Finally, a gorgeous meal in a charming restaurant. Last night at Caiola’s was everything I wanted it to be: an intimate dinner for two at a good, really good! neighborhood place just around the corner from our apartment. I called for reservations and was told 7:15; we were seated immediately upon arrival in the front section of the small dining room. It was cozy, rustic, amber-hued and warm. Everyone seemed to have at least one bottle of wine and laughter at the table. The one page menu (which changes daily) proffered numerous options for each of us. But first, we had a martini. It was perfect. Clean and cold like a colonial bath in the midst of heathen country. I felt better and lighter already.
We agreed that to start we should order warm dates, stuffed with manchego and served with pancetta and seasonal vegetables. Every single component of this appetizer was excellent. Sweet and savory, gooey and crisp, as pleasing to the eye as the palette. After devouring the rich fruit, meat and cheese, I dove into bitter endive, red cabbage, apple matches, and pomegranate seeds. Eating pomegranate makes me feel ancient, wicked, beautiful and desperate. It is one of my favorite things. I kept dipping my index finger into the swath of jam on the plate, licking every sticky swipe. I only wish there had been an even number of dates. Shouldn’t they come in pairs?
Based on the recommendation of our server, Malcolm ordered scallops and I the chicken Marsala. Chicken Marsala, like veal Piccata or Communism, is just not something I ever would consider. It seems cold war-era boring, and better in theory. I was so very mistaken. Chicken Marsala is wonderful. It’s sweet and light and lovely. I don’t know what I was expecting. A pounded down breaded chicken cutlet smothered in weird sauce, was how I always pictured it. The most appropriate adjective escapes me, I just know I didn’t want to stop tasting it. And this delectable protein was served with a mound of penne in red sauce with greens and Parmesan that was so pure and elegant in its simplicity, it was almost mathematical.
According to Malcolm, though the scallops were smaller and less seared than he had imagined them, the nicely-sweetened sauce complimented their richness nicely. The purple roasted potatoes were tasty, and even better when he realized they weren’t beets. The mashed sweet potatoes were sweet and cinnamon-y, and the french beans stringy and perfectly cooked. Our only small complaint was the service, which was slow. Everyone on staff was super helpful, conversational and personable, but I was ready to leave about twenty minutes before we were able, when we ran across the street to Cumberland Farms for a bottle of wine and a pack of Rolos, to finish our night in style, back on the couch at home. I am so delighted we finally went to Caiola’s, an ideal place for a neighborhood dinner with your husband on a chilly Wednesday evening in November.