Song pairing: Come On Get Happy
It arrived on my doorstep in an unassuming brown banker’s box. The most thoroughly satisfying and delicious meal I’ve had in six months wasn’t delivered in a Piaggio Ape, (pronounced ah-pay), the quirky tri-wheeled delivery truck you see bumping down Italy’s narrow streets, rather a spotless SUV with a Tolltag on it. The food, however, was straight out of Italy by way of Julian Barsotti’s red-sauce Italian restaurant Fachini.
Barsotti and partner Glen Collins, the duo behind Ritas and Queso, launched The Grape Ape to bring frosé, Chianti Riserva, antipasto, and simple but stellar pasta dishes direct to diners. The concept is another brilliant pandemic-inspired pivot by a restauranteur who needs to increase sales and get staff back to work while dealing with in-person dining capacity limits and guests still hesitant to dine out.
The Grape Ape menu is straightforward and kit-focused, with the Standard Kit which includes frosé or Chianti Riserva, antipasto accoutrements and garlic bread, and Family Meal Kits, which offers Fachini’s layered lasagna or baked ziti, each with Caesar salad and choice of frosé or Chianti. Diners can double up on any kit component by ordering extra from the a la carte menu.
So, how was it? Fantastico!!
The pasta arrives frozen and will take about an hour until it’s ready to serve so you might want to pop it in the oven while you’re assembling the antipasto tray. The simple, ecofriendly packaging of this component is a nice change from the plastic containers I’ve been collecting since March. The kit includes premium quality spicy salami, prosciutto, buttery Castelvetrano olives spiked with pepperoncini, roasted sweet red peppers, and gently marinated artichoke hearts. The accompanying garlic bread heats up to a crisp, chewy loaf which is the assigned vessel for the heavenly whipped ricotta and fruity olive oil. The most difficult task in preparing this course is making it look attractive without over-handling all the goodies. If you’d like some tips on how to make a beautiful antipasto tray, by the way, check out Board Mama and shop former Mansion Chef du Cuisine Eric Brandt’s new pandemic pivot project Brandt’s Boards.
The pasta is . . . . how can I say this in a family newspaper . . . freaking amazing. The 200 Layer Lasagna is an expansion of the Fachini favorite 100 Layer lasagna with its light, lacy layers of house-made pasta, deep red sauce, and crumbles of braised beef. It’s not a heavy gut-bomb like some take-out lasagnas (not that I have anything against heavy gut-bomb lasagnas, by the way) but a flavorful, pasta version of a mille feuille. The Baked Ziti’s handmade tubes are enrobed with a bright, tomatoey vodka sauce with just a touch of cream that blissfully cohabitate with meatballs and mozzarella. You can request the ziti meatless as well. It’s impossibly to overstate how simply delicious these two pastas are. Barsotti cranks out some of the very best fresh pasta in town and these are no exceptions.
The Caesar is delivered in a grab and shake container so prep, serving and clean-up are easy. The dressing is a classic anchovy-based Caesar, light on the anchovy and garlic, as are the croutons. The salad is an unassuming addition to the Family Meal Kit but a worthwhile one, since the greens are higher quality and less bitter than some of the Romaine I find in stores, and the dressing is far better than bottled and easier than homemade. The undressed salad was perfectly crisp on the second day, so leftover pastas and salad were an easy, appreciated second-day dinner.
What would this concept be if not for its brilliant direct-to-drinker frosé and Chianti? It would still be smart, but the ability to have half-gallons of frozen rosé and a perfectly paired red wine delivery is a nice pandemic perk. Frosé is ubiquitous on on-premise dining menus, but it’s a new trick to have home delivery. Barsotti and Collins perfected the delivery of a frozen beverage with Ritas and Queso, so their frosé delivery execution is tried and true. By the way, the frosé is delicious, sweet with just a touch of grapefruit in it so if you’re on medication that has a contraindication with grapefruit, opt for the Chianti.
Even though this September doesn’t look like other Septembers, our days still busy with school and work. The weather is soon going to return to more tolerable temperatures, so we can go back to the backyard dining we enjoyed in the earlier days of the pandemic. Folks are entertaining again and there is just a hint of normalcy seeping back into our lives. Whatever the occasion, Monday, Holiday, Birthday, Game Day, take out and delivery options such as The Grape Ape, Ritas and Queso and others are a best bet for great food and drinks.
For the full menu, order times, pick up and delivery times and delivery zones, visit The Grape Ape. Place orders by calling 469.724.1787.