Acero's Autumn Menu is Full of Fresh Delights
Acero’s fall menu, offered through mid-December, uses local ingredients.
Located in the heart of Maplewood, Acero is an Italian restaurant that prides itself on serving fresh and seasonal fare. This establishment is owned by Jim Fiala and features talented executive chef Adam Karl Gnau, who continuously wows crowds with his spin on traditional Italian cuisine. The menu itself changes every three to four months, and always features fresh and local ingredients that are in season. Manager Sam Foley told me that all of Acero's meats are grass fed and organic, and all of the pastas are made in-house.
Upon my arrival, I was immediately presented with warm housemade bread. The chewy dense loaf had an almost sweet taste to it; it was a delightful way to begin my meal.
The menu, while small, offers a variety of traditional as well as unique Italian dishes. The Acero Salad ($7) combines romaine lettuce with egg, onion, salumi and herb vinaigrette to create a unique explosion of flavors. If you're feeling a bit more adventurous, try the Tuscan Pici ($15)—this creative entree features wild boar, black pepper and fennel. For a more substantial meal, give the Rainbow Trout ($28) a try; with spaghetti squash, brown butter, and sage, this dish features wonderful autumn ingredients that are both comforting and creative.
With all of the interesting choices on the menu, it is hard to narrow it down to one entree. Luckily, Acero offers a tasting menu starting at $30, where you can choose four courses of your choice to comprise your meal.
I first tried the bleu cheese bruschetta. With roasted Italian bread, caramelized onions, bleu cheese crumbles, rosemary and a drizzle of honey, this small plate was a perfect blend of flavors. The creamy and tangy bleu cheese paired well with the sweet, soft caramelized onions.
Next in line was an egg raviolo. This unique dish came highly recommended by Foley; comprised of a farm fresh egg yolk wrapped in delicate handmade pasta, it is no wonder that this is one of Acero's most popular dishes. The filling of ricotta cheese paired with the egg was a wonderful play on textures and colors.
Choosing the third course was one of the most difficult parts of the meal. With offerings such as five-hour slow roasted porchetta ($26), yellowfin tuna ($32) and grass-fed flank steak ($34), it was hard to choose only one entree. I finally settled on the sea scallops ($32). With roasted brussel sprouts and speck (Italian prosciutto), it was a terrific dish with big flavors. The scallops were extremely tender, and the brussel sprouts were expertly roasted without any hint of bitterness. The speck added a rich depth of flavor, making this dish one of perfection.
Finally, for dessert, I sampled the pumpkin and pecan bread pudding. Served with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, it was visually appealing. However, taste-wise, I was less than impressed. There was not much in the way of pumpkin flavor, and the bread pudding itself was too dense and dry.
Despite the less than stellar dessert, the experience at Acero was very pleasing. The atmosphere is romantic, with dim lighting and soft ambient music. The service was attentive without being overbearing. Most importantly, the food was innovative, delicious and affordable. When you're in the mood for mindblowing food in an attractive atmosphere, Acero in Maplewood is the place to be.