Thursday, June 28, 2012

Circa 1922, Wilmington. NC

I'd heard some mixed reviews of Circa 1922 and we tried it last summer . . . well we tried to eat there, but it was very crowded, very loud and the menu was a bit confusing without help so we left. This time we went on a slow Wednesday evening (they were setting up to film in an alley across the street) and we brought our daughter Rachel who has eaten there a few times and said it was good. Well, with her help and help from our waitress, the menu wasn't all that intimidating. You see, they bill themselves as a tapas place serving small plates and I just wasn't sure how small this plates were going to be. On top of that, everything is ala carte, except for the prix fix meal at $21.50 which gives salad, entree and desert. 

Circa is on Market Street in a building which once housed a bank, as evidenced by the remains of a large safe in the back. It is a two story affair (bathrooms are on the second floor so if stairs are a problem I'd hope they have an elevator somewhere, or you'll learn to hold it). The kitchen is on the second floor as is a smaller dining area, presumably for private parties. There is plenty of dark wood, high ceilings, some exposed brick walls, and some tin ceilings. Just the atmosphere I like.

We started with the Fried Calamari for $8.75 with a wasabi and citrus sauce. It was quite large (a normal appetizer size that two or three people could share, and we did) and quite tasty. The calamari was cooked perfectly with just the right amount of breading and the sauce on the bottom of the plate was a balanced mix of a citrus taste and the tang of the wasabi. My only complaint is that I would have liked a bit more sauce, perhaps on the side for dipping.
Teresa ordered the orechetti with chicken (not shown here) and I tasted a piece. It was very nicely done. Rachel got the Paella shown above at $15.50 with seafood. I had a taste of hers as well, and it was good. Both of the portions were adequate, much like a half-plate we've had other places. 
I ordered the Duck shown above at $14.00 which was probably the best of the three dishes, and one of the best duck dishes this writer has had the pleasure of consuming in the line of duty. My only complaint on this is the dull butter knife I was trying to hack at the duck with. I switched with another knife at the table and it worked better, but a steak knife would have been better. As for the portion, it was perfect, especially after sharing the appetizer and the delicious bread they serve. 

Overall, it was a lovely meal for three at $54.00 plus tip. The atmosphere is excellent, the food excellent and the service . . . well our waitress did a great job but it did seem to take an abnormally long time to get our food. There were a few other items on the menu I'm going back to try.

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mama Theresa's Italian II, New Windsor, NY

A friend of ours recommended Mama Theresa's in New Windsor a while ago and we decided to pop in for a visit since Teresa had eggplant parmesan on her mind. 

The restaurant is in the Kmart Plaza on Rt 300 and from the outside it looks like a typical takeout pizzeria. Inside it looks the same, but as you look down there are tables along the walls and further back, past the restroom and the waitress station, is a small dining room which looks to seat about 40 people, tops. That's where we sat. The decor is nothing special. Tasteful, clean, not gaudy but a bit long in the tooth. Nothing a coat of paint and some touch-ups wouldn't cure. 

Nicole, our waitress was attentive and very friendly. So too were the people in front who directed us to the back. They more than make up for that slight lack of ambiance with friendly and attentive service. We were given water, some nice garlic knots with a marinara sauce, and menus.


I finally decided on the Lobster ravioli in a crab cream sauce shown above at $20. It was quite good, the portion was just right and the seafood tasted fresh. It also came with a large side salad. 

After we were done we asked the waitress if the restaurant was connected to the Mama Theresa's Deli down the road and she said that it was the same owners and that the ravioli was made fresh in the deli, as are most of the foods featured. 

Teresa chose the Eggplant rollotini shown above at $14. I tasted it and it was very good with an ample amount of ricotta cheese, a sauce with a nice balance between sweet and acid and eggplant sliced and cooked perfectly. It came with a large bowl of pasta with the same sauce and a salad. The portion was large enough that half of it came home with us for a late snack.

So, the bottom line? Very good food at reasonable prices and excellent service. It is well worth a try and I would place them as better than most small Italian places I've been to, especially in the New Windsor area. 

Mama Theresa's Italian II on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Nina's, Middletown, NY

I'd heard some good things about Nina's and when we took our son out for a birthday dinner we decided to see if what I'd heard was true so we headed there one Monday evening. 

Nina's is on West Main in Middletown in an old store front. It has old distressed wood floors, brick walls and high ceilings covered in tin. The lighting is low, but adequate, the tables are black and the wait staff dresses in black as well. Very nice ambiance and a welcoming atmosphere. 

Penne Amalfi
We were seated and given menus and as we looked them over our waitress told us of the day's specials. The list she rattled off was quite long and I stopped paying attention about a third of the way through her recitation. A list that long should be printed so the customers can look closer and think about the choices.



That left the regular menu items and after looking it over I eliminated about half of the choices as they had some type of mushroom incorporated in the dish. I'm really not a fan of mushrooms. The duck confit lasagna appetizer looked interesting, except for the mushrooms. I decided on the Penne Amalfi which consisted of penne pasta with shrimp, prosciutto, red peppers and grape tomatoes in a pesto sauce for $29.00. No mushrooms.


While we waited we were given a water refill and some Italian bread with melted butter, like it was sitting around for a bit. The bread was okay.

When my food arrived it was in a funky bowl with a tilt to it which I presume was designed to give a better visual as you eat, but I did lean the fork on it and the fork went straight into my lap. A bit awkward to say the least, but it looked pretty. As for the taste, it was okay. The pasta was a tad undercooked for my taste and the shrimp didn't quite seem to be fresh from the sea, unless the name of the restaurant's freezer is sea. The prosciutto was almost non-existant. The pesto was quite tasty. For a fourteen dollar dish this would have been good, but for a twenty-nine dollar dish I found it to be a bit disappointing.
Recceitelle
Teresa got the Recceitelle which was orreciette pasta with sausage broccolini, grilled parsley, garlic and red pepper flakes for $19.00. I tasted it and it was pretty good, but nothing special. Teresa said that she wasn't impressed. It also came in a funky dish.

Osco Busco
Mark ordered the Osco Busco which was a slow Braised Veal Shank with Carrots, Tomatoes, and Herbs, over Basil Pesto Rissotto for $29.00. I tasted his and it was good. Flavorful and tender and on a square plate that sat flush with the table. 

We passed on desserts and I paid the check. My overall impressions? Nice atmosphere and good service but overpriced and overrated food. A couple of doors down is The Olde Erie and I think the food is better there. Better still, take a ride out to Wallkill and eat at the New-Cavu. You can get similar dishes at a better price.


Nina's Restaurant on Urbanspoon