Friday, December 3, 2010

Pre-Thanksgiving food and family at Il Casale

Last week, after taking the trusty Amtrak back home to Massachusetts, I joined my parents, the bro, and our cousins at Il Casale in Belmont for our annual pre-Thanksgiving dinner. Il Casale is the newest suburban outpost of chef Dante de Magistris, who owns well-respected restaurants in Cambridge and Boston. We entered the warm, classically rustic Italian dining room with high hopes.

Our experience was a bit mixed, although I tend to cut a restaurant some slack when presenting a large party (in this case, eight people). So first, the highlights: We started with some wine, a bottle of falanghina for the ladies and a bottle of chianti for the men (yes, it just coincidentally split that way. We all cringed a little too). To go with the wine was some peasant bread; rip off a chunk, slide it through some olive oil on your plate, and take a sip of wine. Ready to roll.

Bread? Check. Bottle? Check.

Before deciding on entrees, we ordered a variety of sfizi for the table. The plates were small and not inexpensive, but down to the plate they were incredibly high quality and flavorful. Special accolades are awarded to the burrata, a small, sunken hemisphere that looked something like panna cotta but tasted like pure cream, surprisingly enlivened by the candied pistachios on top.

Arancini, perfectly poppable

A duo of classic meatballs

The pate. We had one pate fan at the table... she got most of this.

Scampi-- shrimp and aioli and Boston lettuce

Cauliflower with some cheese and Caesar dressing

Beautiful, beautiful burrata

Then, the entrees. There were some successes here, too-- radiatore with tuna in a tomato sauce was praised, as was the daily special, radiatore with halibut (?). Dad and the bro enjoyed the veal saltimbocca, although the bro did admit he wished there were twice as much on the plate.

Radiatore with tuna and tomato

Special pasta with halibut


A side of garlicky spinach

But there were some misses, as well. My cousin HB's meal never arrived; his order apparently got lost in translation, either on the way to or in the kitchen. And my choice, a grilled pear salad with cheese instead of the prociutto, sported an unmistakably assertive porky flavor despite avowals that the dish was vegetarian. To our server's credit, she graciously swapped the salad for an arugula, fresh fig, pecorino, and balsamic concoction that was incredibly delicious. Once my second salad was on the table and HB's pasta had arrived, everyone was most certainly content.

The prosciutto version of the pear salad

My salad, 1.0

My salad, 2.0.

We had some serious dessert plans up our sleeves, so we passed on the dessert menu, paid the sizeable check, and moved on to the sweet portion of our night. Il Casale is definitely a high-quality restaurant, and it's an immensely enjoyable place to spend an evening. It's not cheap (nope, not cheap at all), and while our meal wasn't flawless, ultimately everything was quite tasty and clearly made with care. Had everything gone as planned, Il Casale would have been a four Offset Spatula shoo-in; as it is, it gets a solid three OSes with high potential to return.

Il Casale
50 Leonard Street, Belmont, MA

1 comment:

Franky said...

looks amazing!! yummy stuff~