Pasquale's Osteria - Norwalk, CT
Went last night (a Thursday) with my husband and son. We had visited the Aquarium for the Jack-o-Lantern Festival that was really cool. We were going to try Basso but since there was only one table filled there, we decided to try Pasquale's--we knew Italian would be safe since we were dining with our six-year-old and the fuss-budget is always happy with ravioli (stinks for us!). I thought this place deserved it's own topic on Chow. The food was quite delicious. Despite the Maitre de not being the most pleasant man (he was also the server) and I kind of felt like he wanted to get out of there as the tables started clearing out, and I spotted him checking his watch several times. I tried to chat him up to get him to be a bit more friendly to us. I also was suspicious that he didn't mention any specials (often lazy servers don't tell you specials), so I asked and he made up a couple from his head. That was my only complaint--I wished he was more friendly.
The food was deliciously cooked. It was basic Italian but extremely well-done. THe bread was incredible Arthur Ave style, thick-crusted soft in the middle, sliced thick and served warm the way we love it. I asked if it was from Arthur Ave but he said, "no." So I asked if it was local, to which he replied, "yes, local--we make it here." (I doubt that---why won't they tell us who their bread supplier is?) Anyway, it was served with the most incredible sun-dried tomato and olive tapanade I have ever had in my life. My mouth is squirting now just thinking about it. My husband had the calamari and I had the mussels possilipo (i was mad at myself that I forgot to ask for it to be white instead of red; the server didn't ask either, so it came as red--disappointing, but the mussels were well-cooked and good). I also had a caesar salad, which was decent because of the huge shavings of parmesan on top but the croutons were just OK and no hint of anchovy that I could sense but good compared to so many versions of this classic. My son had the ravioletti and cleaned his plate. I had the sole francese that was delicous as well. My husband had the "off-the-cuff" 'special," which was a veal chop with a portobello balsamic glaze, which I tasted and concurred was yummo. The dark rich sauce was served on the side and you could tell was a top-notch quality balsamico as it had quite a fruity rich thich taste. They charged us $39.95 for the chop which I thought was on the high side considering the thickness--it was thick, but not osso bucco thick. What I also enjoyed so much were the sides that were served. Each plate arrived with a different perfectly cooked side dish. My plate had incredibly cooked and seasoned haricot verts and carrot blend along with garlic spinach (again, my mouth is squirting!). My husband's dish came with broccoli rabe and roasted potatoes perfectly crusted. While the menu is your run-of-the-mill CT Italian, the quality is excellent. We didn't have dessert as it was getting late to be out with our six-year-old. I peeked in the kitchen while getting in my car and noticed there was no "Pasquale" in the kitchen this night; it was "Poncho," his understudy I'm sure (and I'm saying that with love in my heart for those so often underpaid hardworkers in the back), but what a great chef--Way to go; I'm sure he was taught well! Do go. It was terrific.