Al Covo has been written up on this blog numerous times but it’s been several years and on this trip we went for lunch instead of dinner and sat in a different room. It’s been in business since 1987 and is always a favorite stop when we are in town. Chef-owner Cesare Benelli and his wife Diane (who makes all the desserts) are now happy to have their son helping in the kitchen. Diane is from Texas and always welcomes a bit of her old home visiting her current home. A fairly small place, we’ve always been seated in the bigger dining room but this time we were ‘walk-ins’ and got to try out the smaller room to the left as you enter. The small wood tables were fairly close and well-lit by the adjacent windows. There was music in the background, as well as lively conversation and all the family was in the house. In addition to the printed menu, there were a couple of daily specials. We had a thoroughly delightful meal with great service in a very welcoming place.
While deciding what to order the server brought the bread basket. On top were large slices of lovely white bread with a good crisp crust and a doughy interior. But underneath is the real fun. They serve a small, almost oval crisp bread/cracker. I don’t know what’s in them but they are flakey and delicious. A real surprise to discover.
The amuse-bouche was some soft creamy polenta topped with tiny fish. The fish were perfectly crisp and had a wonderful contrast with the soft, silky polenta. It was a delicious start to the meal.
The ceviche of fish of the day was rouget or Red Mullet and it was mixed with celery, carrot, onion, potato, bell pepper, coriander and tomato. There was a hint of spice to the dish and the overall effect was wonderful. Really nice flavors here.
Upper Adriatic deep-fried medley of fish, shellfish, and vegetables with polenta and white garlic sauce was the main course. It is basically a fritto misto with fun vegetables. I found shrimp, squid, fish, and artichoke all with an excellent garlic dip. In addition the seafood was on a pile of matchstick-size French fries that were crisp and delicious. All the seafood was cooked perfectly and the coating was light and not greasy. Alongside were 2 squares of polenta that were another tasty addition to the plate. All in all, I was quite happy with this choice, as was my husband.
For dessert, we ordered the Buffalo ricotta cheesecake with orange-lime sauce. Some sliced kumquats and toasted hazelnuts served as garnishes. The cheesecake was light and lovely and the crust was amazing. Diane adds some pecans to her crust that really spark up the flavor. This was a yummy dessert.
A gift from the kitchen was the Grappa and cinnamon-flavored semifreddo with currant raisins and meringue-covered pine nuts. I love grappa and this was perfect with it. The creamy boozy custard combined splendidly with the sweet raisins and crispy sweet nuts. So many textures and flavors – another yummy choice.