Friday, May 20, 2016
Clarksburg Edition: Julio's Cafe
I've heard great things about Julio's Cafe - from a New York Times piece to praise from locals. My friend Kayla recently visited this place and once again raved about the meal. I implored her to go once again - with me - so I can finally experience it.
We were handed menus, which was nice because I know that they sometimes (or at least used to) not give out menus and rather simply read off the list of menu options.
I quickly put in an order for the "Signature Tomato Plate" because I was starving, and I'm a sucker for anything "signature." Fresh tomatoes paired with fontanella, provolone, pecorino romano, bocconcini mozzarella and topped with their homemade secret sauce. Count me in.
The thick chunks of tomato were delicious, and there were three hunks of fresh mozzarella, and delicious crumbly wedges of the fontanella. I didn't love the thin slices of provolone - I feel like they could've been thicker or not at all. Also the secret sauce was essentially a pesto - and a balsamic would've been delicious. But, it was tasty and a nice fresh first bite.
While waiting for our entrees, I noticed how cool the dark tin ceiling and wooden accents and art was. A lava lamp accompanied each table. Its vibe harkens back to an old-school Italian restaurant - apparently with roots in Calabrian cooking. Many of the immigrants in the Glen Elk area hail from the province of Calabria, so having a restaurant that reflects that type of homestyle cooking makes sense.
We were served a basket of garlic toast, alongside olive oil, crushed red pepper and grated Parmesan cheese to make a small pool of yummy.
Next up was pasta e fagiole with beans and pasta in a light broth. I wish I were a bigger fan of beans, but they just don't do much for me.
My entree arrived in a massive heap. Layers of pasta took turns with a delicious cheese mixture and meat to create a tasty tower covered in a perfect red sauce. This sauce has a great flavor - a deep, rich tomato base with a nice spice and sweet. Not too thick, but not too runny. Very good.
Kayla ordered the Costanza, which was sundried tomatoes in a vodka cream sauce. I snuck a bite, and it was also quite good! I love a vodka sauce. I was surprised the sundried tomatoes weren't chunks within (which would have been a good texture variation), but rather were integrated into the sauce. Tasty.
We couldn't pass up the dessert. I went for a brownie with vanilla ice cream, and Kayla went with a butter pecan ice cream dessert. Both delicious; both diet-busters. Worth it? Yes.
I think, for the most part, this is a lovely little restaurant. I think it has some good, traditional food, and I think it has a great history. I think the first 10 minutes of my experience here set a not great tone, which was a bit hard for me to overlook. Fortunately, the food is tasty - and the basics here (like the red sauce) are phenomenal.