Ecco on Overton Park opened a few weeks ago in the old Fresh Slices location in Midtown, and owner Sabine Bachmann says that in that time she's spotted a few repeat customers.
It makes sense. I could easily picture this restaurant becoming a regular spot for those in the neighborhood. Indeed, when we stopped by for dinner on Saturday, it appeared that many of the folks knew each other.
While the wait staff wear a uniform of plaid shirts and jeans, Ecco is on the nicer side of casual. The walls have been painted a stark white and hung with paintings of bright, primary colors. The booths are gone, and in their place are wooden tables seating two, four, and six. There are a few tables on the small front patio and more seating on a back deck.
We started with the cheese plate ($15) — imported cheeses with olives and tapenade.
It was served on a thick wooden cutting board and the cheeses (a good mix of a strong blue cheese and mild cheeses), olives, and slices of bread adorned with a sprig of flowering broccoli rabe was so artfully arranged that it looked like the subject of a still painting.
Both Pam and I ordered the orange and fennel salad ($9).
Pam, who's the food editor of Memphis magazine, says she's seeing oranges pop up in dishes all over the place. If this salad is any indication of what's out there, then I'm all for this trend. The sharpness of the orange slices, the thin slices of fennel, the subtle champagne vinaigrette — it all worked. I will be ordering this again.
Pam's husband Tony opted for the Tuscan bean salad ($10), with red onion, sage, pancetta, and lemon vinaigrette.
This was another favorite at the table, with the beans perfectly done.
For her entree, Pam ordered the Cioppino seafood stew ($15, served Fridays and Saturdays only).
The stew has a tomato base and shrimp and white fish. Feelings were mixed on this one — from spot-on to almost there but needing a bit more oomph.
I ordered the spinach ricotta gnocchi with garlic butter ($10).
Ecco's menu, I should note, has a generous selection of vegetarian dishes. The menu is divided into pasta, pork, chicken, beef, seafood, and vegetarian sections. All the pasta dishes on the current menu appear to be vegetarian — linguini with kale pesto, porcini ravioli, garden vegetable linguini.
This spinach gnocchi veers from traditional gnocchi, as there's no potato involved. Instead, the gnocchi is made with the spinach and cheese. It was very good, akin to spanakopita filling, and the garlic butter offers a good accent. My only complaint about this dish is that it is a might skimpy for an entree.
For Tony, it was the orange-glazed Berkshire pork chop ($19) served with white wine risotto and an apple onion chutney.
There were cheers about this beast of a chop — especially about the citrus (more orange!) and the hint of sweetness.
We finished the meal by splitting a fine and boozy tiramisu.
Ecco was also offering a panna cotta topped with a choice of fruit. The couple at the next table ordered this dessert, which was delivered to me by mistake. I thought about claiming it as my own by destroying it with my spoon. I resisted because that wouldn't have been at all neighborly.
Ecco on Overton Park is open Tuesday through Thursday, 5 to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.