Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ravishing Ravioli

Last night I took my friend Mistress of the Hounds out for a birthday dinner at Cafe Capriccio in downtown Albany, N.Y. We were beautiful, but not as ravishing as the ravioli.

Tucked away on Grand Street, down a few stairs, in a small door that pushed in, not out, we found ourselves swallowed up by a small cozy dining room. It was lovely - low light, tablecloths, dark wood. Not overly formal and very comfortable. We arrived right at opening. We were greeted with a smile! We were seated at a round table in the back corner. Did I mention we were beautiful? We were, and we look even better in low light. Trust me on that.

We were ravenous, too. In celebration of the Mistress' special day we ordered Prosecco, which was served as two splits of Zardetto served cold with slender flute glasses on a tray. Dreamy. I like bubbles. So we sipped and looked at what was available on the menu. It isn't overly long but with a nice balance of offerings. The appetizers include a few lighter choices, with lots of vegetable options, and the pasta dishes offered up a couple of inventive looking risottos. Less than a dozen main courses featured everything from pork to beef to chicken to meatless, with a special of baked sole to round it all out. Something for everyone, even tiny superheroes on a diet, as I noted that several items were available as half-portions.Uh, but no pizza, which used to be a real specialty here, and no explanations, but the choices were still excellent and the wait staff careful to ask if we had any questions.

Zena ordered a simple house salad of mesclun greens, tomatoes, cucumber and carrots, nicely dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette that was a touch heavy handed but really tasty and fresh. The Mistress enjoyed a caprese salad - a very generous portion, I might add - which she topped with a bit more olive oil, balsamic and pepper. We ate heartily, enjoying thick slices of heavenly heavy warm bread dipped in more of the oil. The Mistress of the Hounds had the staff take the last half of her salad to take home with her later.

The room was filling up but the wait staff were cool. Our dinner came at a nice pace from finishing up our salads. Mistress had a half-order (still a good size portion) of the risotto with duck and caponata agrodolce.  The presentation was gorgeous - glistening, colorful, and piping hot. Maybe we missed the sweet/sour part, and it was a bit peppery, but very nice. The duck was crispy and greasy: yum. I had the.....wait for it....ravioli (surprise!) of the day, stuffed with ricotta cheese, provolone and broccoli rabe served in a tomato cream sauce. I ordered it off the appetizer menu instead of a full portion and was also very happy with the size of the serving. The pasta was tender but not mushy, the filling rich and tasty, and the sauce was divine - not too salty or garlicky, both of which really throw me off balance, even for a superhero. I soaked up every last morsel with more of the bread. It was RAVISHING. I felt fat and outdone by the dinner, but on the inside I was glowing and happy. Wow.

Dessert? Sì. The server (third of three that came to the table over the course of two hours, all kind and helpful, by the way) said their signature dish was panna cotta, this time served with a strawberry balsamic reduction. And a candle! And I sang, which made the couple in the next booth laugh because someone there had a birthday, too, so it was a special night for many of us. Anyway, the panna cotta was exceptionally smooth, creamy, and not overly sweet, with a lovely spike of vanilla and the sauce tasted almost chocolatey. A few slices of kiwi and a strawberry laced the plate. A delightful end to our evening out.

The room was kind of smokey, like wood smoke, as we finished up. I never figured out what that was. We peeked into the bar. Intimate, a few booths. Very nice. 

Oh and the wait staff gave the Mistress of the Hounds her salad on our way out. She told me today they included a nice hunk of bread in her container. That was really sweet of them. Really nice people. GREAT customer service.

Dinner with three appetizers, two drinks, one half portion entree and a dessert to share was $72.00 not including tax and tip. Of course, being Zena, I had a $50 gift certificate I purchased through MetroMarket to take the edge off my budget, squeezed like the fit of my favorite jeans, tights, and even my cape these days. In answer to the server's asking if I had any questions, it would be "Why don't I eat here every night?" A:  I would if I could!

Zena, Goddess of Fire

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