It's pedal-to-the-metal at Cafe Testarossa.
The stylish Italian-New American spot has been cruising along since 1988, when the establishment opened with a blazing red image of the namesake Ferrari nearly the length of the dining room.
These days, the renovated restaurant's decor is more subdued, with neutral hues and soothing artwork. But chef-owner Billy Sansone's meticulous cooking, from crudo to meatballs, is humming, with heightened flavor and refined style. The ride has never been better.
While you're deciding on appetizers and entrees, nibble on the savory pesto, Gorgonzola and olive oil pizza. Or try the trio of veal meatball sliders, which are so good you'll be tempted to make spaghetti and meatballs your next course.
Sansone prepares tasty marinated and grilled baby octopus on escarole, chickpeas and crushed tomatoes, which will spur requests for more bread. His elegant fluke crudo arrives accented with breakfast radishes, fennel and tangerine oil. Tuna two ways combines lush crudo with lemon and olive oil and snappy tuna tartare in a lime-ginger vinaigrette. There's creamy, superior mozzarella di bufala, too.
You also may go the fried calamari or baked clams oreganata route, each fine. Pan-seared sea scallops star on crisp polenta, fueled by an agave-citrus sauce. The well-seasoned stuffed artichoke is generous; burrata, boosted by heirloom tomatoes and Sicilian pistachios. Refresh yourself with a poached pear-and-red beet salad.
Be sure to have pasta, either as an opener, middle course or main. Paccheri, tossed in a ragù of pork, white beans and tomato; orecchiette with sliced sausage and garlicky broccoli rabe; linguine with white clam sauce; pici Toscana with spicy sausage and veal Bolognese; potato gnocchi with spicy crumbled sausage, crushed tomatoes and basil; and, yes, spaghetti and meatballs -- all excellent.
Sansone prepares a juicy pork chop with roasted fennel, mild cherry peppers and butternut squash risotto; and grilled Black Angus sirloin with caramelized red onions and mashed new potatoes. Roasted chicken, with a near-crackling crust, is the cafe's big bird.
The chef's prime catch is halibut, a pan-seared standout with a lemon zest-bread crumb crust and citrus beurre blanc. Swordfish with sun-dried tomato and bread-crumb crust similarly satisfies. Three tender shrimp, large enough to pick a fight with lobsters, anchor the shellfish, flanked by spinach and frizzled onions.
Flourless chocolate-hazelnut cake, a caramelized banana napoleon, coconut crème brûlée, and the baked apple turnover with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream are the leading sweets.
Cafe Testarossa: running on all cylinders.