Trattoria Delia serves up an exceptional experience

Spaghetti Nero

Spaghetti Nero

Located in a magnificently decorated basement in Burlington, Trattoria Delia has been serving authentic cuisine and memorable dining experiences for over 20 years. The Italian restaurant is built with preserved wood from an old sugarhouse; canvas paintings, wicker baskets and bright, engraved platters bring patrons to the Mediterranean. The recipes, sought and chosen by by the Delia family, excite the most important sense when it comes to dining, and I bare witness that my taste buds are still excited.

I have others who agree. Heavy, rustic lighting fixtures hang from the ceiling. The dimly lit dining area is intimate, without music; there was a comfortable metronome of quiet laughter, conversation, and wine glasses and silverware clinging. Although the tables are less than two feet apart, I didn’t feel intruded upon. The patrons seemed to have a mutual respect for the close quarters.

The tables were decorated with white cloth, heavy silverware that was changed at least three times, and a suggested bottle with accompanying glasses. They were swooped up and replaced with the bottle of Chianti we ordered. Other large glasses were set with precision. This is when the four of us noticed our server’s finesse.

We couldn’t help but gossip whether we were witnessing part of the show or the real man behind the black button up. His pronunciation, inflection, and timing were a bit too perfect. By the third glass he poured us we were lubricated enough to interrogate him. We might have if our mouths weren’t too busy devouring our courses. He never intruded when we were eating or conversing.

For appetizers, or antipasti, I ordered Batu, a duck thigh cooked in it’s own fat. The dish glistened with the natural delicious oils. Another who ordered the same said it was the best duck she has ever had. The skin was dark brown and slid off the warm, juicy meat with ease. The meat wasn’t as gamy as other duck I’ve had. We both agreed that the sweet eggplant failed as a partner to the bird. I couldn’t eat more than a bite of the eggplant caponata- the sauce reminded me of a sickeningly sweet jam.

Another dining mate ordered Carpaccio, thinly sliced beef tenderloin served raw underneath shaved cheese, lightly seasoned with olive oil, preserved artichoke and lemon. We all tried a bite and gave the thumbs up.

The Scamorza, much like the duck starters, was nearly the size of an entrée. The wood-grilled mozzarella looked like a thick fish fillet. Underneath was a bed of arugula, grilled tomato, eggplant and zucchini. I had never experienced mozzarella in such a boisterous fashion. Grill marks engraved the casing that surrounded the cheese. We used a knife to slice the chewy block. The cheese wasn’t melted, but kept a little warmth from the grill.

In between the large starters and the entrees two of my fellow diners ordered salads. The dark greens were full and leafy, and both eaters commented on the dressing- a “wowing” taste and “perfect portion” to coat.

For entrees, two of us order the Spaghetti Nero. I can say this is the first time I’ve consumed black food. The pasta was dyed with squid ink and was surrounded by other ocean eats. Two golden shrimp laid in the bowl with their heads still in tact, with accompanying pieces of light, chewy squid. The white wine sauce and sweet red tomatoes made the dish taste lighter than it looked. Surrounding the spaghetti were mussels, complimenting the color of the noodle and the dark grey bowl. It seemed the ink was for show; the pasta tasted like pasta.

Polipo, or wood-grilled octopus made its eater “wow” yet again. I tried a bite and was impressed with the tenderness of the tentacle. Having tried to cook octopus before, I know how tough and inedible the animal can be. The octopus came with farro, arugula, and wild oregano salmorglio, a lemon and garlic based condiment from the Southern Italian region.

I decided to go turf and ordered the steak special. It goes down as one of the best steaks I’ve ordered in Burlington. The portion size was healthy; an eyeball guess of 10 ounces. I went rare, and the cook didn’t disappoint. The meat was seared on the outside, leading to rich-red right beneath the surface. The tender, juicy meat required just a satisfying amount of work to chew through, and kept enough of the copper blood taste to remind me that I was eating something that mooed in its past life.
On top of the steak was a thick layer of melted mozzarella, and underneath all was shiny, oil-fried kale and a red tomato sauce. The tangy, garlicky sauce mixed with the cheese made the dish taste Italian in the way most eaters are familiar with. I’m not one who needs my steak clear of other flavors, and welcomed the sauce and blanket of cheese. It could be a bit much for fundamentalists who prefer their beef sauce free. They might want to order the menu steak, a naturally–raised tenderloin topped with truffle butter.

Upon seeing the dessert menu we decided to continue balling out. I ordered Tiramisu that was served in a large chalice with cake pieces formed within a sweet cheese, rum, and espresso mousse. Shaved Belgian chocolate dusted the top. There were literal “wows” at its appearance– first because of its size, then its rich taste.

Across from me, my date ordered Profiterole­­– two puffed pastries filled with vanilla gelato and covered with a melted chocolate sauce. She said that the pastry was light and went well with the creamy gelato. She could have done with less chocolate sauce, the richer part of the dessert. Neither one of us could finish our sweets.

The same went for our comrades who ordered a gelato trio and a spectacular looking cheeseboard.
The experience you’ll receive at Trattoria Delia is worth the mid-high price they ask. Antipasti dishes average around $12, Primi dishes like the Spaghetti Nero are $19-25, entrees $25-35.

They offer a wine list way beyond my knowledge and palate. According to their menu, they offer exclusively Italian selections. Their wine menu has been recognized by Wine Spectator since 1995 and Wine Enthusiast since 2004.

Trattoria Delia is located on 152 St. Paul Street and serves dinner from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily.