The Annex Kitchen
This is my love letter to really good pasta. More accurately, out-of-this-world pasta. Handcrafted, fresh pasta that is the definition of perfectly al dente, served with ingredients that have been cooked with equal thought and care. Are you hungry yet? Good. Now get yourself over to The Annex Kitchen!
The Annex Kitchen is a restaurant attached to the Pardini’s catering space near Shaw & West in Fresno. Since its opening nearly a year ago, Chef Jimmy Pardini has been cooking up rustic Italian cuisine to die for, pairing the dishes with superb cocktails (which FresYes first covered here). To say that I’m obsessed would be an understatement.
I’m usually a creature of habit. If I return to a restaurant, it’s because I’ve fallen in love with a dish and want to eat it again and again. (Looking at you, House of JuJu sliders.) But Annex Kitchen is that rare place for me where everything is cooked so well and I know each dish will be so good that I’ve tried about half the items on the menu and I’m not sure I have a favorite. So I’m going to tell you about a few of the dishes that I think you should definitely sample.
It all started with the pasta, of course. If you just want to savor the quality of Annex Kitchen’s pasta (made daily with pasta flour imported from Italy), I would suggest the Tagliatelle, which is a wide, flat ribbon noodle served with lamb ragu. If you’re lucky enough to be at the restaurant on a Sunday, I would suggest trying the Sunday Ragu, which is fusilli (corkscrew) pasta with short ribs that have been braised for hours. My other pasta recommendations include the regular Fusilli, which is served with shredded Mary’s free range chicken (so good!) and a marsala sauce, and the Spaghetti – bucking with tradition, Annex serves this with white wine sauce and a generous helping of clams.
If it’s meatballs you’re seeking, though, no worries! The Braised Meatballs appetizer is melt in your mouth delicious. I also loved the Arancini – crispy risotto balls with mozzarella, pesto and tomato sauce – and I’ve heard great things about the Wood Oven Roasted Bone Marrow, although I haven’t tried it yet!
If pasta’s not your thing, The Annex Kitchen has a full menu of unique wood-fired pizzas, which you can watch bake in the oven if you’re sitting at the right table! (The open kitchen set-up is another really cool thing about Annex.) You can even get a whole pizza and a bottle of wine for $30 during Happy Hour from 4 to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays through Sundays. Or you can go in a whole other direction and enjoy a steak, roast chicken or my personal favorite, salmon, which I paired with the Community Grains Polenta, made with parmigiano and Enzo’s Olive Oil (local ingredients is, unsurprisingly, also a big priority at Annex).
Do not forget to have some dessert before you leave! A couple weeks ago, when I interviewed Jeff from Ampersand Ice Cream, he mentioned that I should try the Affogato, which is espresso poured over Ampersand’s Madagascar Vanilla. But when he found out I hadn’t had the Zeppole (ricotta doughnuts) yet, he insisted I try those first. So I did, and boy was he right about them! They’re a perfect dessert to share with a group, and both the caramel and dark chocolate dipping sauces are downright heavenly!
Some final notes about The Annex Kitchen. They are only open for Happy Hour and dinner, no lunch, and closed on Mondays. They take reservations for up to four people on Yelp, so if you have a small group, I highly recommend you do this as they are quite popular. You can follow The Annex Kitchen on Facebook and Instagram to find out about specials. As of a few days ago, they are serving Agnolotti pasta filled with a Fresno State sweet corn mixture. So now is the time to go! Now excuse me while I go ask the management if I can take up permanent residence at the bar…
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