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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Paul Mineo's and Friends

I went, with my friends the other night, to a restaurant owned by Paul Mineo. When I was in college, I used to work for him at a restaurant named Willoughby’s. I gained about seven pounds working there – I loved the food. I was so excited to hear at the end of the school year last year that he had opened another restaurant in Westport Plaza. My in-laws dine there quite often and had recommended it to Hubby and me. I didn’t get up there in time to see Paul, though. He passed away from cancer during the summer. Going to his restaurant was bittersweet for me. On the one hand, I was so impressed by what he and his wife created – it was so grown up, elegant and wonderful, on the other hand, I was saddened by the loss of someone I had really respected and disappointed that I didn’t get to tell him how nice I thought his restaurant was.

Every few months, my friends and I go out to eat at a restaurant that one of us picks out. We started doing this a couple of years ago, and it has become an evening that I look forward to each time. We all get along very well - it is just so nice to be able to have friends who accept you for who you are no matter what.

Paul Mineo’s Trattoria is an Italian restaurant that serves Southern Sicilian Cuisine. While it is more formal than Willoughby’s was, there is still an air of casualness about the place. It is comfortable yet elegant. We had, I think, the best time at Paul Mineo’s. It was by far the best food and service of all the restaurants we have gone to as a group. In my opinion, the only restaurant that comes close is Sidney Street CafĂ©.

For starters we all tried an appetizer, I ordered the lobster ravioli; and my friends ordered calamari fritti; eggplant parmigiano; and Carciofini Alla Lea, which is artichoke hearts prosciutto and cream cheese – yum! We sampled each other’s apps and they were all very good. I have to say that I was surprised by the eggplant. I have never been a huge fan, but the eggplant was very good – I am going to have to make some. The calamari was perfectly cooked, and the marinara was a perfect compliment, not too spicy, not too bland. Heather thought the lobster ravioli was the best – she loved the cream sauce with the sherry and saffron. We also each had a salad and then it was on to the main course!

My friends ordered Bucatini Ala Arabiata, a spicy tomato sauce with capers and mushrooms; Linguini Mare Monti, seafood pasta with mushrooms in a garlic butter white wine sauce; and Chicken Spiendini. I have since talked to one of my dinner companions, and she did the same thing I did – she took her leftovers to school, just like I did. I usually give my leftovers to my husband – not this time! The seafood pasta had lots of meat and the sauce was light and flavorful, allowing the seafood to be the star, the mushrooms added a freshness that always adds to a dish. The only down side to the entrees would have to be the bucatini – it was a bit spicy for my friend. She really liked the flavor, but for her it was too much heat. While I didn’t get to try everybody’s dish, they all looked great.

Dessert was a complete surprise – we were treated to a sampling of three of Paul Mineo’s desserts; cheesecake, a cannoli, and tiramisu. Since I am a big fan of cheesecake, that was the best for me. The tiramisu and the cannoli were also very good, but I just can’t pass up cheesecake.

Christoff, our waiter, was fabulous – he is in our picture. The service was probably the highlight of our meal. We really enjoy a waiter who tries to make our dining experience something special. He paid attention to us, without suffocating us, and just did what he could to ensure that our dinner an event. I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone who wants a special night out without totally breaking the bank. They also cater almost any event one might want; from wine events to wedding receptions, they can make any event a total celebration.

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