By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Nov 19, 2009 at 9:42 AM

Last night, I experienced the second of two rehearsal dinners at Ristorante Bartolotta that Chef Juan Urbieta and his team -- which included the creme de la creme of kitchen staff from the Bartolotta restaurants (including Zach Baker who just returned from three weeks in Italy, where he cooked in two restaurants) -- used to perfect the menu they'll serve at the James Beard House in New York's Greenwich Village on Dec. 1.

I tweeted throughout dinner and here are my tweets (with some further discussion in parentheses).

BobbyOnMKEcom Excited to be a part of Juan Urbieta's Beard House rehearsal dinner at Ristorante Bartolotta.

BobbyOnMKEcom As soon as we sit the truffle topped appetizers start arriving. Each better than the one before. (We started with a crostino topped with taleggio cheese and white truffle honey. Next, server Sarah -- who we later learned was Zach Baker's wife! -- promised us the white truffled duck liver mousse would be the best of the appetizers. It was indeed silky and rich, but I preferred the sweetness of the honey wedded to the ripeness of the taleggio. We also had the butter-whipped eggs with white truffles, but somehow missed the white truffled veal tartare.)

BobbyOnMKEcom There's a nice intimate crowd here tonight. The first rehearsal dinner was last night. Juan cooks at Beard on Dec 1. (Urbieta's team in New York is tonight's crew, which includes Zach Baker, his brother Drew Baker, Miles Borghgraef and Andrew Ruiz. Only Borghgraef won't make the trip.)

BobbyOnMKEcom The menu us full of my faves like polenta, bagna caoda, scallops, agnolotti. Add truffles on top of it all and ... wow! (For some, the rich earthiness of shaved white truffles on top of every dish is too much and that's why the courses were available with truffles or without.)

BobbyOnMKEcom I just ate a perfect scallop that was tender and resting atop pureed cauliflower. And did I mention truffles on top? (I was too busy eating the bowl of polenta mixed with melted fontina creating a warm polenta fondue that is pure comfort food bliss to tweet about it! Same was true with the meat-filled agnolotti.)

BobbyOnMKEcom This is what Prunotto's delicious 2007 Dolcetto d'Alba looks like. (The photo is above, and I apologize for the fuzziness of the iPhone picture. Without a flash, low light presents an obstacle.)

BobbyOnMKEcom If there's a warmer, more intimate dining room in the city than at Ristorante Bartolotta I've never seen it. (That low lighting, the candles, the warm woodwork, the smell of the wood-fired oven when it's going ... it's unbeatable.)

BobbyOnMKEcom The filet with porcini, cardoons, parmigiano cream and barbera sauce is rich and the filet melts like butter. Juan and company are ready 4 NYC. (You know how a perfectly cooked filet just melts in your mouth? Add to it a sauce made from barbera, cardoons and Parmigiano Reggiano and you've got a hearty, satisfying and elegantly simple dish. Add the tannic 2006 Nebbiolo d'Alba "Ochetti" from Renato Ratti, with its up-front black cherry, and everything feels complete.)

BobbyOnMKEcom Dessert ... apple crepe with homemade gelato and moscato sauce! (The only problem with the dessert was that it came at the end. By then, there was little room left for this sumptuous treat: a crepe encasing diced apples and a sweet sauce made from the same fruity Villa Giada Moscato d'Asti (2008) that was paired with the dish.)

BobbyOnMKEcom Truffle dinner=rich rich rich. My companion says, "I'm as stuffed as the crepe was!"

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.