Sunday gravy is one of those dishes I aspire to make at home, but probably never will. It’s just too expensive to prepare for two. That’s why the meal is typically the domain of Italian-American grandmas, cooking for a dining room full of kids and grandkids. Or, in the case of Mia’s Italian Kitchen, a stylish restaurant stuffed with equally eager mouths.
For those who neither grew up in the New York area nor have spent time watching the Jersey Shore cast graze, Sunday gravy is long-simmered tomato sauce filled with a variety of meats. Because of its low-and-slow preparation, the bountiful collection not only becomes ultra-tender but contributes its juices to the tangy tomatoes. For meat obsessives like me, France has its cassoulet, America has Sunday gravy.
It’s rare to see the dish in a restaurant, all the more reason that I fantasized about Mia’s version for weeks before trying it. Fortunately, it very nearly met my lofty expectations. The rigatoni that provides a base for the sauce is made in-house and cooked to an admirably al dente bite. The sauce itself is a tad thinner than my ideal, but this is no more than a quibble when faced with three distinct animals in four preparations.
No knife is required to rend apart fibers of the chicken thighs, which all but melt as soon as the diner applies their fork. The same is true of the rolled-and-stewed steak known as braciole, served in a pinwheel stuffed with breadcrumbs. Sweet Italian sausage, with its significant fennel flavor, brings the most to the party, which is also strongly influenced by oregano. The only bummer was a duo of insufficiently mixed meatballs, which in some bites were nothing but bread.
With a hefty box of leftovers, I left more than satisfied with my meal. I don’t have an Italian grandma, but thanks to co-owner Dave Nicholas’ Neapolitan great-grandmother, everyone who can make it to Alexandria has a scrumptious approximation.
100 King St., Alexandria
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