What if I told you that you can have a real taste of Tuscany right at home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast?
Stalla at Beau Rivage Casino Resort offers just that.
I must admit this was a shock to me, but it’s true. This region of central Italy, so steeped in family tradition and coastal cuisine, has offered the world incredible food for centuries. It’s flavor that you won’t forget, and you can get a taste without leaving home.
The Chef Behind the Flavor
Chef Paola Bugli grew up in Florence, Italy, learning to cook traditional Italian and coastal cuisine in her family’s kitchen. She came to the US after culinary school hoping to share her passion in the kitchen with a multicultural society. Now in the US for nearly two decades, and at Beau Rivage for three, she considers it her obligation to educate and communicate flavor.
Bulgi’s style is a unique blend of both her Italian roots, and her new American home. She conveys the use of local products and flavor, using what is seasonal and fresh. Ironically enough, the Mississippi Gulf Coast offers similar seasons and ingredients as her beloved homeland, like a plethora of fresh vegetables and a bounty of seafood.
The dining room at Stalla is large, with massive wood beams and rich colors, reminiscent of rustic Italy. The word stalla means barn in Italian. The food fits the scene as it definitely boasts a rustic Italian theme. Food that is hunted, caught from nearby waters, made by hand, and plucked from the earth becomes a shining star on a plate.
For dinner, I tried several dishes; Mussels, Crab Cakes, Cornish Hen, and Tortelloni.
The mussels were steamed perfectly and offer a great start to a meal at Stalla. They are served beautifully, in large platter with plenty to share! The sauce is a slightly spicy broth with lots of tomato and a unique star anise flavor with the added sambuca. It’s light but has big flavor, and don’t dare leave any of the broth in the dish, just ask for extra bread… You know, the spoon of the South. (Don’t worry, everyone does this!)
Next, I tasted the crab cakes. I will answer the obvious question now: were they meaty or loaded with filler? They were full of sweet, lump blue crab meat with barely any filler! Though this is an Italian-style menu, I could swear that this was a local’s grandmother’s recipe. They were that good – Old Bay seasoning was very much present, and the cake was finished off with a red pepper aioli – a sauce I much prefer to the traditional remoulade often found around the Gulf Coast.
The Cornish Hen was next. Rosemary brined overnight, sous vide five hours, and then sent through the blazing hot oven to char the outer skins – can you imagine how moist and flavorful this was and the heavenly scent?! Rustic vegetables accompanied the hen, also a bit charred on the edges, all served together in a cast iron dish. It was honestly the best cornish hen I’ve ever had!
Now for the star of the show; the tortelloni. I watched Chef Bulgi’s assistant make the dough – roll it out, cut, fill and form the tortelloni before I ate it, which simply added a layer of appreciation to this delicate dish. All pasta is handmade here, and tortelloni is basically a larger version of tortellini. The pasta is cut into circles, filled with ricotta, chopped shrimp, lemon and herbs, and then each one is folded, crimped at the sides and delicately wrapped around the finger to form the shape of the tortelloni. These delicacies are boiled al dente and served with a few large boiled shrimp. The result is majestic.
I am also told the ribeye here is one of the best on the coast, totally different than all others – cooked with a Tuscan herb blend. When I make it back to Stalla next time, I’ll make sure to report my opinion. I will definitely be back in soon!
Visit Stalla at Beau Rivage Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday nights 5:30pm – 10:00pm or Friday and Saturday 5:30pm – 10:30pm.