February 5, 2015

Dinner at Il Pizzico; Introducing Dinner at Deb's!

I love how food has the ability to bring people together. A casual first date dinner, girlfriends conversing over desserts, a night out for drinks with good company - all make for the perfect environment (and perfect excuse) to connect with others. One of my dearest and most talented friends, Deborah, wanted to grab a bite at a hole-in-the-wall authentic Italian restaurant.

We first met at her house as she was testing out a new recipe (she's a stellar chef!) and wanted me to try it out. This dish had tender flank steak thinly sliced, with a generous spread of ginger and other delicious herbs. The garnished strips were then rolled, secured with cooking twine and roasted in the oven. Once the tendrils reached the perfect finish, they were placed upon a bed of perfectly marinated bok choy.

We each tried a piece and as usual, I was blown away by how well executed this dish was. Deb fearlessly tries new recipes all the time, viewing any seemingly complex dish as a welcome challenge. I'm hoping to feature some of her amazing dishes (with her permission) from time to time, so stay tuned! With a tasty "antipasti" in tow, we made our way to our dinner location.

Il Pizzico
15209 Frederick Road
Rockville, MD 20850

From the outside, Il Pizzico looks unsuspectingly normal. A simple exterior nestled in a small strip next to a cafe and gas station, it's hard to imagine what we had in store. However, I knew if Deb was recommending this restaurant, there was something special about this place.

As soon as we walked in, the beautiful ambiance was a pleasant surprise. Soft lighting and simple metal art adorned the walls on the restaurant portion to our left. To our right, a well stocked bar with a friendly bartender. We were warmly greeted and led to our seats on the restaurant portion and introduced by our waiter.

As he went over the specials for the day, Deb and I both looked at each other as soon as he mentioned "The Cowboy Steak". We had no idea what the cowboy steak was, just that we were definitely interested. Deb already planned on getting her favorite pasta dish, so we were settled.

We ordered the Carpaccio di Manzo, and the fresh and colorful palette was a perfect start to our meal. The thin, buttery slices of raw beef had a drizzle of mustard sauce, bed of baby arugula, shaved Parmigiano, and fresh cracked black pepper. The beef slices were so soft and tender, and the baby arugula hidden under the shaved Parmigiano balanced perfectly. This was my first time trying carpaccio and I'm sold!

Our entrees arrived at just the right time, and the dishes looked like works of art. I was told the portions weren't garishly oversized, but more under the pretense of quality over quantity. The cowboy steak was beautiful to look at and equally as delicious. I asked for a medium rare cook (closer to rare is my favorite), and the meat was tender with gorgeous grill marks and a balsamic glaze. The glorious star of the dish sat atop steamed broccoli and potato wedges.

Deb had the Maltagliati Al Ragu'di Vitello, a homemade pasta with creamy veal meat sauce. Each flattened pasta piece had the perfect al dente texture and the right amount of chewiness and bite that could hold it's own. Paired with the light but meaty sauce, I could see why she had been craving this dish all day.

After we enjoyed our amazing entrees, we were ready for a sweet bite. Our waiter told us about their specialty desserts for the day, one of which was an obvious choice: an almond amaretto cake filled with a creamy custard, drizzled with an amaretto glaze topped with fresh whipped cream - all nestled next to some almond gelato. No debate needed!

With a warm cup of black coffee, this dessert was the perfect balance (a hint of raspberry drizzle garnished on the plate added a tangy twist) that left our tummies happy.

This silly photo of Deb (since she never lets me take "normal" photos of her, haha!) shows a little bit of her fun personality.

As we made our way back, the thought of being so lucky to call some once-acquaintances-now-friends crossed my mind. Deb and I met in college, then reconnected after we moved past our school years. I'm always so grateful to be able to look up to such a kind and accomplished individual, and feel comfortable enough to open up about my goals, fears and everything in between without the worry of judgement. Hopefully this year I can take more time to show my appreciation to the incredible friends I have in my life.

Until next time!

Stay hungry,

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