Serving Italian Food and Atmosphere Just Right

Stefan Bowers and Andrew Goodman team up again, adding Battalion to their growing restaurant family that includes Feast and Rebelle. Battalion offers similar design notes to its sister restaurants, but this time it’s housed in a completely renovated 1920s firehouse. The building is impressive and masterfully remodeled to accommodate this two-story upscale Italian eatery.

They kept the original fireman poles intact but covered the openings with glass, a great touch that will keep you on your toes the first time you realize you are standing on a glass floor. Bowers and Goodman were the catalyst and visionaries behind this space and new restaurant concept, but they would be the first to tell you that Battalion’s success is due to two talented ladies, general manager Vicki Kiang and chef Elena D’Agostino.

For all the great food in the river city, there are only a few places that know how to construct an Italian menu properly and present a masterfully cooked plate of pasta; I am adding Battalion’s name to that list. They divide the menu into five sections, organized by traditional Italian courses. I would encourage you to choose one to two items from each section and make sure you bring some friends; this food is delicious and perfect for sharing. Start off your meal with the house-made ricotta served with grilled pears and finished with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh rosemary. Forget what you know about ricotta if what you know is that mystery cheese jammed in between the frozen layers of lasagna we somehow ate as children. House-made ricotta is light and airy, a perfect foil for all kinds of flavors like honey or rosemary. All of the antipasti items are served with the house-made focaccia bread. Order one or two antipasti options and a cocktail; you don’t want to rush your menu selections.

They have an excellent wine selection with both Old and New World wines plus a variety of craft cocktails. My wife and I shared a bottle of the 2012 Massolino Barolo. This full-bodied red wine made from the nebbiolo grape from the historic Barolo region is well structured with silky tannins, bright acidity and a hint of chilies on the back of your palate. It’s only one of the fantastic selections Battalion has to offer.

As you prepare to put in your dinner order, let me offer you some advice. Trust your server and the chef. The servers are well trained, so let them do their jobs. What is a server’s job? you might ask. I imagine the answer varies, but Battalion’s service is exceptional, so when the restaurant is on point, you want to place your whole order all at once. Choose two to there items off each section and then let the kitchen and server orchestrate your meal. The dishes will magically appear in the order that makes the most sense for your dining experience.

There are a few items you will not want to miss. Try the Three Cheese Beef and Pork “Meatballs” served with roasted garlic tomato sauce and Parmesan. The combination of proteins keeps this meatball on the light side, and the chef’s preparation is almost burger like — the meatball is pressed down and caramelized on both sides. It’s a delicious combination of textures with slightly charred broiled edges and a rich interior. The garlic tomato sauce is a real standout, especially in contrast to the meatballs. You will want to save a few slices of the focaccia bread to take care of the remaining sauce; it would be an insult not to clean this plate!

The pasta courses are smaller in size, perfect for sharing a few bites with a few friends. Great pasta is no easy feat; it takes skill, patience and years of experience. Chef D’Agostino has all of those. Don’t miss the trenne Bombay pasta dish with gin tomato cream sauce with pancetta. Yep, you read that correctly. Chef uses gin instead of the more traditional vodka sauce to boost the herbal notes in the sauce that has a slight spicy kick. The trenne pasta is what makes this dish so exceptional. Trenne is a tubular, triangular pasta. The shape allows for the sauce to cover and fill the pasta, giving you maximum sauce infusion.

Battalion’s principale menu is strong, featuring a T-bone steak grilled with fresh rosemary and finished with lemon; veal scaloppine served with wild mushrooms and a white wine sauce, and grilled Berkshire pork loin, plus other great items.

Finish your meal off with the tiramisu; you will want to share this delicious dessert. Battalion has struck a perfect balance of elegance and comfort. Stop in for a special occasion or just to get a trenne Bombay pasta fix. They are open for dinner Monday-Saturday from 5-11 p.m. Tell them San Antonio Woman sent you!

By Scott Austin

Photography by Janet Rogers