DINE WRITE TWENTY YEARS! THE CHINA ANNIVERSARY. By Janice Schindeler | Photography by Sarah Miller Clam Soup HOUSTON’S SOLE SARDINIAN RESTAURANT (AND ACCORDING TO NATIONAL FOOD AUTHORITARIAN JOHN MARIANI, THIS GALLERIA-AREA GEM IS THE BEST OF ITS GENRE), Arcodoro celebrates with the same intense passion and focus that spurred owner/ chef EFISIO FARRIS to open two decades ago. At the very essence of his motivation rages a hot, burning love of food from the designated Blue Zone homeland island (one of five global sites recognized for the longevity of its populace due in part to consumption of fresh, locally resourced and seasonal food). “It is a small island, but for me, I still learn new dishes. Every small town has its specialties, its favorites. Every town is like its own country – even different languages,” says Farris. “These are my recipes. But I did not invent the dishes. They have been passed down through families forever.” And it is this historical and geographical perspective of food – the romantic notion that one eats what one can grow, that ancient visitors brought saffron, that bees make bitter honey because of the flowers they favor and that sweet myrtle can be used as an aromatic – that makes dining at Arcodoro a treat. Assisting the situation, well-schooled waitstaff answer questions with authority and offer insightful tidbits into the tradition of menu items. Like the addictive, crisp cracker, pane guttiau, aka Shepherd’s bread (also as Music bread for the sweet snap it makes) sprinkled with a “little parma, a drizzle of EVOO,” informs the waiter. Ethereally thin, crisp and toasty delicious, I am told it was a shepherds’ staple as they led the sheep from the overgrazed grassy lowlands to the verdant mountain fields. 20 L O C A L | december 16 The cuisine of Sardinia, an autonomous Italian region in the western Mediterranean, shows influences of northern Africa as much as it does mainland Italy. Throw in some herbs and spices from the ancient Phoenicians (early visitors) and you have flavors that strike cords of familiarity with intriguing undercurrents of uniqueness. Take the oversized ravioli, Anzelottos, pasta pillows sporting a tomato sauce, but it is light and feels fresh, about as far away as you can get from the long simmered marinara of the mainland. The pasta gossamer thin. The ravioli filled with a fresh, sheep cheese that has been marinated overnight in fresh mint, and a gentle touch of its cousin basil causes a Sardinian-born waiter to swoon, “It is like my Nonna makes back home.” The tasty, broth-based clam soup, Sa Fregula kin Arsellas whispers exotic saffron hints of those Phoenicians, and herbaceous notes of sweet myrtle, with little pasta pearls, a gift of seafaring Moors.