Dine or Decline: Caf?e Del Buono

Maggie Carey

Café Del Buono (609 Commercial Dr, New Hartford) came highly recommended by one of our readers, so my friends and I took the 45 minute drive to see if we could verify the rumor. The small Italian American restaurant offers an extremely wide variety of both Italian and American favorites. They offer everything from steak, to veal, pasta, seafood, chicken, specialty burgers and sandwiches. The large crowd and cheery buzz coming from the diners was an immediate indication that we were in for a treat.

Selecting an entrée was near impossible, but se­lecting appetizers for the table was easy based on the previously mentioned rumors. We tried the calamari del buono. These perfectly fried pieces of squid were lightly battered and were complimented by hot cherry peppers and a Cajun mayo sauce. As a connoisseur of calamari, I can confidently say these are some of the best I have had the pleasure of consuming! The greens del buono took a close second place. Do not be misled by the title. These are no ordinary leaves. The appetizer was a savory dish of escarole braised in chicken broth with breadcrumbs, cheese, hot peppers and pancetta. These appetizers left everyone salivating in anticipation for our entrees.

Based on my trip to Italy this summer, I selected a familiar favorite: the cold antipasto. This generous portion of lettuce was accompanied by provolone cheese, sopressata, tomatoes, roasted peppers, tuna, onion, anchovies, artichoke hearts and Italian dressing. However, I did request that the dish be prepared without anchovies because those tiny little fish are just too salty for my taste. The complexity of this “salad” did not fail to meet my high expectations. The tuna and sopressata (a twist on the classic salami) provided the perfect salty contrast to the sweet tomatoes and roasted peppers. Each of the fresh and flavorful ingredients came together to make a fantastic, satisfying meal.

One attendee ordered the Absolut Vodka riggies. The generous portion of pasta was en­hanced with prosciutto, bacon, fresh basil and an Absolut Vodka tomato cream sauce. The smooth, rich sauce was far from plain. The chunks of bacon and prosciutto created layers of flavor that were complimented by the fresh basil. Pasta sauce with fresh basil is an immedi­ate crowd pleaser for those who enjoy high quality Italian food oozing with the undeniable homemade taste. Despite how delicious the dish was, the size of the dish prevented this diner from making any sort of significant dent in the plate.

Two guests tried the hot antipasto, which was comprised of stuffed egg­plant, scallops, shrimp, clams, mussels, artichoke hearts and roasted peppers. All of this was topped with breadcrumbs and baked in marinara sauce. The dish was also accompanied by a choice of soup or a salad and choice of potato, rice or paste. Both individuals selected the pasta and salad option. One had the homemade raspberry vinaigrette and the other enjoyed the homemade Italian dressing. Each was well received. The en­trée was overwhelming in both quantity and quality. The eggplant and medley of seafood was light and perfectly sea­soned. However, the massive portion of food left the attendees wishing they had shared the meal.

Lastly, one attendee surpassed the tempting aroma of Italian cooking throughout the restaurant and went straight for the burger section of the menu. She selected the Café Burger which was topped with bacon, mushrooms and sharp cheddar cheese and came with a side of fries. The juicy burger prepared medium rare received rave reviews and was the only dish that was successfully demolished. This member of the clean plate club noted that the bacon was cooked to crispy perfection and just might be one of the best burgers she has consumed.

Overall, Café Del Buono received rave reviews. For such a small restaurant, the food packed big flavor in generous portions. The quality of the fresh homemade food was excellent. On top of all this, the prices were reasonable as well. The appetizers ranged in price form $2.50 for a cup of the Soup de Jour to $12 for the Grump Special (a combination of fried mozzarella, onion rings, poppers, chicken fingers and mushrooms intended for two to four people). With exception of the steak dishes which cost $24, no entrée exceeded $18. Although the service was slightly slow, the waitress was extremely friendly and the homemade food was definitely worth the wait. I can now happily af­firm the rumor that Café Del Buono is an excellent Italian-American restaurant that is sure to leave you pleasantly stuffed!