Let's start out by saying I drive by this restaurant on an almost daily basis. It had always piqued my curiosity, but I just wasn't sure if I was up to another gamble on a strip mall Italian restaurant. However, sometime last summer I happened to notice Cardone's had added some outdoor seating and that moved it up a notch on my mental "to try" lineup.
On a certain summery Friday night my husband and I decided to give it a shot and drove on over. We were shocked when we saw the amount of cars outside (I generally drive by in the early morning) and as we entered the place the hostess pleasantly inquired if we had a reservation. We shook our heads no and she looked on at us with pity and she explained that they were generally booked on the weekends and a table generally required a reservation. So much for your typical strip mall Italian restaurant! We left with our tail between our legs and went on to try something else out that evening, but this encounter definitely moved the restaurant to a priority placement on the "to try" list. However, things happen and it wasn't until a very cold and wintry night in January that we actually made it in for dinner (this time we made reservations, but due to weather I don't think they would have been required).
From the outside the restaurant doesn't look like much, but as they often say looks can be deceiving. As soon as you walk in you are pleasantly surprised by your surroundings. The welcome is warm, the place is quaint (probably about 10 tables total in the front), with dim romantic lighting, and a charming black and white checkered floor paired with various tasteful Italian pictures on the walls. This is the epitome of the "great little Italian place just around the corner" that you've always wanted to know.
We were immediately seated and our server was friendly and efficient throughout the dinner. We perused the wine list which was small, but contained many good Italian wines. We went with a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo from 2006 Masciarelli, Abruzzi. This came out quickly and was a very good glass of wine to go with rich, hearty, Italian foods. However, I am almost always partial to a Montepulciano. Warm bread that was doughy on the inside, crusted on the outside, and had a little bit of cheese and pepper baked on top was also quickly brought out. It came along with rosemary infused oil for dipping that was great. Definitely a good start to our meal.
Next up were house salads which were a nice spring mix style of greens, red onion, kalamata olives, chopped tomato, chopped cucumber, and topped with freshly grated Parmesan. The dressing was homemade Italian with a fruity olive oil base and lots of herbs and spices. This was a very well made Italian salad.
For entrees Erik ordered the Cinghiale Bologonese which was tagliatelle pasta topped with a rich and meaty tomato based sauce made with wild boar and pancetta. The noodles were perfectly ad dente. The sauce was rich and comforting with bigger hunks of boar rather than all ground meat. However, I wasn't able to differentiate the pancetta taste from the other melody of flavors, but this is in no way a knock on the dish. In my mind this is exactly what a bologonese sauce should be.
I ordered the Osso Buco D'Cardone, which was a huge lamb shank braised in a Chianti and tomato based sauce served with slow roasted carrots and celery over a cream risotto. This dish was meaty heaven! The lamb shank had this great outer crust and then tender slow roasted flavor inside. This went wonderfully with the big, rustic hunks of carrots and celery. Then this was all over a creamy, luscious risotto with just a hint of crisp white wine flavor. The crispness of the white wine flavor in the risotto contrasted nicely with the heavy flavors of the stew. The risotto was equally great to taste by itself or with a little lamb shank gravy mixed in. I liked all the tastes so much that I alternated between a bite of risotto, a bite of lamb and vegetables, a bite of risotto mixed with lamb and then repeated numerous times. Each bite a true joy, I am salivating now as I write this and remember the meal!
Both dishes had this homey quality, while still retaining some modern and wonderful flavors. They were just perfect on this cold night. And to top it all off the server was kind enough to inquire if we wanted to bring the lamb shank bone home for our dogs! I don't have a single complaint.
Bill Total: $40. 96 (2 glasses of wine, 2 house salads, and 2 entrees and a buy one get one free entree coupon from the Prestige Dining Club)