F ood memories can make powerful and evocative souvenirs, but when they dabble in games of trickery, well, they can be a bit vexing. Or amusing. But in this case mainly vexing. I speak of mussels – "black iron mussels," to be exact – steaming the air inside the snuggly confines of F&D Woodfired Italian Kitchen.
The lustrous shells, salted and served in a circular skillet with melted butter and lemons ($15), harp-music'ed me back to the streets of Istanbul and the sight of vendors hawking mussels from large round trays. To the unsuspecting tourist, the mussels look like they've been steamed and squirted with a simple squeeze of lemon, but not so. Those black beauts of the Bosphorus are, in fact, stuffed with a spiced and fragrant rice mixture that'll have you scoffing at other mussel preparations – meunière, marinières or otherwise.
So, for a fleeting moment, the possibility of these bivalves being stuffed with a memorably aromatic blend of basmati was all too real. That they weren't was by no means an indictment of the dish – we quite enjoyed these mussels, in fact – but, rather, an indictment of my hippocampus. It's just a lot of power for one memory to wield, and, after watching my dining comrade devour slice after slice of margherita ($13) and fennel sausage and rapini ($15) pie, I could sense future memories forming in his pizza-ravaged brain.
On another visit, my wife and her friend plowed through a margherita pie in seconds and, from the depths of the red Valoriani pizza oven, a sinister guffaw bellowed out of its fire-breathing mouth (which might've explained the overly charred – OK, burnt – section of crust).
It's not that F&D makes Bottura-like strides in its cuisine or anything, but it's got a good handle on the comforts of familiar Italian fare, and it appears that's exactly what Hourglasswegians want: yielding meatballs of Italian sausage and pangrattato (that's breadcrumbs) in a sweetish marinara ($12 for three); thin-ribboned cacio e pepe with Italian pork ($16); a wild mushroom pappardelle in a lovely porcini cream sauce ($13). Night after night, folks seat themselves at mismatched tables and indulge in F&D's rustic eats with a Peroni ($5) or pear-infused chardonnay sangria ($7). That pasta, BTW, is procured from local noodle maestros Trevi, and the porchetta in the pignola ala porchetta ($13) – a salad of arugula, pine nuts and grana padano in a sherry vinaigrette – is from Italian charcuterie company Levoni, who've recently launched into the U.S. market.
It's all worth lingering over, and linger we did (or at least we tried to) over dessert. We made a concerted effort to make every forkful of lemony "grandma's cake" ($8) and its shortbread crust last. It didn't go so well. And like that pie-cake, the tiramisu disappeared almost as quickly as it materialized. So much for prolonging the moment. I might've even felt a pang of regret for scarfing, and not purposefully savoring, each bite that, like those mussels, led to a remembrance of things past.