Editors and crossword puzzlers know how vitally important cases can be. No, not valises or lawsuits — letters.
For example, carpaccio with a lower case c just means thinly sliced meat or fish (veggies, too, sometimes); while Carpaccio with a capital C continues to busy itself with proving to Annapolitans that seven is indeed a lucky number, for they've been open at their breezy but chic space in Park Place for seven years now.
As loyal fans since their opening, my friends and I always start with the lower-case carpaccio, and this time we shared the Carpaccio Di Manzo Toscano ($15) and the Carpaccio Di Tonno ($14). The former is our favorite; we order it every time we go. Succulent slices of top-quality filet mignon served with baby spinach, mixed mushrooms, and shavings of exquisite imported parmesan. The dish is finished with a drizzle of white truffle oil. It makes you want to learn Italian so you can praise it in its native tongue.
The tuna carpaccio, on the other hand, was a bit of a disappointment. Fresh sushi-grade ahi tuna was utilized, and the mesclun salad (studded with avocado and dressed with a citrus vinaigrette) was pleasant. But overall the dish was flat, lacking in flavor.
We veered from our normal routine on this visit (we love their calamari fritti and usually order it) by trying the Orangina Vesuviana ($5 for the medium or $8 for the large). Absolute serendipity! Round croquettes made with rice, tomatoes, fresh basil, and fire-roasted peppers, as well as mascarpone and fontina cheeses. Lightly crumbed and flash-fried to ultimate crispness. What a treat.
Always give props to the bars and restaurants that take cocktails seriously — they make you a good drink, give you a generous pour, and use the brand you order. Carpaccio is one of those, so we started with cocktails, then moved on to a lovely bottle of Santa Christina by Antinori Sangiovese ($36). Carpaccio's wine list is always fun to peruse, as there are so many excellent choices.
It always takes us forever to choose the main courses at Carpaccio, for there are so many appealing offerings. This time two of us opted for chicken while the third picked (for the first time) the Vitello A Piacere ($20 for medium, $25 for large).
The tender veal was briefly pan-seared in an estimable marsala wine sauce — Francese style (although you could also choose Picatta style.). Served over capellini, the generous serving of veal (and this was the mezze size!) provided both a wonderful dinner and next-day lunch.
Both diners who ordered chicken hit the jackpot as well, one with Pollo Scarpariello (medium $18, large $22) and the other with Pollo Sunrise ($20).
The former involved broiled chicken breast served in a Lombardo Marsala reduction with wild mushrooms and caramelized pearl onions. The dish was served with Tuscan potatoes. Scrumptious.
The final member of our group ordered (again, for the first time) the Pollo Sunrise, which featured sautéed chicken breast in a white lemon butter sauce that also included scallions, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and crisp pancetta. This dish also came with the Tuscan potatoes, a treat in their own right. Thumbs up from all who tasted it.
Vegetarians can feast on risotto, pizza, pasta, or salads at Carpaccio (both the Risotto al Funghi Porcini and the Eggplant Parmigiana are recommended especially); and gluten-free diners may specify gluten-free pasta. Many items on the menu can be modified for those who must steer clear of gluten.
We always enjoy dessert at Carpaccio but had to pass it by this time. It was the kitchen's fault for making the appetizers and main courses taste too good. Had we been able to partake? We would have gone for our favored Limoncello Cake ($8) or tried the seasonally inspired Pumpkin Cheesecake ($8).
Not only is Carpaccio a great place to go for dinner, but it has a devoted lunchtime following as well. (There's something deliciously wicked about drinking wine and eating Italian food in the middle of the day. Try it, you'll see.) Additionally, the bar at Carpaccio is a magnet, a very popular place to go for happy hour or to grab a drink before you sit down to dinner.
We favor Carpaccio for family celebrations too, as they always make guests feel special. Go to Carpaccio — the one with the capital letter; it's a capital idea for dining out in the capital city.
A FINAL NOTE: So many of us lament the accumulation of "stuff." We have too much of it, we want to get rid of it, and we don't want to add more of it.
With the holiday season on the horizon, keep in mind how much your friends and loved ones would appreciate some delicious consumables: good wine from our local Great Frogs Winery, Seasons on Main Street for exotic olive oil or vinegar, and luscious, buttery caramels from Annapolis Caramel Co. (their stall is at the farmers market where you can find many other tasty locally produced treats).
All that plus a plethora of marvelous local restaurants that would be happy to sell you a gift certificate. Get your shopping done early and effortlessly!
Terra Walters is a freelance writer and editor based in Annapolis.
WHEN YOU GO
WHAT: Carpaccio Tuscan Kitchen and Wine Bar.
WHERE: 1 Park Place Suite 10 (West Street at Westgate Circle), Annapolis.
HOURS: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
FIRST COURSES: $4 to $12 for mezze; $7 to $20 for grande.
MAIN COURSES: $13 to $38.
RESERVATIONS: Can be made on OpenTable.com as well as by calling the restaurant. Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends or for large parties.
CREDIT CARDS: All major cards accepted.