By Grace Hiney
What a treat it was to return to Caffé Delfini after an interval of many months. Not only is the setting delightful with its small candles (and flashlights on each table to make it easier to read the menu), the background music is soft so that you can actually have a conversation with your dining partner. But, of course, it is the terrific array of food that makes it so compelling and especially to those who require gluten-and wheat-free dishes.
You need your glass of wine to enjoy while studying the extensive list of menu items. The salad and antipasti offerings vary from a simple mista ($10) to an Insalata di Mare of Manila clams, P.E.I. black mussels, shrimp and calamari with extra virgin olive oil and lemon ($22).
My friend and I shared an excellent salad called peperoni arrostiti with thin slices of roasted yellow and red bell peppers brushed with extra virgin olive oil and topped with fresh parsley, all arrayed on a plate with Kalamata olives and fresh sliced goat cheese ($14). This made a great start as each bite was filled with flavor, yet it was not overwhelming in size.
There are more than a dozen selections on this part of the menu, along with four soups varying from a simple vegetable broth ($10) to a rich mixture of Manila clams, P.E.I. black mussels, calamari, shrimp, crab claw and fish, in a lightly spicy tomato sauce ($33). That will be my selection on my next visit.
While studying the menu you can sample the excellent fresh bread with a drizzle of the olive oil accented with a touch of balsamic vinegar.
There are numerous pastas including the house specialty of pasta zinguine made of 100-percent fresh zucchini. It looks like pasta, but has a splendid flavor with its tomato-based sauce and grated cheese topping. And, best of all, the calories are about a third of the usual pasta portion.
I recall the pastas here as being delicious, from the linguine al pesto e pomodoro with the traditional homemade pesto and tomato sauce ($18) to one of my favorite dishes, linguine with Manila clams and fresh porcini mushrooms in a white-wine garlic sauce ($25). Pastas are in the $17 to $19 price category, while those with seafood are priced $23 to $25.
My friend Barbara and I selected dishes from the Secondi menu. She chose veal scaloppine piccata al limone, and I picked the branzino Mediterraneo. The veal medallions, sautéed with white wine, lemon and butter sauce, were tender and flavorful. They were accompanied by fresh broccoli and superb roasted rosemary potatoes.
My Mediterranean striped bass was also a winner. Baked with white wine flavored with a touch of rosemary and garlic, the fish was delectable with every bite. It was accompanied by rosemary potatoes and a marvelous spinach sautéed with garlic and red chili flakes. (Diners may choose sautéed or steamed vegetables.)
Secondi dinners include chicken dishes, veal offerings and fresh fish dishes ($25 to $45).
Of course, as you readers already know, I love a taste of something sweet to end my dinner. The luscious flourless chocolate cake ensconced in chocolate icing was so enticing that we ate every bite. Along with a cup of fresh decaf coffee it made the perfect end to our superb dinner.
Caffé Delfini is open Monday through Saturday 5:30 to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Valet parking is $10. There is delivery service and take-out with a delivery fee is $5. Catering and banquets for private events are also available.