Cortona's Contemporary Italian took the place of one of our old bar haunts, Dish. So it seemed appropriate to eat an anniversary dinner in the same building that used to house one of our favorite bars. Here we are at a table for two:
I called Cortona's a few days earlier to place a reservation and to make sure they could accommodate a vegan. The man who answered the phone was super-nice and assured me that I'd find several vegan options.
For starters, we ordered this Cannellinni Dip:
Our server described the dip as "like hummus but with white beans." And sure enough, that's exactly what it tasted like. I loved this stuff! Probably even better than hummus since I prefer white beans over chickpeas. I mean, of course I love chickpeas, but white beans take the cake. By the way, the pita served with the dip had some cheese sprinkled on it. But our server brought out some soft French bread for me.
I ordered a vegan Wedge Salad that wasn't exactly on the menu. It typically comes with bleu cheese and bacon. But our server had the kitchen hook me up with balsamic vinaigrette, red onions, and tomatoes instead:
A little secret for vegans dining at Italian restaurants: Although most Italian places use non-vegan fresh pasta (contains eggs), many also offer shaped pasta, like penne or bowtie pasta, that's shipped in dry form. That's almost always vegan.
The sauce on these tender noodles was sweet and spicy, just the way a marinara should be. And the veggies — zucchini, red pepper, and onion — were the perfect topper. I actually had enough food in this bowl for three meals. I had some leftovers for lunch today, and I'll be eating more tomorrow.
Except for the part of the dinner when Paul accidentally flicked a red pepper flake into his own eye, the evening was perfectly lovely.
If you're ever in Memphis and looking for a locally-owned Italian joint that won't cost you next month's rent, Cortona's is the place to go. It's located at 948 S. Cooper. Call 901-729-0101.