Caffe Umbra delivers again on an unseasonally snowy, cold night. It's surprisingly packed in the dining room, but we manage to snag the last two seats at the bar. Joe the Consummate Barman tends to us, whipping up a couple of great strained cocktails while we peruse the menu. We're glad to see that the Porchetta sandwich had graduated to the main menu, a low-priced special (a la the nearby Union's burger and Reuben) that we have enjoyed on many a budget-conscious weeknight.
We opt for two entrees, a macherroni with veal, and beef two ways (flank done like a steak frites, plus a short rib braise) with a gorgeous side of celery root mash. Both offer super-rich, varied flavors and textures in generous but not oversized portions, just right for this fall-verging-into-winter evening.
We find a light-bodied yet earthy Languedoc for under $30. I like the way this place offers a couple of decent Italian and French reds at popular prices, though most bottles are for fancier tastes.
We think we're done, but the dessert menu has been redone attractively: organized by type (cake, cheese, ice cream, etc.), sized to encourage sampling. We opt for a scoop of salt caramel ice cream and a soft French cheese: better and less expensive than a larger dessert to share.
We leave rating this yet another in a string of very fine meals here: no pretension, excellent service, consistent delivery from the kitchen on Med classics that leverage good local ingredients. I was worried when I heard that the exec chef had left recently, but I'm guessing that the chef/owner gets back behind the line as needed.
There are a lot of very good mid-priced places in our neighborhood: this one has most consistently rewarded repeat visits.