I have to admit that one place I have overlooked for years is Carl Anthony's Trattoria in Monroe. I’ve passed by it while traveling up and down Route 25 never giving it a second look. I just always assumed it was a typical local Italian restaurant serving up the stereotypical Italian-American fare. It was completely snobby of me. It turns out, I was totally wrong.
Along with a group of fellow bloggers we recently had the pleasure of sampling the menu at Carl Anthony's. Spoiler alert: Executive Chef/Owner Sam DeVellis is killing it at this tucked into a strip mall spot. Sam along with his brother, sister and cousin have owned Carl Anthony's for 15 years.
He and his team make “everything here” and support many local farmers including Sport Hill Farm (Easton, CT), Plasko Farm (Monroe, CT), Sticks + Stones (Newtown, CT) as well as local purveyors like Shearwood Organic Coffee (Trumbull, CT). I had no idea.
We started out at the bar (of course). While enjoying a smattering of specialty cocktails we sampled a few appetizers. First up was Bleu Chips made with hand cut potato chips, Gorgonzola fonduta, fig jam and bacon. I enjoyed the blending of sweet from the fig jam with the tanginess of the Gorgonzola.
Second was the customer favorite “Original” Balsamic Calamari. The balsamic reduction on the calamari is so popular Chef DeVellis is thinking of bottling it. The inspiration for the dish came from General Tso’s chicken. The calamari was tender and crunchy and the sauce was a fantastic balance of sweet and sour. I could have housed the entire platter.
We then adjourned to our table and a series of small plates. The Heirloom Tomato Salad Bruschetta was fresh and incredibly juicy. A delightful summertime classic.
The Charred Heirloom Carrots with straciatella cheese and cilantro-honey citronette was sweet with a delightful char.
Kobe Meatballs with tomato sauce and garlic bread. I wasn't blown away but the meatballs were moist and the "gravy" was good.
Burrata with bacon jam and pepperoncino – the burrata was a milky, creamy backdrop that really set off the spicy pepperoncino. I really enjoyed this combination.
Our last small plate was Fig + Beet with baby greens, house-made goat cheese ricotta, onion, wildflower honey toasted oats, marcona almonds and Vincotto. The salad had all the elements of sweet, earthy, salty and crunchy. I adored the sweet figs and creamy goat cheese ricotta next to the crunchy almonds.
Then, out came the pasta.
Loaded Baked-Potato Gnocchi - handmade potato pasta pillows baked with smoked bacon, broccoli and a cheddar and asiago cheese sauce topped with sour cream and chives. Not going to lie this was indulgent, decadent and so freaking delicious. The normal single portion size could easily be split between two people and you’d both walk away full. Oh the carby goodness. I am salivating just thinking about it.
Italian “Ramen”- handmade noodles, chicken broth, local egg, parmigiano and pepperoncino. Must. Have. The broth was amazingly flavorful. This is the kind of broth where you can really taste the chicken; it’s the kind of broth that not only tastes good, but makes you feel good. The noodles were ramen-like and there was just a hint of spice from the pepperoncino. The next chilly or rainy day I am going back just for a big bowl of this soup. Just so good.
I tried to pace myself and I’m so glad I did because after pasta came two main course tastes.
Pig Roast – slow roasted “Porchetta alla Romana”, broccoli rabe and pickled farm stand tomato. The skin on this pork was ridiculously crunchy. It was the stuff of my food dreams. The meat was really slow cooked, creating incredibly tender morsels.
Wild Ivory King Salmon with spicy spinach, Sultana raisin vinaigrette and walnut romesco aioli. For me, there was a bit too much of that mayonnaise flavor, but I will say the fish was perfectly cooked.
I was nearly bursting at the seams but could not resist having a taste of the trio of desserts.
Quattro Crème Brulee – four flavors of crème brulee served in espresso cups. Coffee + Doughnuts - the “coffee” was actually a cappuccino semi-freddo. The first two selections were good but surprisingly it was option number three that caught my taste buds that evening.
Blueberry Upside-Down Cake. This sounds kind of “regular” compared to the rest of the desserts, but honestly it was my favorite of the night. It was moist, light and refreshing and not too sweet. I really enjoyed it. Sometimes it’s the seemingly simple things that hit the spot.
So in the end after thoroughly enjoying this modern take on Italian cuisine I can firmly say I am an idiot for passing by Carl Anthony's Trattoria. Sam DeVellis has been in business for so many years because he keeps things fresh and delicious. He’s not the new kid on the block and that’s a really good thing.
To check out all the food porn photos from our feast just head on over to our Facebook page.
Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post. The meal was free of charge. The opinions contained herein are my own and reflect my experience. Your own may differ.
Carl Anthony Trattoria
477 Main Street . Monroe, CT
Tues. - Thurs. 12noon - 9pm
Friday 12noon - 10pm
Photos by Renato Ghio