Friday, August 3, 2012
Frugal Floozie Friday - Mani Osteria
Mani Osteria was recently named one of the country's best new pizza places by Food & Wine magazine. You wouldn't think it could be a Frugal Floozie Friday feature with that kind of reputation, but it is!
I met my friend Kate, who was in Michigan for an annual family vacation, for dinner there recently; she was going to be heading back home the next morning, so I left it up to her to choose where she'd like to eat on her one evening in town. We had never met before, having only exchanged witty and pithy messages and comments on Facebook. I knew that she had worked as a chef, and also that she is likely the only other person alive who'd ever heard of Gary Numan's "Telekon" album or even knew that he'd recorded any songs other than "Cars." A kindred spirit - how could we not meet for dinner while we had the chance?
It turns out that Kate is also as indecisive as I am, given that neither of us is a picky eater. I often think life would be easier if I didn't like so many foods - I'd know which one or two would pass inspection, and then I'd be done. But Kate and I kept talking, debating options, talking, considering choices, talking, and trying valiantly to narrow down the potential selections; everything looked good, which only makes my brain hurt. We were both "impressed by the wait staff not pressuring us," as Kate noted, since this really did take a fair amount of time.
We decided to start with the carpaccio - beautifully thin slices of raw beef - served with arugula, Parmigianino, capers, and a spritz of lemon. As Kate said, she "was a bit hesitant to go with the meat on such a hot day, (but) it was just so light and tasty."
Other appetizers that could easily be split among two would be the Roasted Olives for $6, the Arancini for $7, or the Pickled Tomatoes with Ricotta or Isabel's Meatballs for $9 each.
The beef was, to use an overworked but still accurate phrase, meltingly tender. The arugula had just the right peppery bite, and the flavors all combined beautifully, distinct and yet in harmony. At $14, it could come in at our mandatory $5 per person budget if shared with 1 or 2 more people; and that would be a sufficient portion, even given the lightness of the dish, considering the generosity of the pizza that followed.
An even more difficult decision than choosing an appetizer was choosing a pizza. This combination sounded wonderful, but was perhaps heavy for a hot day. This other one was seemed maybe a bit spicy. Decisions, decisions! But we finally settled upon the Red Onion and Pistachio pizza which also features goat cheese, rosemary and chili flakes.
It turns out that Kate's sister, Amy McNulty, who lives in Ann Arbor, orders this regularly when she and her husband eat at Mani. We hadn't known, we just honed in on it for its flavors and textures. At $15, and with 6 slices, it is a perfect Frugal Floozie Friday option for a party of 3-4; as it was, I went home with leftovers since Kate had no refrigerator at her hotel to store the treasure in.
The crust was perfectly crisp, yet chewy rather than cracker-like. Each flavor, from the thinly sliced onion to the crumbled cheese, is perfectly portioned such that none overwhelms the others. Not only that, but Kate told me that Amy describes it perfectly: "Each flavor is discrete." You note the pistachio's richness, and yet, it's not the sole flavor you detect. You taste the chilies as they tingle your tongue, but they aren't pervasive.
Unfortunately, we ran out of time and had to go. The perfect Frugal Floozie Friday feature is the gelato, available in seasonal flavors for precisely $5, but we didn't have a chance to try it. Perhaps we'll start with dessert when we go back ...?
341 E. Liberty
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Tuesday - Thursday: 11:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Friday: 11:30 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Saturday: 4 - 11 p.m.
Sunday: 4 - 9 p.m.
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