New Restaurant Review: The Annex KitchenJan 11, 2016 12:40PM ● By Kevin
I thought I was early, but the cars parked outside of The Annex told me otherwise. I checked my watch. 4:45 p.m., fifteen minutes until opening. An inquisitive patron asked me why I was there as I photographed the tidy iron lettering that spanned the brick façade. Several other parties arrived, forming a hungry line along the outside of the restaurant. The smell of fire and food saturated the air and the line grew, huddling closely around the door. Only three months before, The Annex opened its doors for the first time. Once home to Pardini’s Café, brothers Jeff and Jimmy Pardini had a specific vision and remodeled the space with a Los Angeles trattoria in mind. Now, despite being a newcomer, a healthy hoarde of people waited for the moment the doors would open.
They did open… right at 5:00, and a small but tasteful piece of furniture marked the front of the entry hall where the host stood. Within a few steps into the interior, I saw the fiery pizza oven that had produced the smell that had fostered the urgent hunger I’d experienced outside. A long bar ran along the west wall of the restaurant, bottles of liquor displayed prominently against the tiled white wall.
My husband and I sat in a small table on the window-side of the restaurant, next to the large booths that over the next hour and a half filled with parties until every seat in the restaurant was filled. I took the server’s recommendation, and tried the sweet, tangy Blood Orange Cosmopolitan from among the handcrafted cocktails and extensive wine list. Pleased with her recommendation and the adept way at which she touched on each menu item, I took her second recommendation- Burrata Mozzarella Crostini. The appetizer came just minutes later: crusty bread topped with marinated broccolini, fresh Italian cheese and pancetta crumbs. Again, we did not regret it. Next, she brought the Salumi Board, a chef’s selection of cured meats, served with Parmigiano and Pecorino cheeses and grilled bread.
We transitioned easily into our entrees, enjoying the vibrant atmosphere of the restaurant and the delighted way nearby patrons enjoyed the sight of their food arriving. The next dish to arrive was Mary’s Free Range Half Chicken with Salsa Verde, perfectly cooked, a zesty, bright and acidic dish served with field greens and parmigiano cheese. Because The Annex makes the entirety of their pasta from scratch, we would have been remiss not to try it, and ordered the deliciously rich Gnocchi with Rabbit Ragu and Parmigiano Cream.
It was beginning to get dark, but the restaurant continued to thrive despite being a Sunday night. Servers took wine bottles to several tables, cocktails flowed freely from the bar and order after order of homemade pasta passed our table. It was clear that despite the fact it was my first time at the restaurants, many others already recognized the significance of a restaurant like this in Fresno. They were already celebrating birthdays, and anniversaries here, posting Instagram pictures of their #datenights. We may have been some of the last people to know about The Annex, but we wouldn’t easily forget it. Especially, when our server brought out the Zepolle, Ricotta donuts, carefully nested on printed paper, dusted in powdered sugar and served with chocolate sauce, we were smitten.
Story and photos by Amy Guerra.