It was SPP's birthday this week. I told him that he could choose any restaurant he wanted for the big day. We considered our local options, and he chose Fiamma. We had only eaten there once, but it had made quite an impression on us and we were eager to go back and see what the night's menu would be.
Fiamma has only one big disadvantage. It doesn't take reservations for parties of fewer than six people. On a Tuesday night, we did not think this would be a problem. How wrong we were! We arrived at the restaurant to find another party waiting inside the door ahead of us. Six more people were standing at the bar. (The bar has no seat and doesn't serve food. Waiting at the bar means standing around drinking wine and feeling hungry until a table becomes available). We knew there would be no table available for us for a very long time.
When it comes to dinner, I don't do waiting on line. If you don't take reservations and you want to keep hordes of people waiting at the door, then I go elsewhere. As much as I liked Fiamma, I doubt I'll be going there again any time soon. No restaurant is that good. I never understood why restaurants that popular won't take reservations. Do the chefs and owners just get an ego trip from seeing people lined up?
So we were left wondering what to do. We didn't have reservations for anyplace else, although there were plenty of restaurants that likely wouldn't be so busy on a Tuesday night. We considered our old standby Chef Antonio, which was only a block away, but we eat there at least once a month and it's not all that special. We considered Piccolo Mulino, a small Italian restaurant right across the street from our building, but we had eaten there for our anniversary. Kevin was really in the mood for Italian.
Then an idea hit me. 'What about that new place on the Post Road?'
The new place on the Post Road, was a steak house called the Toll Gate for many years. I used to really love it, but once I met Sir Pickypants, I never went back (for obvious reasons). When it went downhill and eventually out of business, another restaurant or two tried to occupy the building with no success. Recently, it was renovated and Andrea's 25 North took over.
We walked into a very lovely bar area on the restaurant's ground floor level. There was no one there to greet us. That was a little annoying. Getting frustrated and leaving didn't seem like an option since it was getting later and we didn't want to be driving all over town looking for a nice restaurant. Finally a busboy came and seated us.
The restaurant is on three levels. The first level is the entrance and the bar area. The next two levels are dining rooms. We sat on the second level, in front of one of the huge picture windows that make up the front wall of the space. Decor is simple and soothing. The walls are brick and the lighting is soft. The decor is minimal and tasteful.
Since I hadn't been planning to eat in a new restaurant that night, I didn't have my camera. All I had was my phone. It's hard to get decor and atmosphere shots with your phone, but I tried.
The manager came to our table and apologized profusely for not being at the front desk when we walked in. He kissed our buts the whole night after that. I felt a bit bad for him. We assured him as much as we could through the night that we were having a good time and that our little pre-dinner glitch didn't spoil anything.
We weren't lying either. We really did have a lovely evening. Our waiter came out and he was very attentive and just a lot of fun. Then of course there was the food.
They placed a dish of some kind of powder on the table. I wasn't sure what it was for, but then the busboy came along and explained they were dried herbsfor the bread and poured a glug of olive oil into the dish, which become a dipping oil.
The wine list wasn't huge and cumbersome and had some great selections. We sipped our wine and perused our menus. The cuisine is, at its heart, is typical "red sauce joint" food, but expanded and creatively elevated with new angles and ingredients.
We started with salads. I had arugula, parmesan, and tomatoes, while Kevin enjoyed a chopped salad. Both salads were huge. Andrea's doesn't skimp on portion sizes.
For the main course, the birthday boy splurged on both the wheat and the dairy and had lobster ravioli with pink sauce.
I had lamb chops. This was the special for the evening. The cabernet sauce on the side was to die for. The potatoes on the side were nice and crispy.
One dish I had really been looking forward to at Fiamma was the Nutella-stuffed zeppoli. There was no need to worry. Andrea's had zeppoli too - filled with oreas and then dipped in Nutella! See that white mound in the middle of the plate? That wasn't whipped cream. It was cannoli cream. (I don't know why my flash wouldn't discharge when I tried to take a picture of the dessert.)
What started out as a confused and disappointing night ended up being an exceptionally enjoyable meal in terms of atmosphere, service, and food. We definitely want to go to Andrea's again. It's a little pricey for a casual weekend night out, but I would definitely come here for occasions. This would be a great place to bring our families for special dinners.
Best of all, they take reservations. They're even on Open Table. Take that Fiamma!