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A Little Bit About a Lot of Things

A lifestyle blog with a focus on my food adventures

I’ve never been to Belmont before. Somehow in my head I made Belmont an hour from Boston. Yup, it’s 20 minutes.

I have a confession to make, I love watching Chronicle. I saw Il Casale featured last year and it has been on my ‘must try’ list ever since. I read all these reviews saying that it was hard to get a table. I admit, that when searching on opentable.com, that 5:30 or 8:30 isn’t ideal, but you make do.

Driving up Leonard street is like any other town center. It reminded me of Lexington or Wellesley center. A few restaurants, a few cute shops, and here’s a throwback for you….TCBY. I thought they were extinct, like Bradlees, but apparently not. They even have a Macy’s on the main street that sort of threw me for a loop.

So, parking…it’s street parking but beware, a lot of areas are 1 hour. I love the building…brick with large windows in the front. You can tell that it was an old fire house, but could mistake it for an old farmhouse when you walk in and  see dark wood against the brick. There’s great mood lighting hanging from the high ceilings and branches with hanging lemons along the far wall. The room has an open feeling to it. The bar is on the left, an aisle of tall tables, draped curtains between the high tables and the main dining area, and on the far right are tables and booths. The noise level is at a low hum-conversations mixed in with oldies and throwbacks on the sound system. I suggest asking for a table away from the door if you are going in the wintertime because every time the door opens you get a gust of cool air blown at you, even though there’s a heavy velvet curtain around the door (do those really help??). I would also suggest sitting in the main dining area. The tall tables, where we sat, have a chair on one side and a bench on the other side. The person in the chair has their back to the aisle in between the tables and the bar-you are likely to get bumped if it’s crowded. The bar was filled with locals and the host greeted them by name, I like that. There is a big open kitchen in the back where you can see your meal being prepared. I would like to go back in the summer time when there are tables outside. They had a nice looking patio area.

So we start with some bread, a potato bread of sorts, and olive oil. Ours was a bit stale on the outside, and while in no way do I condone serving stale bread, if you’re going to do it, atleast toast it and try to cover it. We then moved on to ‘Sfizi’, the equivalent to tapas- a few small bites, not enough to be an appetizer but enough to get your palette going. We chose the arancini and the burrata. At $5 a plate, I think it’s quite reasonable. The arancini was perfectly crispy on the outside. There wasn’t a lot of sauce accompanying the arancini, but it was bland, so it didn’t matter. The burrata on the other hand was amazing. I have a weakness for burrata. For those of you who don’t know what it is, burrata is a type of cheese from Italy made from mozzarella and cream. It is buttery and melts in your mouth. This was served with  pistachios that were pure heaven. I could have eaten the pistachios straight, a pound of them. They were the perfect balance between sweet and salty, crunchy, and when you combined them with the creamy cheese-it is out of this world.

Primi- Mainly pastas but a few soups are thrown in as well. You can order them in appetizer size or entree size. I chose the gnocchi with boar ragu, merlot and dried fruits-entree size ($21). My dining companion ordered the entree portion of  tagliatelle with the traditional meat sauce alla bolognese ($21). Score for me because that was my other choice and now I can have a little of both. Let’s start with the gnocchi. The pasta itself is light pasta pillows, not heavy as gnocchi at some restaurants can be, and they melt in your mouth. The boar ragu was good but I think it over powered the pasta. Now let’s talk about the candied fruit. I have no idea what business it has in this dish, but I went in with an open mind. One bite of the sweet dried fruits and I knew my first instinct was right, candied fruit should be reserved for fruitcakes only. The tagliatelle was amazing. The pasta was served perfectly al dente, with a little bit of a bite. The sauce was delicious, a good balance of meat and sauce. I would have to say it’s in my top 10 bolognese sauces. I could eat the tagliatelle every day!

At this point the table next to us has been sat. A grandmother and granddaughter. They ordered their meals and I’m sorry but if I can hear your mouth smacking on your food, a) close your mouth, it’s rude to chew with it open (didn’t your mother teach you any manners??) and b) you are far too close to my table. The service has been excellent, the server was knowledgeable about all the dishes and answered all my questions. He recited the two specials from memory which I like. My pet peeve is when servers read the special to you from their pad in a bore, mono-tone voice without any eye contact. Even though his reciting of the specials was impeccable, we thought that $45 for a pasta dish was a little outrageous (even if it was with shaved black truffles).

Now on to my favorite part of the meal, dessert. At first glance nothing jumped out at me. I asked the waiter which he thought was better, the tiramisu or the frittelle (Venetian style fried dough with chocolate fonduta-$8). He said the tiramisu was good but I couldn’t pass up the fried dough. Sold. My dining companion had the piccolini, mini cannoli and biscotti ($8).  I didn’t know what to expect with the fried dough, hoping it wasn’t going to be messy to eat. I was pleasantly surprised when it came out. There were about a half a dozen munchkin shaped balls with a light dusting of powdered sugar and a side of melted chocolate. When I saw them I immediately thought back to a lunch I had in New York City at a place called A Voce (http://www.avocerestaurant.com/avoce_madison.html#/home/) on 41 Madison Ave at 26th. They have a dessert they call ‘bombolini’ which are Tuscan doughnuts with chocolate dipping sauce.  A Voce’s were out of this world. They were light and fluffy on the inside, perfectly warmed and rolled in a wonderful sugar mixture. Sorry to report that Il Casale’s did not match up. The fried dough was warm and light but they didn’t have much flavor to them, but I suppose that’s why you have the chocolate sauce. I ate a few and left the rest. I feel like if I’m going to eat my entire days calories in one dessert, it should be darn worth it. So let’s talk cookies. There was a nice assortment of cookies on the plate. When I think of Italian cookies and biscotti, I usually think…hard and dry. My first bite was an oval shaped cookie with a jelly filling. I was surprised that the cookie was actually soft. I couldn’t identify the jam and quickly moved on to tasting the next. There was a cookie with strong almond paste that I could have lived without and  the biscotti was par for the course. The cannoli which had chocolate chips in it was odd. The filling didn’t taste fresh and it was a little gritty for my liking. The best cookie on the plate was a large circular cookie that was molded into a taco like shape, it was crunchy and delicious-I’m glad it was saved for last.

So the total bill was $77 for 2 people, each having an appetizer, dinner, dessert and soda. I thought it was reasonable- I didn’t understand all the web reviews of Il Casale being overly pricey. The service was consistent which is key, and while the meal moved smoothly it didn’t feel rushed at all. The restaurant was half full when we arrived at 5:30 but was full by the time we left at 7. I though the meal was above average, I would recommend it to my friends, and I would go back again.

And one final note. Ladies, if you’re heading to the rest room, bring your coat because it feels like there is no heat in there.

Il Casale

50 Leonard Street, Belmont MA 617-209-4942

www.ilcasalebelmont.com

reservations at www.opentable.com

Dining Room:
Tuesday – Thursday, & Sunday: 5:00pm – 9:30pm
Friday & Saturday: 5:00pm – 10:00pm

Bar:
Tuesday – Saturday, 4:30pm – 11:00pm
Sunday: 4:30pm – 10:00pm
Sfizi Menu available at bar after 9:30pm

Closed Mondays

Il Casale on Urbanspoon

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