Now that’s Italian

Sicilian Café: Delicious with an emphasis on presentation

AL ITALIA<br>Michele and Bob Nasise wine and dine at the Sicilian Café.

Michele and Bob Nasise wine and dine at the Sicilian Café.

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Sicilian Cafe
1020 Main St.
Open for dinner at 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday Reservations recommended.

Sicilian Market & Café
1196 E. Lassen Ave. Ste. 110
Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Sicilian Cafe

1020 Main St.
Chico, CA 95928

(530) 345-2233

Date night decisions can be complicated. Do you go fancy or casual? Is it a special occasion? And if so do you try something new or stick with a familiar favorite?

Until recently a local standby had been notably absent from my list of possible date-night destinations. When my boyfriend mentioned Sicilian Café had reopened after a fire shut it down for a year, we decided to make an evening of it. Besides, Italian food sounded oh so good. And I’m a sucker for seafood.

So, we got dressed up and headed over for a 7 p.m. reservation one recent Saturday night. We were seated promptly at a nicely decorated table, and ordered a bottle of cabernet and the oysters on the half shell appetizer ($1.95 each) to start.

The oysters arrived and were beautifully presented atop a bed of rock salt. They were accompanied by Champagne vinegar mignonette. Pour a little of the mignonette onto the oysters, and then down the hatch, our waiter informed us. Some people prefer to chew them, but most just let the oysters slide right down. I chose to let the slimy creature slide down my throat, and the light sauce left a nice, refreshing taste in my mouth.

We also ordered an appetizer of garlic bread (half loaf, $3.25). The sourdough French bread topped with chopped garlic, olive oil, Parmesan cheese and oregano was delicious and more than we could hope to eat in a sitting, but a bit drenched in oil.

For our main course, I ordered the prawns carbonara ($24.95), prawns tossed with fettuccine, fresh cream and prosciutto ham in a Parmesan and Romano cheese sauce. My boyfriend chose the veal parmigiana ($24.95), a baked cutlet in special house tomato sauce topped with Parmesan, Romano and mozzarella cheeses.

Our meals came with soup or salad, so I chose the house salad with blue-cheese dressing, and my boyfriend chose the soup du jour, minestrone. My salad was remarkably plain, which is actually the way I prefer it, and the dressing had obviously been sitting in the fridge because it was very, very cold. Unremarkable, but fine. On the flip side, the minestrone was bland and overcooked (I took a bite of zucchini and it melted in my mouth).

It was a disappointing starter course, but we didn’t come to Sicilian for the soup or salad, so we remained optimistic for our meals. They came through with flying colors.

Again, the presentation was a work of beauty. The pasta sauce had a perfect creaminess and the prawns were plump and plentiful, unlike many other restaurants’ dishes, which skimp on the shrimp. The veal was tender and flavorful and complemented nicely by the house-made tomato sauce that my boyfriend couldn’t stop raving about.

By the end of the night, we were too full for dessert, but we left the restaurant quite satisfied with our romantic date-night destination. We’ll likely be back as soon as another special occasion presents itself. Next time I’d like to try the mussels or calamari, which are supposed to be to-die-for.

As a side note, a visit to the Sicilian Market & Café, owned by James Taylor, who also runs Sicilian Café, yielded mixed results. I thoroughly enjoyed my Portobello mushroom panini, though on focaccia bread it seemed less a panini and more a simple hot sandwich. My boyfriend’s Sicilian panini was less satisfactory. The blend of salami, prosciutto ham and asiago cheese makes for an extremely salty meal. At $7.95 and $7.25, respectively, the paninis are a la carte. With elegant décor, the restaurant is a nice place for a business lunch or casual dinner with friends and also offers chicken and pasta dishes as well as deli selections.