- 1325 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY, 40204
- (502) 473-0015
- Overall User Rating:
- (4 ratings)
- Sunday-Thursday, 5-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 5-10 p.m.
- Official Web Site:
My pal Bernie started it. A month or so ago, he mentioned in passing that there’s nothing he likes better than eggplant parmesan. No sooner were the words out of his mouth than I became aware of a previously unknown craving for that very dish.
It’s well-known that the Crimson Age of home-style Italian-American restaurant cuisine has long since passed. These days, old-fashioned “Italian” restaurants have largely been supplanted by trendy “Tuscan” places where red sauce is close to being contraband.
But there are still a few Louisville restaurants that are standard-bearers for the old traditions, and if you’re seeking an old-school eggplant parmesan, Le Gallo Rosso ought to be the first place on your list.
In fact, a visit to Le Gallo Rosso feels very much like a trip back to a better, more innocent time. Over the last several years, its footprint has grown a bit: Once a crowded postage stamp of a place, it has spread out to occupy an intricate, intimate den of nooks and crannies in a cozy old house that feels very much like a home. Low lighting, faux-finished walls that capture the feel of an Italian courtyard and a subdued soundtrack dominated by the splashy elegance of big-band jazz come together to build a romantic, comfortable aura. Understaffing has long been a bit of an issue — you’re likely to cool your heels for several minutes while you wait to be discovered and seated — but service is friendly.
And as for the food, chef/owner Annette Saco is handling things with a confident, authoritative touch.
That eggplant parmesan? A heap of thin, crisply breaded wafers peeked out from under a shimmering silken layer of melted mozzarella and a red cloak of herb-inflected red sauce — sauce that any Italian grandmother would proudly call “gravy,” and lots of colorful, perfectly cooked squash and peppers. Tucked underneath, like hidden treasure, was a tight tangle of perfectly finished angel hair pasta. It was a grand meal indeed (eggplant parmesan $15; veal parmesan $22; chicken parmesan $17).
There’s actually plenty to explore on Saco’s menu: She encrusts pork tenderloin in pistachios and sauces it with a mushroom-sherry cream sauce ($17). She serves little flatbread pizzas ($7-$8) and osso bucco with potato gnocchi ($28), and a nice assortment of appetizers that includes an Angry Italian Dip ($8), banana peppers stuffed with spicy Italian sausage ($8), prawns stuffed with crabmeat and scallops and wrapped in pancetta ($12).
Saco’s Caesar salad is straight out of the ’50s, complete with a couple of pungent anchovy fillets on the plate ($8), and her Bistro Salad ($6) arrives at the table as a nifty cylinder of field greens, feta and pine nuts, all corralled by a pale green slice of cucumber.
And if you’re seeking the straightforward comforts only Italian food can offer on gloomy winter evenings, all the classics can be found: thick layers of lasagna ($17), stuffed manicotti ($13), and all the usual pasta dishes. In fact, though my eggplant parmesan was stellar, if you’re looking for a truly indulgent dish, Saco’s pasta carbonara ought to come with a warning label (not that it would deter anyone). It’s high praise to say there’s nothing innovative about her carbonara. It’s just the honest stuff: a tangle of linguini, pancetta, egg and Parmesan, studded with jade-colored peas.
As for dessert, that’s the honest stuff, too: a monumental slab of tiramisu and a crisp cannoli filled with creamy, none-too-sweet filling.