The initial Thursday of each month, the city of Austin celebrates “First Thursday” on South Congress. Craft booths are set up, boutiques stay open late and people wander up and down the street sampling their wares to the accompaniment of the ever-present live music this place is known for. It’s a chance to see some of the local color – and for me, it was also an excuse to check out Enoteca Vespaio.
I’m always a touch skeptical about so-called Italian restaurants on this side of the Atlantic. In my experience, the harder they try to seem authentic, the less they actually are. Enoteca Vespaio, unfortunately, falls into this camp. Although I had expected as much coming in, an article I read on it and the extensive list of dessert offerings I found online convinced me it was worth a go.
After a main dish of Spaghetti Carbonara that was, although tasty, not “it” at all, I elected for the Mascarpone Cheesecake. Now, just to be clear, I’d like to acknowledge that cheesecake is in no way, shape or form a food traditionally found in Italy. It is simply a dessert I absolutely love and wish to try in as many embodiments as possible, and my notes on authenticity therefore end here.
I’d previously experienced another Italianized cheesecake, one with ricotta, in New York City’s Little Italy a couple of years ago, and had been wanting to try the mascarpone variety ever since. This version was, as I’d anticipated, moister and smoother. Its consistency was somewhat mousse-like, but dense. The taste was similar to that of plain whipped cream; nothing to write home about, really. There was no crust, which while maybe exciting for some, was for me somewhat disappointing. I found the choice of garnish truly odd: three fresh cranberries, placed at the outer edge of the slice. Who in their right mind serves fresh cranberries? Seriously, have they ever tried them? Don’t get me wrong, I am the first to champion anything involving dried, cooked or otherwise refined cranberries, but fresh those things are like little pellets of turpentine. Although it was still cheesecake – for which there will always be a big place in my heart – and for the most part tasted pleasant enough, this dessert failed to make much of an impression on my palate.