I have, on occasion reviewed restaurants for my readers, believing that folks who enjoy fine wine also enjoy fine food and not just in their own kitchens…

We found ourselves at BonCaldo, our first visit, celebrating joint birthdays. As far as ambiance goes, BonCaldo was fairly standard – well lit, a little cramp and playing piped-in music that was a little too loud. Wait staff was reasonably attentive, although a dirty appetizer plate was never replaced, despite being requested, and it took several requests to replenish the bread basket. I noted too that the server, who was not the same person as our actual waiter was quite a surly individual, who was not particularly accurate when delivering our main courses…

As far as food goes, the quality was quite high, very good in fact, despite portions being on the small side. We started by sharing a few appetizers: Melanzana alla Parmigiana [SICILIA] eggplant – Calabro ricotta – mozzarella – San Marzano tomato sauce $7.95 and Calamari Fritti [LIGURIA] fried tubes & tentacles – hot cherry peppers – garlic & lemon aioli drizzle $9.95. The Melanzana was a rich, hearty treat. The Calamari was a bit disappointing – somewhat oily, devoid of hot cherry peppers with a weakly-flavored aioli…

On to the main courses: Gnocchi di Ricotta [TOSCANA] hand crafted “pillows” of ricotta cheese – tomato sauce – pecorino $9.95 / $14.95, Vitello alla Saltimbocca [LAZIO] veal cutlet – Prosciutto di Parma – sage – white wine – polenta – spinach $20.95 and Vitello alla Marsala [SICILIA] veal cutlet – prosciutto – mushrooms – Marsala wine – buttered linguine $20.95. The Gnocchi was heavenly – truly “pillows” of ricotta that melted in your mouth. The saltimbocca was great with a pleasantly biting sauce – the polenta was perfect, having a creamy richness and buttery, nutty flavor. One diner suggested taking a gallon or two home for later enjoyment… The Marsala was good, although I prefer mine a trifle creamier and served traditionally with the pasta on the side, as opposed to mixed together ala ragout. Overall, the food was excellent, albeit as noted, the portions were on the smaller side.

We had two wines with dinner: 2009 Planeta, Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG $45 (60% Nero d’Avola, 40% Frappato) and the 2009 Tomaresca Neprica, Puglia $32 (40% Negroamaro, 30% Primitivo, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon) – both wines were very nice, the Planeta was the splashier, fruitier of the two, with the Tomaresca having more structure and dark fruit overtones. Prices were fair, hovering between 2-1/2 to 3 times retail.

Dessert brought a trio of sweet treats: Cannoli, Tiramisú and Budino. The cannoli was freshly-filled with a crisp shell, but the filling was lack-luster and tasted more like whipped cream than creamy ricotta. The tiramisú was good, although a bit sweet and lacking the strong espresso bite that we prefer. The budino, or traditional Italian bread pudding, was the best of the trio, showing sumptuous, creamy layers that melted in your mouth.

Dessert was enjoined by something rarely found, a flight of three Italian Amari, or bitter digestifs. The overall after-dinner drink list was appreciably dizzying – much welcomed as this aspect of restaurant wine lists is often lacking in depth… Commendable and delicious! We had the Nonino, the Lucano and the Ramazzotti, none of which I had tried previously and all of which sang the praises of Amari.

Would we return to BonCaldo? Definitely YES! The few noted shortcomings were not enough to offset the overall quality of the food – the Wine Spectator Award-Winning wine list was fairly priced and as previously mentioned the digestifs were simply amazing.

http://www.boncaldo.com/

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