It was a long time coming, but at Cello in downtown Howell, we met The Caller and his wife. There is no one that has missed this couple more than my Bride and I. Since they have both retired, they are even more difficult to get with than before, so I know retirement agrees with both of them. It was my duty to try to find someplace where we could both meet at, especially since they have moved out in the country, to parts that a GPS system gets lost, and so does UPS and Amazon Prime. I found a couple of places so that they could make a choice and I thought they would go for a steakhouse, but instead they chose an Italian restaurant. Now, I have to admit that I did some research, because I can be a bit of a food snob, in case you may have missed it, and my brain always has trouble putting an Italian restaurant in a non-Italian community setting. I didn’t want egg noodles and ketchup. My research appeared solid and The Caller knew of the restaurant and had heard some good reviews, so I felt safer. I have to presume that the restaurant is named Cello as a shorthand for the house-made Limoncello and not for the concert stringed instrument, and by the way the music was well selected with Dino, Frank, Tony and Louis and Keeley, so I could sing along if I hadn’t been so busy chatting, eating and drinking.
Cello has a rather unique approach to dining, as the placemat is also the menu on one side and the wine list on the other. Before we even could study the menu, our waitress brought us a little plate of nibbles, actually they were bite size versions of their Arancini, a little ball of saffron risotto and fresh mozzarella deep fried and in a bed of Marinara. When the waitress came back, she explained the conceit of the menu, and it is designed to be kind of a small plates attitude or it could be big plates as well, and every plate is designed to be shared, and that is perfect for the four of us, as we are always sharing dishes. We started of with a plate of Roasted Garlic with a balsamic reduction, tomatoes and ciabatta, Roasted Olives with roasted celery and fennel and Sausage and Peppers with onions, marinara and a house ricotta. We had big plates of Eggplant Parmesan with marinara and basil pesto, Gulf Shrimp Scampi with roasted tomatoes and arugula, Scallops with saffron risotto, white truffle oil and roasted tomatoes with Pecorino Romano and Mahi-Mahi with a Prosecco cream sauce. We had some small plates of Carbonara Bucatini, White Clam Bucatini and Wild Mushroom Gnocchi. They also brought to the table a device that freshly grinds Gran Padano and the ladies were going to take a photo to see if they could buy it, and our waitress brought over two brand new packages from the kitchen, which were immediately purchased. We all shared a slice of their “World Famous” Carrot Cake that was served warm and then frosted, and yes it was delicious and there was still some left when we departed, the entrée dishes did not suffer the same malady.
My Bride and I left very early so that we could avoid the majority of the rush hour traffic, as that traffic continues to go further and further out, to what I used to call the country. Since we got there early enough, she planned on doing some shopping and we also got in a good one to two mile walk before dinner. We got to the restaurant still quite a bit early, but they took us to our table, so we kind of had a chance to look at the menu and the wine list. So, to start the evening off on a good footing we each had a flute of Gardiz Prosecco DOC NV. Prosecco has become one of the festive wines that people enjoy, it has that festive appeal of a Champagne without the price, of course most of the wines are made by the Charmat Method and I will have to presume that this wine was, as I could find no information on it. I do know that it is from the Prosecco grape and not the Glera, they are both the same, but for marketing rights, the wines that are from Veneto get the big name. This was a good middle of the road Prosecco with medium size bubbles and a little sweetness and it was great before dinner. The Caller and his wife showed up and they thought that they would be early and they were going to have a cocktail. One had the Palermo Peach which was Bulleit Rye, Peach Nectar, Aperol, Lemon and Simple Syrup and the other had the Corleone Negroni which was Greyling Gin, Aperol, Lillet Blanc and Orange. Then it was time to order the wines for dinner and the wine carte at Cello had twenty-six wines to select from and they were all from Italy and to their credit, it was not the typical Italian wines that one can find at some of the corner stores. We started off with Pio Cesare L’Altro Chardonnay 2016 from the Piedmont. I have to admit that I have a certain bias towards the wines from Pio Cesare as I have always found them to a cut above most of the “brands.” The estate was founded in 1881 and is still in the founding family’s ownership. Only six percent of their production is in Chardonnay. This wine is called L’Altro which translates to “the other” to differentiate this Chardonnay wine from their single vineyard Piodilei. This wine is a Chardonnay and “Sauvignon Blanc in small part.” The wine is aged with extensive time on the lees in both Stainless Steel and some French Oak. It was a very crisp wine with some mineral tones to give some zest and very easy to drink. Right after the white wine was opened and poured the waitress came with the red wine and decanted it, which I thought was a nice touch. That wine was Tenuta Arbeta Barolo DOCG 2011 from Alessandro Berselli in the Piedmont. This wine was entirely Nebbiolo and the fruit came from two different vineyards and was aged for twenty-four months in French Oak. The nose on this wine was beautiful when it was being decanted, but it wasn’t there later. It was a good drinking wine, but it was not as big as I expected from a Barolo. I would go there again, but I would like to try some of the other wines that they had on the list, and we are looking forward to the next get-together.