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Casa Rustica: What's the Big Deal

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Casa Rustica: What's the Big Deal

sbp | Sep 2, 2003 10:08 AM

Just had a disappointing meal at Casa Rustica in Smithtown. For years, this place has been top rated by Zagat, Newsday, and others; it's usually listed among the top restaurants on Long Island, along with Louis XIV, Panama Hatties, Mirabelle, for example. My dinner for two was good, not great, and definitely not 3 star level. My expectations are that restaurants of this caliber serve up plates that take your breath away.

To start, the bread that was served was slightly stale. Just enough for the crust to be a bit rubbery. My wife ordered a spinach and artichoke salad appetizer, and I ordered a seafood salad. These were nice, but not over the top. My seafood salad was an ice-cream scoop sized mix of shrimp and calamari in a lemon vinaigrette. The mix of seafoods should have been more distinctive -- some octupus, scallop, etc.

My wife and I ordered entrees from the evening's specials; she ordered "striped bass with fried green tomatoes", I ordered "Venison". The waiter gave no further details -- when I asked about preparation of the venison, he said "it's delicious". While the bass and venison were certainly tasty, they didn't knock my socks off, and both dishes came plated the same way -- with haricot verts and some pan fried potatoes. The sides were certainly well made, but I expect a first class restaurant to present an entree with side dishes specifically chosen to complement and integrate with the main course. Your "choice of baked potatoes, fries or green beans" for every entree doesn't cut it.

Finally, desert was a disaster. The waiter asked if we wanted coffee. He didn't suggest cappucino, espresso, etc. He named a few desserts, and we decided to split a creme brulee. I knew there would be a problem, because one minute later he came out with the creme brulee. As you can imagine, there is no chef in the world who cooks that fast, so I knew it was pre-made and either left sitting out or refrigerated (both no-no's for creme brulee). The sugar crust was grainy (not cooked long enough), no shatteringly crisp but soft (left out to absorb moisture), and burnt in spots (cooked too close to heat source). Worse yet, the custard's texture was like gummy cheesecake, not silky and creamy. I know this can only happen if the custard is adulterated with gelatin or cornstarch, a shortcut used to ensure thickening. As my wife noted, "they should have been embarrassed to serve this."

All in all, Casa Rustica was OK, but certainly not worth the price and not deserving of top marks. I've had better meals at Ruvo, in Greenlawn. And it's closer to home.

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