Last week, for the 1st time since the series launched in the fall, I didn’t name a Dish of the Week. It wasn’t for lack of nominees, believe you me. On the contrary, the embarrassment if not downright mortification of riches we encountered during the Bacchanalia that was our jaunt to Boston left me feeling all but helpless to choose. The same goes for this week, really; I could close my eyes & throw a dart at this post on Russell House Tavern or this one on Neptune Oyster, for instance, & come up with a winning candidate.
So I’ve decided to beg the question a bit by featuring not a new dish but a true classic. There isn’t a serious diner in the city who isn’t familiar with this longtime signature of Barbara Lynch’s powerhouse dining destination No. 9 Park (of which more to come)—& who, I wager, wouldn’t include it on a list of Boston’s all-time greatest dishes (along, perhaps, with pizza from the original Pizzeria Regina, Clio’s lobster & sea urchin cassolette, Oleana’s fried mussels with hot peppers & tarator sauce, oysters in black bean sauce at Peach Farm & so on).
And on May 3, 2010, the prune-stuffed gnocchi with foie gras, vin santo & toasted almonds proved every bit as extraordinary as it did the 1st time I tried it some 8 or 9 years ago,
Famous as this luxury item is, however, not a lot of people seem to know it’s actually inspired by a humble snack from Fruili–Venezia Giulia: gnocchi di prugne can be found throughout the streets of Trieste, the cuisine & architecture of which strikingly reflects its Austro-Hungarian legacy. Pulling one out of a paper bag from a bakery & biting into it in a sunny piazza one morning a decade ago in that remarkable city remains among my dearest & most revelatory (not to mention stickiest) culinary experiences—so the chance to relive it, albeit in decidedly more extravagant fashion, at No. 9 Park is always a thrill.