The Veal Puttanesca at Café Mezzaluna in Ottawa was an interesting idea, but it wasn’t very well executed and only worth a 2 out of 5 Rating.
The Café Mezzaluna used to be the in-house restaurant at a hotel I used to stay at in Ottawa from time to time. It has since been replaced by Big Daddy’s Bourbon Street Bistro, which is a bit of an improvement in my opinion. I had a few dishes at the Café Mezzaluna and, while a couple weren’t bad, this was not the case with their Veal Puttanesca.
Typically, a Puttanesca sauce is served over spaghetti, or other pasta, but there is no reason why it can’t be used elsewhere and, at Mezzalune, they served their version over thinly sliced veal. It was a pretty good idea, I thought, but it was, to my mind, not terribly well executed.
One curious feature of the dish was the absence of black olives. Olives and capers are both typically used but, if one is to be omitted, it is almost invariably the capers. The rich flavor of olive is, I feel, integral to the final result and the lack here was a real disappointment.
The veal was nicely cooked but it had a curious flavor a bit reminiscent of the aroma of freshly cured leather. I couldn’t place this, at first, but then I realized it was the anchovy. Anchovy paste, or mashed fillets, are standard in the preparation of a Puttanesca sauce (and many other Italian dishes), but usually the flavor only operates in the background without giving the final dish any sort of ‘fishy’ taste. In this case, it was quite pronounced and I can’t say I like it over much.
My last criticism was the acidity of the dish. I think fresh tomatoes were used and the result was a sauce that was very thin, brittle and sharp. It lacked the richness and rounded quality of a tomato sauce that has been cooked down for a longer period and, all in all, it rather ruined a dish that didn’t start out well in the first place.