Monday, October 10, 2011

Agresti's Tuscan Grill

I saw a sign for "Agresti's Tuscan Grill" in Westover recently and was really excited to check out the "Tuscan grill." It's right along the main road, and we went around dinner time. There wasn't a car in the parking lot, so I had to double-take to see if they were open. They do open for dinner, but they're still new, so it's not busy.

When we walked in, we waited awkwardly at the front of the restaurant. I looked around and took in the decorations - it was almost romantic. The lighting was dim, the color on the walls was warm, and the chairs were leather and comfy. It was surprisingly elegant inside. Finally, the waitress came over and kind of mumbled something about how we almost caused her an accident, as she was holding her eye. She laughed afterwards, signalling she was joking, but me and my dining partner were thrown off and didn't know what to say. The waitress told us to choose where we'd like to sit. I chose a table near us, and we ordered our drinks.

I realized there was a bar nearby, and the interior was impressive. I was surprised. I looked over the menu and thought to myself, this is going to be better than expected. The restaurant didn't feature the typical choose your pasta, marinara or alfredo and whether or not you want a meatball. Dishes included various types of pasta and inventive sauces, some with peppers, others with spinach or shrimp or chicken.

Before I narrowed down my decision on the pasta, we ordered bruschetta for an appetizer.  I chose the vodka farfalla, which came with a salad, for my entree.

Soon after, we were brought a basket of bread and a garlic/olive oil dipping sauce. This is typical for Italian restaurants, and it was a nice touch. The bread was fresh, and the olive oil mixture was a little lacking in flavor, but hey, how flavorful can plain olive oil be? I think the simplicity of it is what makes it a good starter.

Our salads came out next - basically a bowl of chopped lettuce, some tomatoes and some feta cheese crumbles. I got their house salad, which wasn't powerful, but very subdued. It only accented the lettuce, and since it wasn't that impressive, the salad kind of fell flat. I ate some, but pushed it away fro the better dishes ahead.

Our bruschetta came out looking delicious. The appearance would have earned an A alone, but I certainly wasn't going to go without tasting it. The toasted pieces of bread started to get a little soggy in the middle with the tomatoes salad atop it, but once I was able to scoop a good bit into my mouth, I was blown away. Keep in mind, this is bread, olive oil, tomatoes and some scallions with a delicious blend of flavors. The bread was still crunchy enough to provide a delicious base for the tomato and olive oil mixture - all infusing with garlic and spices. It was a delicious combination that kept me wanting more.

When our main entrees came out, I was happy with the size. I thought for sure that'd I'd have leftovers. Our waitress offered us some fresh cheese on top, and I took her up on that offer. I looked at my plate full of bowtie pasta, topped with a creamy tomato-based vodka sauce. It had small chunks of fresh mozzarella piled on top with pieces of capicola sprinkled throughout. This dish was heaven. It was so creamy, and the mozzarella and capicola made a delicious meal with the perfectly cooked pasta. Slightly al dente allows the sauce to absorb and creates a yummy carb coma. The capicola is a little salty, the cheese is fresh, and sauce is creamy and tomato-y and garlicy. It's so good, that I want to go back and order the same dish because I'm not sure another dish could be as good.

When I had a few bites left, the waitress asked if I'd like a box - I said no, I was going to eat the entire thing. It was THAT good. A few minutes later, she set a box on our table anyway. I didn't think much of it until she came back a few minutes later to take it away and give it to another table. While my entree was fantastic, the service was questionable - the two waitresses stood over behind a a counter chatting for a good bit of the time, while my drink was running empty. They also didn't know the specials and had to keep walking up to the chalkboard in front of the dining area to read it. Not to mention how we were greeted.

Regardless, when she offered us dessert, I wanted to try. She listed off tiramisu, spumoni, and cannolis. I haven't had a good cannoli since Italy, so that was my choice. It came out with some powdered suger, but this wasn't the typical ricotta-filled filo pastry I was expecting. Instead, it was almost like an icing inside the cannoli. I would forgo dessert next time. It simply wasn't tasty - the pastry wasn't sweet, and the filling was an odd flavor.

Luckily, my appetizer and entree were delicious enough for me to recommend this place, especially with it being so new. I can see bigger and better things coming. For $40 for two people, it's really a good price for a bread appetizer, bruschetta appetizer, two entrees, drinks, desserts, and not to mention a strange gel-like mint.

Grade: A
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