

A note on the purée: if you love chèvre, and sweet potato, this is for you. I'm not a huge chèvre fan, by which I mean I can't stand it. The sweet potato flavor, though, is balanced nicely with the chèvre (Della Costa has the balance thing down) and the texture--the only thing I like about chèvre--is heavenly. Silky-smooth, light, and fluffy. 

Because no outing would be complete without dessert, we ordered two: cassata flambé and the Morrocan orange cake.

The orange cake is dense, almost as if shortbread and cake had a wild, drunken night together and this was the result of that. It has a beautiful hint of almond to smooth the bright tang of orange. It's accompanied with a scoop of saffron ice cream (all of the ice creams are made in-house and are available for purchase by the pint--I took home a container of honey lavender shortbread ice cream, and yes, it is in fact the food of the gods) and a meringue crisp, plus a few fresh berries. 

The flambé was a show+dessert, so, winning.

[wpvideo QuZLF69n] Sponge cake is covered with strawberry, chocolate, and hazelnut-turron ice cream, layered in more sponge cake, and coated in meringue. The flambé action happens with a shot of Cointreau, but for a dollar more, you can upgrade to Gran Marnier. Want to guess what we did? 

For all of the glitzy presentation that always comes with flambéed anything, the dessert was underwhelming. Tasty, certainly, but I preferred the orange cake, and wished I would have gone with one of the other offerings on the dessert menu, such as the Crema Catalana, or the pine-nut tart. The combinations of ingredients and flavors in these selections is far more interesting that flaming sponge cake and Neapolitan ice cream. 

Della Costa is owned by Ron Samuelson, who also owns Herbe Sainte in Aksarben Village, and features Chef Jeff Owen, previously of Herbe Sainte. Part of the restaurant, near the bakery side, features retail offerings like pasta, Italian sodas, jarred goods, wine, and more. There's also a crudo bar, and of course the aforementioned bakery where customers can take home ice cream, too. 

Brix will be missed, certainly, but Della Costa is a delightful new addition to the Midtown restaurant family, and is especially perfect this time of year, when the warm weather makes it easy to pretend you're enjoying fresh coastal catches and fruity sangria right by the sea. 

Grade: B+