Restaurant Review: Manifesto Tuscan Grato & Scotch Bar
A place with the moniker “Manifesto” sounds really serious. And when veteran customers mention that there are profound quotations written on the walls of the establishment, it reinforces expectations of seriousness.
Someone needs to point out that the biggest quotation scrawled in the biggest font is a remark from Ron Burgundy, the Will Ferrell character in Anchorman. Other quotations are a little racy and irreverent. And even when the words comes from a serious character such as Andrew Jackson, there’s still a bit of flippancy in his observation that it’s fun “having lots to do and not doing it”.
Still, Manifesto Tuscan Grato & Scotch Bar is gloriously glam, even with its defined sense of humor. The operation has a gothic, but-not-taking-itself-seriously feel. That said, it takes its kitchen work VERY seriously.
Consider the flatbreads. The Steak & Gorgonzola Flatbread ($14) is topped with tender filet, mushrooms, gorgonzola and an aioli with a distinguished horseradish sting to stir things up in the taste department. It’s a great combo on a crunchy, thin-but-sturdy crust.
The Pesto Chicken Flatbread is pretty serious too ($9). It has an interesting mix of ingredients: pesto, pistachios, asiago, radiccio, peppadew peppers and chunks of chicken thigh. In spite of the intriguing components, it’s not as lovable as the aforementioned steak offering. The strongest flavor contributions in this combo come from the dark meat chicken and pistachios. So, it’s best for those who really enjoy those two flavors together.
For the poultry peeps, try instead the Duck Confit Manicotti ($13). Duck fans will find the delicate meat with a few shreds of spinach filling a rolled manicotti shell. Little crumbs of mild goat cheese are sprinkled across the top with a sage-brown butter sauce (“emulsion”) that has a down-home gravy-appeal.
The Spicy Penne ala Vodka (with chicken in the mix for $13) is also a good choice. The vodka sauce has a significant pulp to it, with makes the dish more toothsome and interesting than some runny thing. As the menu promises, it’s got a nice hot spike to it too.
For something more on the lighter side, there are a couple of salad options. The House Salad ($5) is very nicely executed. Mixed greens are teamed with peppers, pine nuts, semi-dried tomatoes (exactly what they sound like) and an excellent, generously supplied vinaigrette.
There is Tuscan Hummus Dip ($6) too. It might be made with cannellini beans, but it has the appealing garlic flavor that makes the dish traditionally addictive.
As the restaurant’s name indicates (the “Tuscan” part, anyway), the dining fare is largely Italian with pasta and flatbreads. Even something more elemental such as the menu’s lamb offering has a Tuscan feel, as it’s accompanied by gnocchi.
You can find Manifesto Tuscan Grato & Scotch Bar at 21 E. State Street. Look for the brand new sidewalk patio, it’s the biggest signal that you’ve arrived at your destination. It’s got great hours: the kitchen opens daily at 10:30am, and service continues until 10:30pm on Sundays; all the way until 1am Mondays through Saturdays.
More information can be found online at www.manifestograto.com.
Photos by Mollie Lyman of www.fornixphotography.com.