Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lucky Number 7

My partner Paul and I celebrated our seven-year anniversary last night! We can always agree on Italian food, but I had a hard time picking an affordable place that wasn't a chain restaurant (we're trying to save for Vida Vegan Con!). And then I remembered that a new Italian joint had recently opened in the Cooper-Young neighborhood.

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:

And for my main course, I chose the Penne Rigate Primavera:

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.


Lauren said...

congrats on 7 years!

Rick said...

i LOVE white bean dip. add liquid smoke, make smoky white bean dip, WIN!!!

congrats too on lucky number 7!

Mihl said...

Congrats! Here's to seven (and lots more) awesome years!

Erin said...

Happy Anniversary! Looks like a great meal. That is a pile of red pepper flakes on the white bean dip!

I've never thought about the difference between shaped pastas and house-made pastas, and have probably confused a number of Italian restaurant waiters...that's a great tip.

Leslie R. said...

Congrats on 7 years!

panda with cookie said...

Happy anniversary!

The Shenandoah Vegan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Leah (The Kind Weight Watcher) said...

Thanks for the tip! I live in Memphis, and am loving that it's getting more vegan friendly by the day. :-)

Have you tried Imagine Vegan Cafe?


Scissors and Spice said...

Aww! Congrats! And you look so pretty!

Tender Branson said...

Congratulations on the anniversary. I never experienced white beans until about three years ago. For a bean lover I couldn't believe how messed up that was considering white beans are now one of my faves.

How does one accidentally flick a pepper flake into their eye?

Ms. Mary said...

Such a cute couple! Saw you on the I love Memphis blog. We haven't officially met but I'm Mary from Paul's softball team. I saw you at RP tracks and wish we could have talked. I'm a vegetarian too and have attempted veganism a couple times. We'll have to talk next time!

Lori said...

Congrats on your 7th anniversary! :)

Glauce said...

Congrats! Just outside Italy Italian restaurants serve most of the pasta with eggs. In Italy most of them have "semola di grano duro" options and just homemade pasta have eggs on it :)