Most of my family has the great fortune to have birthdays either on or near major holidays. Growing up, I just assumed that was normal. Let's see, we have Easter, Fourth of July, Columbus Day, Halloween, Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The newest family member was born in late June, so apparently, she didn't read the rule book.
One week ago, on Christmas eve, my daughter, my mother, and I went to celebrate our respective birthdays together at a new (for us) restaurant -- Cafe Firenze -- located in the next town over. Clearly, the menu is Italian, but the special draw of this restaurant, in addition to the good food, is the chef/owner, Fabio Viviani.
Ring a bell?
Fabio is Fabio of Top Chef fame, and while we had no expectations of actually seeing him that night, we weren't disappointed.
I would have liked to have had some photographs from our visit, but the restaurant was rather dark inside. We tried the camera, but even with a flash, it was a no-go. So, you'll just have to accept my descriptions.
We were seated in a booth on one side of the dining room. The large bar was a focal point in the center of the room, with seating around the perimeter. Each booth had small pillows, so that one could adjust the distance from the table and have a comfortable back rest.
After placing our orders, the waiter brought a basket of fresh bread and a bowl of something that looked like salsa, only it was actually bruschetta sauce. Yummy sauce at that. You could eat it straight from the bowl. A plate of lemon and lime slices were also on the table to add to your water glass.
For an appetizer we ordered the beef carpaccio, which was topped with arugula and shaved parmesan. Our three entrees were chicken, spinach, ricotta agnolotti with a tomato sauce, chicken and mushroom risotto, and a beef filet covered with a green peppercorn-mustard sauce and served over garlic spinach and truffled mashed potatoes. All three dishes were very well executed and we ate every last morsel.
I mentioned to the waiter that we were there celebrating our birthdays, and he offered a gratis dessert, a small molten chocolate mousse cake. My mother and daughter ordered the cakes, but I chose a dessert off the menu, a trio of creme brulees. Three small cups of just the right size came on a platter -- vanilla bean, chai, and espresso, all super delicious.
Our experience at Cafe Firenze was definitely positive. Both the food and service were excellent and the prices were in line with comparable restaurants. I'm looking forward to returning, no excuses needed. I would highly recommend a visit if you are ever in the neighborhood.
And, of course, I'll keep rooting for Fabio to win Top Chef!
Happy New Year!