Each time I go to Fargo - yes, Fargo - I get more pleasantly surprised as to how much of a "big city" this town of about 100,000 people really is. First of all, it's the biggest town for hundreds of miles around. Secondly, there's a lot of money in the community. And third, they aren't shy to spend it. I visited my dealer in Fargo before the snow fell last year and we went out to dinner at a great little place downtown by the name of Toscana (see map).
Chef Mirco Morganti grew up in Lucca, Italy and spent five years in cooking school in Europe. Chef Mirco's work took him all through Europe, then to the U.K. before ending up in the U.S. a few years ago. When he was working in Sioux Falls at a restaurant there, he met Fargo native Char Nelson. They soon married and Char convinced her husband to come back with her to Fargo to open a restaurant. Toscana opened in the late part of 2006 and many of Chef Mirco's recipes are a reflection of his Italian heritage.
Before we went to Toscana, my dealer and his wife took me for drinks to a new supper club that friends of theirs had recently opened, the Silver Moon (see map). Owned by Monte Jones and Jerry Erbstoesser, the Silver Moon was a very ornate 30's-style supper club in the heart of the historic district in Fargo. The restaurant, housed in a building that is over 90 years old, is named after a former and famous local landmark - the Silver Moon - which was located just across the Red River of the North in Moorhead, MN. I met Monte Jones and he told me they had just opened their doors to the public a couple weeks prior after hosting a number of "dry run" evenings for friends and family. My dealer and his wife were part of a couple of those "dry run" evenings and they raved about the food and appetizers they were served.
Actually, with Monte Jones' wonderful hospitality and the ambiance of the place, I was all set to have dinner there that evening. However, my dealer said, "C'mon, we're going to go get dinner. You like Italian, don't you?"
Oh, God, yes...
My dealer's wife begged off for dinner as she was hosting a small gathering at their house later in the evening, so it was just a short walk from the Silver Moon to Toscana for my dealer and I on a cool North Dakota evening. Toscana's decor is very rustic Italian with wrought iron and spackled walls. It was very nice and comfortable in the restaurant.
We got the wine list and the menu from our smartly dressed waiter. Toscana was very classy, but very laid back. You could have easily taken the restaurant and put it in a place like St. Louis, Chicago or Minneapolis and it would have fit in very well.
After getting a very decent priced bottle of the Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, we ordered dinner. My dealer ordered the veal picatta which came with a small Italian salad. I was torn between the Steak au Poivre - a New York strip topped with a green peppercorn sauce; or the meat filled tortellini in a vodka cream sauce. The waiter had a great suggestion. He said, "Get the Steak au Poivre and I can get you a side of the tortellini." He just earned a nice jump in his tip.
We talked business over salads and wine. He announced that he was opening a new showroom in Fargo and was planning on displaying a number of products that we sell. When we finished the first bottle of Jordan just as dinner was being served, I promptly ordered another. We were celebrating.
My Steak au Poivre was just wonderful. It was cooked a perfect medium rare and the creamy green peppercorn sauce added to the wonderful flavor of the meat. And the tortellini in the vodka cream sauce was just out of this world. Along with a great glass of Jordan Cabernet, it certainly didn't suck to be me that evening.
I took my dealer home and he invited me in to join the gathering of his wife's friends who were watching "Project Runway." I was like, "What?"
But he said, "It will be a hoot. Besides, I know they're having wine."
Once inside, my dealer's wife asked, "So, how was Toscana?"
Well, I have to say it was one of the best Italian meals I've ever had. The service was great and we had a great time. Like I say, it seems like Fargo surprises me each time I visit the city. I was certainly surprised and blown away by the food at Toscana. It was absolutely wonderful.