Friday, July 27, 2012

Ciatti's in St. Cloud, MN : Fine Italian dining with the added bonus of Gluten Free options.

I just "liked" Ciatti's Ristorante in St. Cloud on facebook.  We ate there yesterday, to celebrate our daughter Louisa, and her up and coming trip to Italy. 

It was a great dining experience.  The highlight was the large selection of Gluten Free menu items, including several pasta dishes.

The ambiance was pleasant.  The staff was knowledgeable and attentive.  The menu offerings were varied and interesting.  All of the choices sounded wonderful.  The three entrees we had were very tasty.  The price was moderate to even low, considering it was a somewhat fancy restaurant.  Considering the larger urban area than we generally frequent, I expected higher prices. 

Joe had an iced tea while Louisa and I stuck to glasses of iced water.

The meal began with salad served family style, and a selection of fresh breads on the side.  The salad was fresh and good with a nice variety of vegetables mixed in.  The waiter was careful with her method of serving to keep the salad free of bread crumbs and croutons. 

Joe ordered something that appeared to be a chicken breast wrapped in prosciutto and covered with a caper sauce.  I think it might have been the Chicken Saltimboca.  On the side he had steamed vegetables.  Joe commented that the beans tasted garden fresh.  They tasted fresh enough that he even surmised they might have been locally grown. 

Louisa had the Fettucini Alfredo, of which she could only eat a small portion.  I was more than happy to help her finish it off.  The pasta was wonderful and the cream sauce was mildly seasoned.  The entree was served with a garnish of thinly sliced Parmesan cheese.

I ordered Three Cheese Pillows.  It was a plate-full of cheesy raviolis, covered in a chunky style marinara sauce.  The sauce was flavorful and zesty without being overpoweringly so.  Mine meal was also garnished with the curling slices of Parmesan. 

We all three ordered dessert.  Can you believe it?  We really went all out.  Joe had a Butterscotch Budino, which was a pudding type concoction with carmelized butter drizzled throughout it and a sprinkling of sea salt over the top.  It was only mildly sweet, but perfect in its creamy, buttery, salty sweetness.

Louisa ordered the Creme Brulee, which she found excellent, but again more than she could eat.  I tell you, that girl does not get her birdlike appetite from me.  But I was unable to help her finish that, so she brought the little bit home and gave each of her siblings a little taste.

I finished my meal with a cup of coffee and a Tiramisu.  The coffee was excellent.   But I have to say that the Tiramisu was the one downside of the meal.  I've had much better Tiramisu.  I've even made better Tiramisu back in the day when I had energy for creative cooking.  The pudding tasted like it was from a can.  I have a hard time believing it was, since the restaurant appears to laud itself on from scratch cooking.  It was thick and heavy, as if the desserts in the fancy glasses were made up too long in advance and the moisture had evaporated from the pudding.  The cake layers were too saturated with the espresso, or something.  Instead of being soggy, they were almost runny.  Cake and coffee somehow stayed separate, instead of creaming together nicely.   Definitely a distinct coffee feel in my mouth.  Coffee with cake crumbs in it.  An unpleasant sensation. 

But, I reminded myself, perhaps since the chef was trained in Italy, he makes an authentic Tiramisu.  Perhaps I just don't happen to care for authentic Tiramisu.  It's probably just me, right?  But either way, I have to assert that I prefer the style of Tiramisu I've enjoyed elsewhere.

Except for the disappointing Tiramisu, the meal was excellent in every way.  Joe found it a relief to have a selection of menu items already designated Gluten Free.  And more than that, it is always a comfort to find a staff that already knows what Gluten Free means and how to provide it.  And even better still was that he did not get sick afterwards.

Cudos to the Ciatti's staff.  And to my readers, go try it.  You gluten free readers out there, be sure to support this fine establishment by giving them your patronage when you are in the St. Cloud area.

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