Cortona Contemporary Italian

948 South Cooper

Memphis, TN 38104
(901) 729-0101

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I have been slacking lately on my blogging due to, well, general laziness. Since my last entry, I’ve been to some great restaurants, and of course some terribly disappointing ones as well. But the only one that has made me want to write again was my recent visit to Cortona.

I really can’t say enough good things about them. I know everyone is raving about them as well, and I should have expected it, but I am often disappointed with whichever restaurant is the talk of town at the moment (case in point-Cheffie’s).  This was a huge exception to my usually correct (if I do say so myself) skeptical nature.

“Mushroom Cream” Soup

I started off with the mushroom cream soup (sorry folks, I can’t remember the exact name), and it was one of my favorite 3 soups in Memphis (the other two being the Tomato Bisque at Jim’s Place and the Lobster Bisque at Texas de Brazil… seeing a cream theme here?). I have recently realized that I do actually like mushrooms (gasp! I can’t believe I went all those years without them!), and this just made me realize that maybe I actually love mushrooms when they are prepared correctly.

My friend, Rachel, started with the Caesar Salad, and it looked good enough as far as salads go. I can’t say I remember exactly how she felt about it because I wasn’t really paying attention. I was too wrapped up in my soup at the time.

Verdura Parmigianna

Then, when each entree came out, Cortona really won my heart.  They were appropriate portions-not insultingly & snobishly small, or so big that I began to go over America’s obesity issues in my head while I ate. (You laugh, but I really do this at most Italian restaurants in Memphis… no one, and I mean no one, needs or should eat 4,000 calories in one bowl, no matter how great it tastes or how special the occasion. Do yourself a favor and look up the nutritional information for your favorite Italian chain and then reevaluate if you really are eating reasonably, and that your super awesome, favorite in the whole world, can’t live without it, Alfredo Linguine is really worth it come swim suit season. Or go on eating it anyway- I won’t be there to glare at your food jealously.)  I digress.

The waitress noticed my Paris travel book and was pleasantly helpful with suggestions and comments about her trip there in high school, and a movie I should see nearby. She was just helpful enough, and I didn’t find myself wishing she would leave my glass on the table to refill it, or chatter less, or bring me this, etc. This is a huge plus for Cortona, because I am a picky, picky person when it comes to service.  The family next to us even had well behaved & volume controlled children.  Can I get an enthusiastic Amen!

Lasagna

My Verdura Parmigiana was the best Parmigiana (including Chicken or Eggplant) I’ve had in all of Memphis. I take this statement seriously because in my mind they just dethroned the Chicken Parm at Papa Pia’s, which was winning my a landslide before. Whatever they did to make the breading so light put them over the top. I didn’t feel like I was eating a ton of oil and fat, but it was still crispy and felt indulgent.  It also ingeniously combined several vegetables instead of just Eggplant, so you had several different flavors to move around in. The pasta underneath was thin and lightly dressed in a Marinara that was really more a thin tomato-ish liquid with chunks of tomatoes to give you different textures in each bite, which is apparently the way I most love my pasta.

Chicken Piccata

My sister, LeAnne, got the Lasagna, and while it was great, I just couldn’t get over how good mine was! I loved the rustic serving dish with all the crusted cheese around the edges from the oven.  My friend Rachel go the Chicken Piccata and while I didn’t try the chicken, I did try the risotto that came with it, and it was good enough that I might ask them if I can order a side of it the next time I visit.

Tomato Zucchini Gratin

Out of sheer curiosity, we ordered a side of Tomato Zucchini Gratin. I kept comparing it to a Ratatouille which is a delightfully healthy dish, but really I think this was better because of the crust on top. I’m guessing it was made with the same light breadcrumbs used to bread my Parmigiana, but can’t say for sure. My sister, who is very picky about onions, said they were cooked perfectly. The taste was just perfect. I know perfect isn’t very descriptive, but I just can’t say much more that would do it justice.

Home run for Cortona! 

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