Charlotte · Restaurants

Restaurant Review: Aria Tuscan Grill

May Girl Nosh was at Aria Tuscan Grill in Uptown Charlotte.  We were a small group this time, but the restaurant was jammed with prom-goers.  It made for some very interesting people watching.  I saw a lot of first time high-heel wearers.  Good times.  Anyway, here’s the girls:
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Our waiter greeted us and brought us some chilled water in a bottle for the table.  He gave us the option of sparkling water and Pellegrino (same thing?) and we all felt like cheapskates for saying that plain old tap water was fine.  But gah.  Who wants to splurge on water?  Save your pennies, and order a cocktail.

With the free water (which was just fine, by the way) they brought out the free appetizers:  White bean spread with fresh Italian bread.  Some of the folks at our table didn’t really love the white beans, but I did.  They were tangy with a splash of vinegar and minced onions and herbs and creamy when spread on the bread.  Drizzle with olive oil and you have a winner.

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Here’s what you were saving those pennies for:  D.S.L.  No idea what it stands for, but lord was it good.  It was a mix of Limoncello, Prosecco, Muddled Fresh Mint and Strawberry Purée.  How I found this was by asking the waiter which drink was the least strong.  Because I’m a wimp and I was driving.  This is the answer.  To lots of questions, I found out.

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For the paid appetizers, we all agreed to get something different so we could try each other’s.  Anessa got the Calamari Fritti.  This was a lightly fried mix of Calamari sticks and Scallions which were garnished with Peppadew Peppers.  The two dipping sauces were Spicy Tomato Sauce and Lemon Aioli.  I don’t know which I liked better.  The spicy tomato sauce packed a flavorful punch, but the aioli was subtle and creamy.  The calamari itself was lightly fried, not overcooked, but we missed those weird tentacle thingies.  Still, a favorite at the table.

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Heirloom Tomato Caprese features Burrata, Basil Pesto and the freshest heirloom tomatoes.  Skinny girl treat.

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Another skinny girl treat was the Asparagus + Prosciutto Tender braised asparagus served alongside a lightly dressed Spring Salad with a Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette with Prosciutto.  A splash of balsamic vinegar adorned all.  Laurie was pleased as punch with her choice.  She said it was so fresh and light.

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Eggplant Parmigiana 
You expect it to be fried, but just tryyyy it like this.  Seriously.  It was so good and fresh, and the Tomato Marinara that it swims in is so spicy and good.  Sitting atop is Mozzarella, Olives, Peppadew Peppers, Basil and it all somehow works together amazingly.  And look at the cool plate.

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Caramelized Gnocchi 
I always ask the waiter what his favorite dish is.  Very rarely am I steered wrong by the person who has tried everything on the menu and consistently brings food to patrons night after night.  So, when he recommended this, no brainer.  If you could get a bite with all 5 elements: Gnocchi, Prosciutto di Parma, Pear, Gorgonzola, Truffle Oil, you would hear the sound of angels and a light would emit from your mouth.  Not even exaggerating.

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Tuscan Red Wine Braised Beef Short Rib 
If you’ve never had short rib, you might not realize that when braised it tastes just like pot roast.  But really tender, and so flavorful.  This one sat atop an English Pea Risotto, ringed with plops of Goat Cheese and garnished with Brussel Sprout Chips.  It was so rich and hearty.  I’ll get that next time.

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My choice for dinner was a special.  It was Grilled beef tenderloin, Caesar style potatoes & Swiss chard.  I had to send mine back because the steak was too rare for me (cold red center, blech) but they brought it back a few minutes later and it was perfect.  OK, still pretty red on that far right one, so I didn’t eat it.  But the rest was very delicious.  The meat was so tender, and seasoned perfectly.  I LOVED the small little potato coins and the parmesan sauce they were in.  Also, I never knew I loved Swiss chard so much.
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Roasted Arctic Char
Anessa got this dish, and because it was cooked so rare I could not taste it to report to you.  I will just tell you that it was perched upon Roasted Eggplant  and topped with Shaved Fennel Citrus Salad with a Walnut Vinaigrette,  She said it was cooked perfectly and delicious. But she left a lot of that eggplant on the plate, suspiciously.

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OK, so the polenta is a side dish, but I have to mention it because it is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.  Creamy, buttery goodness.  I mean, just look at that lake of butter in this dish.  Sinful.  Amazing.

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Crispy Chicken Parmigiana 
We all know what this is, and it might be an unimaginative choice.  I can’t help it, it’s still an old favorite.  And when done well, like it is here with fresh Mozzarella and the spicy Marinara you sincerely can’t go wrong.  Simple and good.ariachickenparm

Spaghetti + Meatballs 
Mimo’s Meatballs, Red Sauce, Parmigiano:  Another classic that can’t miss.  Honestly, this was from another visit, and I never tasted it, but my dining companion said it was fine.

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Pasta al Nero 
King Crab, Scallops, Shrimp, Linguine, Spicy Marinara:  This was another of our waiter’s recommendations.  And was it spot on.  The shrimp were huge and cooked perfectly.  The crab was delicate as were the scallops, but the scallops were just on the undercooked side.  I’m sure bay scallops are hard to get exactly right since so small, but there you go.  The squid ink linguine was an unexpected surprise, but I didn’t taste any difference between it and regular pasta.
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Orecchiette with Sausage 
Toasted Garlic, Broccoli Rabe, Roasted Red Peppers, Chiles:  Another dish enjoyed on another visit.  My dining companion said this one was simply “Ok”.

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Aria Tiramisù 6
Espresso, Lady Fingers, Mascarpone Crema:  Is this not the most beautifully rustic dessert you’ve ever seen in your life?  And guess what?  It tasted just as good as it looked!  The coffee soaked lady-fingers were perfect; not too strong and not too wet.  The fresh cream was perfect and made for a light end to a delicious meal.13221704_1723691334580311_1064938938907246289_n

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake 
White Chocolate Crema:  And then there’s this.  Dense.  Chocolaty. Rich.  Hazelnutty.  If you like Nutella, you’ll love this.

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So, there you have it.  Aria.  It’s delicious.  I will say that both visits we had an issue with service.  Not a big big big deal, but our waiter was a little annoyed with us and was a little absent.  The owner did come over and chat with us about his friends in Lincolnton, so that was a nice touch.  Even with the snooty waiter, I’d go back.  Everything we ate was delicious last night.

Aria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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