Food is a source of comfort. That’s why we incorporate it into so many events. We use food to smooth over the awkwardness of first dates or meeting our partners’ families for the first time. To celebrate birthdays, graduations, new babies and marriages. To mourn the losses of loved ones, relationships and jobs. To lull our teenagers into telling us how they’re actually doing. We even use food for things as simple as rewarding ourselves for a job well done or to soothe away the unpleasantness of an especially bad day at work. It greases the wheels of our lives, sometimes literally.
Everyone has their preferred comfort food and for me it’s classic Italian-American food. It’s difficult to go wrong when tomatoes, olive oil, cheese and pasta are combined, and the gentle food coma they bring on can’t be reproduced by any other food category.
Recently my household needed comfort food because it was cold, it was still 2020 and the sun had begun to set at 4:30 p.m. for what felt like the thousandth consecutive day. I had been craving lasagna for weeks but hadn’t been able to find the motivation to make it myself. It was also important that I not have to go get said lasagna because I hadn’t put pants on all day. We decided to order Baroncini because neither of us had tried it before.
Baroncini was opened by and named for chef Gianluca Baroncini, an Italian national who immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 24. He began his culinary career in Italy, attending the national Italian culinary institute in Verona and working as a chef in multiple restaurants there. After coming to the United States, he worked as a chef in Miami and Washington D.C. before landing in Iowa City and opening Baroncini in 2011.
For our comfort meal, we ordered the lasagna I’d been craving, a classic Italian sausage pizza and a piece of tiramisu. The pizza was an essentially perfect example of the category. It was simple, topped with just sauce, cheese and Italian sausage, and the crust was neither too thin nor too thick, meaning that we could each eat more than one piece but weren’t left hungry after eating our respective shares. The lasagna was truly decadent. It was a massive slice, oozing with cheese and covered in a rich meat sauce. It probably would have been too much for me to eat on my own, especially alongside pizza, but split in half it was the perfect amount to enjoy the dish’s richness without feeling like I’d overindulged.
Last but not least, the tiramisu was a little bit of a variation from the norm. It came with a dollop of whipped cream and fresh berries and had been drizzled with streaks of white and milk chocolate. One of the things I love and miss about dining in a restaurant is the beautiful way the food is often plated, so I appreciated that they found a way to translate some of that flair into the presentation of their takeout. The tiramisu was rich and creamy and, again, exactly the right size for two people who had just stuffed themselves with meat and cheese to split.
Baroncini more than delivered on my craving for classic comfort food that would drive away the winter blues. I’ll be keeping them in mind when I need pick-me-ups again in the doldrums of this long Iowa winter.
Presented by Chomp