- 445 E. Market St., Louisville, KY, 40202
- (502) 690-6699
- Overall User Rating:
- (0 ratings)
- Monday-Thursday, 5:00-10:00 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 5:00-11:00 p.m.
- Official Web Site:
Not long after Mozz Mozzarella Bar & Enoteca opened last winter, one of the co-owners described the concept as “culinary theater.” And it’s indisputable that chef-owner Matthew Antonovich and his partner, Michael Cooper, both of whom trace their restaurant careers back to the legendary Casa Grisanti, have a no-holds-barred approach to creating spectacle — though Mozz might more aptly be compared to a multi-ringed circus.
One ring, the crowded hub of the restaurant, revolves around the long white marble counter that serves as mozzarella bar, a noisy, social spot where customers schmooze with one another, chat up the owners and chefs, sip cocktails and wine, snack on charcuterie and nibble at the mozzarellas from which the restaurant takes its name.
Almost as noisy, but quite a bit more formal in its feel, is the Enoteca, a dining room trimmed in black, with white tablecloths, contemporary glass fixtures and seating that includes a long row of banquettes that serve spectators well on the nights when live jazz is offered, but seem a bit low-slung for diners.
And finally there’s the NuLu East Market Lounge, a cocktail lounge done up in burnished, glowing wood.
At the start, Mozz was also something of a culinary circus. Its menu was both overwhelming and confusing. The casual side offered a mix of small plates, snacks and wood-oven pizzas (using the wood oven left from when Bim Deitrich’s Primo occupied the space).
Meanwhile, the Enoteca menu was extravagantly ambitious in its scope, expensive in is pricing and baffling in its structure. It appeared to invoke Italian culinary tradition, with sections called “primi” and “secondi,” presumably corresponding to the first and second courses of an Italian meal. But instead of separate courses, both categories involved entrée-sized portions (and prices).
More recently, the restaurant has found a new, more promising focus. The casual side of the house still emphasizes snacks, mozzarella tasting platters (a trio of excellent mozzarellas with accompaniments runs $18) and wood-oven pizzas (from $9 for a classic margherita to $15 for one topped with shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes and Sapori di Italia goat cheese).
The Enoteca now offers four pastas ($18-$38) and four “secondi” ($16-$48), as well as a $150 version of Bistecca alla Fiorentina — a meal designed for a party of four that includes a massive porterhouse (carved tableside) and enough accompanying dishes that I recently saw a party of four packing up plenty of food to take home.
On recent visits, the place has bustled with customers, but staffing hasn’t been a problem, and servers have been quick and helpful.
But kitchen quality has varied, both in concept and execution. A salad called Caprese Fior Di Latte consisted of excellent ingredients: yellow and red tomatoes, grilled eggplant, house-made mozzarella and a lovely balsamic vinegar. But instead of the customary plating, which highlights the bright colors of the dish, here the ingredients were tossed together and served in a tilted presentation-style bowl ($13).
A generous serving of Paglia e Fieno ($18), an attractive mix of house-made green and white tagliatelle noodles, brightened things up quite a bit. Sauced in an intense, beautifully constructed garlic-cream sauce, tossed with bits of prosciutto, fresh peas and asparagus, it was all that a pasta ought to be.
A hanger steak ($21) was admirably cooked to order, served with a dramatic spire of truffle fries and accented by a sweet dose of gorgonzola dolce, but a side order of Tuscan beans was lackluster.
The casual side of the menu also seemed competent but unexceptional. A pizza ($12) sported excellent toppings — the meatballs alone made me think I’d better go back for an order of guitar string pasta and meatballs ($22) — but the crust was soft, puffy and flavorless. Large patties of fried mozzarella came with a thick olive and caper-laden puttanesca with a hard edge of flavor ($8).
And yet, there are plenty of nice details: a snack of roasted olives flavored with juniper and garlic, sprinkled with peppery micro-greens ($2.25), and, on a night when there was no panna cotta to be had, a flourless chocolate torte was superb.