I Can Eat 50 Eggs: Trento

 
In honor of Paul Newman and “Cool Hand Luke,” I’ll review 50 days of eggs from 50 different restaurants.
 
Day 32: Trento
3600 N. Capital of Texas Highway (Loop 360), Bldg. D. 328-7555, www.trento360.com.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Brunch served until 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
 
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 02.01.12
 
SPRING 2014 UPDATE: Trento has closed. Jack Allen's Kitchen will open a location in the spot.
 
Some things you have to take on faith. That thing at the new Italian restaurant Trento is the egg in your spaghetti carbonara ($11). A lot of places put the yolk right on top for you to consider before you twirl into your pasta and stinky cheese and whatever pork the kitchen prefers, letting it pull together the starches and oils and intangibles into a cohesive bowl
 
At Trento, the waiter assured me, the egg is worked into the sauce that coats and binds the noodles tighter than an electrical coil, with hard nuggets of guanciale standing in for the copper and for the protein that gives carbonara its name. That fatty, unsmoked pork jowl is as thoroughly crunchy as if it had taken a dip in the fryer before it hit the bowl. It’s a texture you don’t find in many of the Italian cured meats, which trend to the chewy side of the street. These are like stray kernels of pork popcorn to break up the dense tangle of noodles, long and strong strands of straw-colored spaghetti with the languorous bite and stubborn refusal to keep its coil memory – a trait that marks pasta made by hand, which the waiter said this was.
 
The dairy component showed up as a cream sauce with the deep yellow suggestion of egg yolk and the sharpness of garlic barely touched by heat from knife to pan. The dish was finished with forgiving pecorino cheese. In a dish like this, I don’t mind getting roughed up by some aggressive cheese, and it would have masked some of the acrid notes from pork taken a degree beyond its fried prime.
 
I skipped past the earnest strivings of the wine list to order instead an appetizer called suppli ($6). It’s a breaded and fried ball of risotto with small dices of pancetta and fontina cheese, two per order. They were fine, but an herb salad of fennel fronds, tarragon, flat-leaf parsley and chives gave them an earthy, anise-scented reason for being.
 
You’ll recognize the Trento building from its previous incarnations as Chili’s and Gumbo’s, The interior bears some scars of unfinished business, but it’s brighter and cleaner than before. Trento opened Dec. 13, and it acts like a place that intends to be taken seriously, if the service experience holds. The hostess held the door and toured me around until I found a table that suited me. My waiter was a career man named Jimmy Cain, with time at high-end restaurants like Morton’s and Carmine’s in Palo Alto, Chicago, New York and Miami. This is a guy who’s waited on Madonna, an ex-president, Liza Minnelli and Steve Jobs. A career waiter is a rarity in Austin, something to cultivate if we plan to climb to the next tier of restaurant cities.
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
 
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