Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pappacelle - Avon, CT

In a town loaded to the gills with Italian restaurants, I think the hands down favorite for the Mr. and I is Papacelle. A family-owned place located in a quiet section of a shopping/commercial plaza, it offers a relaxed vibe with a beautiful view of nearby Talcott Mountain. Having said that, I must also tell you that I have a love-hate relationship with the place.

Over the course of a year, I have eaten there approximately 8 times for lunch and dinner. Although it hardly makes me a regular, I did experience lackluster service on three occasions and an odd customer service snafu by one of the owners. I am not alone in my observation, having heard similar stories from co-workers. But, I am not one to write off a restaurant too easily, so let’s keep an open mind…

One mistake Papacelle does NOT make is with their food. It is consistently excellent and is what keeps us coming back. Their menu is not your typical “red sauce” Italian and features a well chosen selection of meats, seafood and pasta. On my last lunch visit, I was tempted by a rabbit ravioli lunch special and was rewarded with a delicious plate of rustic pasta. The filling was tender, savory but not overly rich. The Mr. ordered his usual Carbonara, which has the distinction of being his favorite in the area. On previous visits, the Beef crepes and “Study of Meatballs” were standouts on the appetizer menu.

One my favorite things on their menu is also the simplest. You must try the Grilled Romaine. Practically a meal, the grill lends a sweet smoky flavor to the lettuce which is then dressed with olives, peppers, zucchini and a garlic dressing.

The wine menu aims to please, you’ll see some familiar names but the prices are reasonable enough to be adventurous and try new ones. Two of my favorites: Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay and a super Tuscan from Villa Antinori.

Inside and out, Papacelle offers one of the best most beautiful dining spots in town. It’s one of the few places around where you can escape from the pressures of office life for an hour or enjoy a relaxing dinner out. The dining room and bar are very spacious; even when it’s busy you never feel like you’re sitting on top of your neighbor. In the warmer months, it’s a treat to sit on the patio with its beautiful fountain and lush green surroundings.

They are also very proactive at engaging diners through wine dinners and dinner specials. I am perplexed as to why service lags at times, but the obvious attention to detail in the cooking will keep me going back. Do try it, and I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

3/13/10: Returned to have lunch recently and decided to post a photo of another dish I enjoyed; the venison ravioli. It was outstanding!