South-side Italian spot serves a classic, and does it well
By Steven Sandor | November 8, 2022
Food writing is maybe the most self-indulgent subcategory in all of journalism. Remember that what you read is totally influenced by the palate of the writer, of that writer’s likes and dislikes. And, like you, those writers have favourites things to eat, favourite flavours, favourite combinations.
So, when you read about food, you’re often reading about a writer’s deeply personal connection to what he, she or they is eating.
You should know that I have a particular fondness for all things sour. And, there is one Italian dish, a staple of old-school trattorias, that I gravitate towards. Veal with lemon. So, when I get out of the wind and snow, and walk into Oliveto Trattoria, I know what I am going to order as soon as I see the menu. The grain-fed Veal Piccata al’Limone calls to me. It’s on both the lunch and dinner menus, and it can be served with potatoes and vegetables or spaghetti. While it seems wrong to order spaghetti in tomato sauce to go right alongside veal in a mix of shallots and lemon, I do it anyways. Two comfort foods at once on a cold day, can’t be bad, right?
This restaurant is reassuringly old-school. Light-green walls are decorated with renderings of olives. After all, it is the name of the place. A warm loaf of bread is brought to the table, meaning I’ve got an armada of vessels with which to soak up sauce. I just have to make sure there’s some left over for when the meal actually arrives. Warning: I’m one of those people you need to talk to about “not filling up on the bread” before the meal. Warm bread with butter is one of the great things in life.
Then, the entree arrives. Before biting into the veal, I swirl my fork into the sauce and bring it to my mouth. The sauce is sharp, and wonderfully sour. It’s powerful, in fact, if you can rate the “lemony-ness” of the sauce on a scale, like we do with hot sauces this would be set to high. The meat is tender, and, together, it all works — even when the bits of tomato sauces from the spaghetti gets mixed in.