We had a great evening last night. Part of what made it so much fun was we went out to dinner with our niece Kate and her husband Phil. (You may remember Kate from this post.) My Dad was an excellent storyteller. Chuck tells a pretty darn good story, as do I. But Kate is the best storyteller in the family. So there was a lot of catching up and a whole lot of laughter. What prompted the get together was actually Isabella Rose. Because our (now 7 pound!) grandniece can’t be around crowds, we’re having a “rolling Christmas” this year. Small groups of family will be visiting Carrie, Al and Isabella on different days. Most of us are bringing a meal so as to keep the impact minimal and maximize the celebration. It’s a good solution, but it means we won’t be seeing the whole fan-damily at one big gathering. Hence, a holiday dinner in Belmont with Phil and Kate.
il Casale is located on Leonard Street in the heart of “downtown” Belmont. It’s housed in a converted firehouse: high ceilings, brick walls, deep toned wood tables. Our waitress was Soledad. She could teach a master class in how to be a great server. Throughout the evening she struck the balance we love of being attentive, without being intrusive. Because none of us had ever been there before, she walked us through the evening specials and the printed menu. After extensive discussion we settled on three Sfizi - little tastes - as appetizers: maiale (pork meatballs), burrata (buttery mozzarella), fegatini (pate). They arrived on individual dishes and Kate divided and served them to us. Each was a delightful burst of flavor; very much like an amuse-bouche. While we enjoyed the Sfizi, we continued to study the menu. Which, when you are talking, laughing and already waxing rhapsodic about the food, can be a challenge!
We finally placed our main order off the Secondi menu: Chuck, the osso-buco lamb shank; Kate, the veal saltimbocca; Phil, the bistecca, which last night was a grilled rib-eye; I chose the brodetto (seafood stew). We also ordered two items from the Contorni menu: the spinach with marscapone and lemon; plus the polenta with gorgonzola. A “small serving” (not really) of the radiatore pasta with the wild boar ragu off the Primi menu rounded out what became almost a family style meal. Soledad also made solid recommendations from the wine list. Chuck’s choice was the most noteworthy: a glass of the Grifalco Aglianico del Vulture.
When our dishes arrived, it was with an efficient, but festive flurry of activity. Multiple servers appeared with all of the items at once. Soledad checked to make sure we had everything and checked back with us shortly thereafter. Every selection was excellent. (O.K. One tiny quibble: the spinaci could have been a little creamier, but no spinach returned to the kitchen uneaten!) We were all very happy with our individual entrees, as well as the tastes we shared with one another.
Then came dessert. Could il Casale keep hitting it out of the park? Oh yes indeedy! Kate and Phil decided to share a tiramisu. Chuck chose the crostata di mele (apple tart) and I ordered the frittelle (Venetian style fried dough with a chocolate fonduta). Once again, tastes were shared liberally and we all agreed they were delicious. Personally, I thought the frittelle were out of this world. Crispy on the outside; tender, almost creamy on the inside; each little beignet-cum-munchkin was scrumptious dipped in the dark chocolate sauce. They should be ordered automatically to share after every meal.
My only problem? il Casale has ruined me for all other restaurants, because all others will pale in comparison!
Note: Reservations are recommended. And it’s important to speak with il Casale directly to request either a low or a high (bar height) table.
: : Update: After I posted this, I checked out the reviews for il Casale over on Open Table, Trip Advisor and Yelp. Wow! Apparently there is a wormhole near the entrance to the restaurant. Most of us are lucky enough to step into the real restaurant and have the spectacular experience we did. Others pass through the time space anomaly and emerge in the cruel impersonator where service is poor and the food is mediocre! All I can tell you is that the four of us ordered thirteen different dishes and enjoyed every single one.