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REVIEW: Ca' del Sole, Universal City

Das Ubergeek | May 20, 200501:01 AM

I know that there have been other reports on this place, but I won't feel whole until I post my own, so...

The valet was very attentive. The parking lot is difficult, so it is all valet, with a service charge of $3. The valet opened the door for my wife, which is always a plus. Unfortunately, the desk had "lost" our reservation for 7:00, but since there was plenty of room we got a nice table in a private corner of the patio anyway. The room was full of industry types from nearby Universal, who mercifully were not on the cell phone.

My wife does not drink wine, nor does she drink with dinner; this sometimes causes cocked eyebrows, when I order glasses or half-carafes of wine, since I love wine. I started with a glass of Taittinger champagne (which is always a nice relaxer while you decide what you're having and what wine you want with it). She had, comme d'habitude, iced tea. We split a fritto misto (labelled as calamari -- we're going on South Beach tomorrow and thus wanted a blowout), and then an insalata caprino (goat cheese salad with roasted grapes, sweetened pecans, endive and arugula). I had risotto frutti di mare with shrimp, scallops, calamari and mussels and two glasses of a decent-if-nothing-special Viognier, and she had ravioli filled with lobster in butter-sage sauce. We then had a slice of pear tart and a banana mousse, and I had a double espresso.

The fritto misto was good, but frankly I like Maria's Italian Kitchen better for calamari -- it's crispier and tastes more like squid.

The salad was excellent, though a little oily for my taste (this is a very Italian thing, though). The roasted grapes were terrific and I will be trying that as soon as I finish the two weeks' start to South Beach. The goat cheese, which was the ubiquitous but delicious Laura Chenel, was half-aged with the rind still on, which, like Brie, is the best part. They split the salad for two without our asking, which was a nice touch.

The risotto was very good -- they had made the stock with tomatoes and parsley in and thus the whole dish was pink. The seafood was cooked just right with the exception of the shrimp, which were curled tightly and dry.

I only like butter-sage sauce on squash ravioli, so I wasn't very impressed with my wife's dish, but it disappeared in short order so apparently she liked it quite a lot. There was certainly a lot of lobster -- two tablespoons' worth at least in each raviolo.

The pear tart, which was formed in a mould, was not very exciting -- it tasted like nothing much at all until you put the caramel sauce on it, but it wasn't overly sweet, which won some points with me. (Side note: I'm turning into my father -- I dislike overly sweet tastes and find the use of sugar in things like salad dressings and marinara sauce to be disgusting.) The banana mousse was much, much better, light and airy with big chunks of banana hidden in it.

The service was much better than I remember. I have been to Ca' del Sole several times, but usually when they are very busy, and service can suffer. The last time was Valentines' Day 2003. Tonight, however, the waiter was very attentive. Courses were paced well, with just enough time to finish that course's wine before serving the next. Because we ordered more courses than there were table settings, the waiter replaced the cutlery and crumbed the table after each course, including the knife -- very impressive in my book, where the same filthy knife gets used throughout the meal. My only two complaints: like most restaurants in L.A., we had to ask for the bill, 15 minutes after finishing dessert; and they didn't bring an iced tea spoon for my wife.

It was burning hot in the Valley today -- when we arrived at 7:00 it was 91°F, so we ate outside, under a large oak tree. They had citronella plants hidden (I could smell it) to keep out the insects, which was nice, since when you dine al fresco, the wildlife can be a bit irritating. The patio was nicely kept up, with bougainvillea and jasmine hanging off the walls. My only complaint here was that when I sat down, the back of my chair (and the back of my shirt) were jammed into a potted geranium. We moved the table, and no one seemed to mind.

Just about right. All told the bill came to $104.00, and with $21.00 tip and $5.00 for the valet, the evening was $130.00... just about what I expected to spend on a very nice anniversary dinner for the two of us. If you went just for a salad and a bottle of water, I could see that you would be disappointed in the value, but we were very happy and now we are very, very full.

Ca' del Sole
4100 W. Cahuenga Blvd.
Toluca Lake, CA 91602

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