(We know what we like)
By Cecily & Frederick Faux Gras
And Nick & Patsy Fagioli
(The Amateur Palate, written exclusively for Pawling Public Radio, features local restaurant reviews by four people who just like to eat. They claim no professional food knowledge, but “know what they like,” and hope their opinions will encourage others to try new food establishments and different food pairings.)
Just what Pawling needs, we thought, another Italian restaurant/pizzeria! Not wanting to pass judgment too soon, we ventured off to Dante’s Trattoria of Pawling to sample their wares. We didn’t have high expectations when we visited, thinking we would have to make a few more visits to allow for tweaks in operations.
Wow! For a just opened restaurant, we were extremely surprised!
We visited during their first week of operation. Forget that they may have needed an extra server. Forget that the pizza oven was giving them ageita. And forget that we did not get bread plates.
The important things are: the food is great, the staff friendly and knowledgeable, and the surroundings are clean and pleasant.
Our server told us that the owner (who was manning the temperamental pizza oven) also owns Dante’s in Mahopac, which has been open for almost 18 years. She herself has been with them for almost as long.
The four of us, plus our friend, Millie Matzo, who was visiting from far away, were seated with no wait. The dining room was busy the entire time we were there. The pick up area was very busy, too.
The night we visited, there was no wine available, and so we ordered sodas and iced tea. Hopefully on our next visit we will be able to have vino to complement our meal.
Chewy, flavorful Garlic Knots and warm Italian bread were brought to the table. Patsy pointed out that there were no bread plates, but the rest of us didn’t really care.
We ordered a family-style portion of the Fried Calamari with marinara sauce and an individual order of Eggplant ala Dante – stuffed eggplant with ricotta cheese, spinach and sun dried tomatoes in a Gorgonzola cream sauce. The calamari was nicely cooked, not greasy and accompanied by a not too thick marinara. It was crunchy, not rubbery, and made you want more. We all loved the Eggplant ala Dante. One wouldn’t think of pairing eggplant with Gorgonzola, but this really worked. Millie and Nick battled over sopping up the sauce with their bread.
Dinners at Dante’s are served with soup or a house salad. I had the pasta fagiole. My soup was not too thick, not too thin, and full of cannelloni beans and al dente ditalini. Very tasty. Salads were fresh and crisp. Frederick enjoyed the house dressing, an olive oil and balsamic mixture.
I ordered the Manicotti Bolognese with Dante’s special meat sauce. You could definitely tell the pasta was homemade, and not industrially prepared. I’m a fan of meat sauce, and this one didn’t disappoint. It had much of the flavor of the marinara sauce served with our appetizer, but had been kicked up a notch with the meat. I’m not sure if it was all beef, or a beef/veal mix. But it was hearty and flavorful. I didn’t think I would be able to eat it all, but I did!
Fred said his Veal Piccata (medallions of veal lightly floured and sautéed in lemon butter, white wine, garlic, basil and capers) served with angel hair pasta with the house marinara, was tasty and tender (except for one veal medallion, which he thought was ”too chewy”) and his pasta was cooked al dente – the way he prefers.
Nicky’s Cheese Ravioli with marinara sauce was a good sized portion. Also homemade, he said they were cooked perfectly with no raw taste to the dough and a rich flavor in the cheese filling.
Our guest, Millie, said her Penne Vodka (prosciutto and tomato cream sauce made with vodka and vermouth) was on par with Penne Vodka she has sampled at many high-end Italian restaurants in New York City. She was impressed with the flavor of the cream sauce and the use of vodka and vermouth.
Patsy wanted to order the Pasta Primavera, but she wanted it in a light sauce without garlic or onions. The chef made it to order for her, and she was very pleased with it, stating that the pasta was seasoned with herbs and the veggies were cooked perfectly.
We all said we were too stuffed for dessert, but ….we shared cannolis and carrot cake. The desserts were standard fare for Italian restaurants, and we enjoyed the small bite of sweet at the end of our meal.
Dante’s serves authentic Italian food in a family friendly atmosphere. Food is served in individual or family style portions.
As a side note, a few nights later Fred and I ordered pizza to take out. The pizza oven was acting up again and Dante’s was backed up a bit. However, the pizza was very, very good. The crust was thin, (but not too thin) and crispy. The flavor of the sauce wasn’t hidden under too much cheese, and it was still hot when we got it home.
We’re all looking forward to a return visit very soon. Welcome to the neighborhood, Dante’s!
Dante’s Trattoria of Pawling
Route 22, Pawling, NY