Long, hectic days with high maintenance clients (you know who you are) drain my spirit and cripple my cooking abilities. Even boiling pasta seems a chore.

Those evenings, I lift my weary eyes from my computer and whine to Adam, “Let’s go to Ribollita.”

Always crowded with happy patrons, I’m amazed by how little buzz Ribollita garners.

Folks who wax poetic about the far reaches of Middle Street would rather blather on about Duck Fat next door. And who can blame them, really. I’ve done so myself!

Yet another lousy iPhone photo. Ribollita's gnocchi in the foreground -- osso bucco in the background.

I usually opt for the Roasted Chicken Puttenesca. The snickering 10-year old in me adores that “puttenesca” translates to “whore’s spaghetti.” Pasta of ill repute? Gotta love it.

In Ribollita’s version, housemade pappardelle ribbons are anything but sticky – yet they stick to the ribs like a Sicilian classic should. Fall-off-the-bone chicken, loads of garlic, capers, and kalamatas dance together in the artisanal red sauce and create a party. Each time, I struggle to suppress the “abbondanza!” bubbling up in my vocal chords.

Monday night, however, I strayed from the norm and ordered two things I had yet to try – the steamed mussels and the pan-seared gnocchi. Adam choose the veal osso bucco.

Steamed Mussels
An admitted mussel nut like me can be hard to please. I want ideal consistency and a creative, aromatic broth. Ribollita’s were shaky on the first part, solid on the second. Too chewy, small and slightly gritty, the mussels themselves were underwhelming. I ate a few, then grabbed the crusty Italian bread and turned my full attention to the broth. Pistachio butter cranked up the richness in this delicious, thoroughly original brew. Chunks of pistachio, a smidge of garlic and a healthy dash of salt tamed the butter’s sweetness. It took a while to regain my senses and shun the loaf. Nothing worse than filling up on bread – even if it is dipped in heavenly bouillon!

Pan-Seared Gnocchi
Gnocchi usually isn’t my bag. Mushy potato balls? Never understood the appeal. But the “pan-seared” part has always tempted and I finally gave Ribollita’s gnocchi a whirl. Smart move. Searing transformed the goopy texture – sealing the orbs in a crisp jacket of lightly fried flavor. Tossed with salty prosciutto and crisp pea pods, and topped with parmesan, the result was a super-hearty pile of perfection.

Veal Osso Bucco
This Milanese stew encapsulates what’s grand about Ribollita – simple dishes, wonderfully cooked, lovingly made. Osso bucco requires more patience than flair. It’s an amalgamation of veal shanks, mirepoix (carrots, onions, celery), red wine, stock, herbs (rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf, perhaps?) and hours simmering in low heat. Adam dug into the massive mound and pronounced it “exactly right – robust, braised to tenderness and unpretentious.” (Yes, he really said that.) Surprising me, he also raved on and on about the accompanying polenta until I finally scooped up a spoonful. Creamy, yet dense, and spiced with herbs, it slurped up the veal “gravy” – spawning a splendid savory pudding.

Now that’s amore!

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