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Cavey's in Manchester, CT: Highs and lows

Cavey's is an Italian and French restaurant in one building. When you approach and enter Cavey’s you should be impressed. The beautiful tall, old, weathered doors and the nice landscaping. You immediately see the bar and the entrance to the Italian restaurant to your left. Down in the basement is the French Quarter. There were several people yakking it up in the bar so we decided to skip having a drink there. We were seated right away and at 6:30 on a Saturday, they were yet to get busy. Later, as we were about to leave they still had a few tables (and all of the red room), vacant.
Cavey’s may have the biggest wine cellar in NE. Supposedly over 15,000 bottles! Most wines are astronomically expensive! We were hard pressed to find a dozen bottles of red under $100 and the average price was probably $200. One red and one white "house wine" is a hand picked daily by the sommelier. That's it. They do not sell any other wines by the glass. Australian Shiraz, which is usually affordable were $300-400. Between the two of us we drank five glasses of the House Sommelier’selection @ $15, each. One glass of wine was full of sediment, meaning they didn’t decant it or pay attention.
The meal was good overall, but there were numerous flaws: They did not have Lagavulin 16 and only had Laphroaig 10 ($15!!). The butter was too cold to spread. The service was at times amateurish with the bussers trying to clear my amuse-bouche before I had touched it and alternately not removing plates when we were clearly finished with a course and had placed our silverware to signify so. The pace of our meal got all screwed up, with us waiting 25 minutes for my main entrée; a small portion of monkfish for $26, while the duck appetizer SO ordered was mistakenly upgraded to a main entrée ($28). My fish got a little dried out in the process, I’m pretty sure they held up my cooked-too-soon fish, while the duck breast was getting prepared. We declined to complain about the upgrade to an entrée mistake and took home a lot of beautiful duck breast! We wondered whether SO had been intentionally upgraded, thus overcharged (a $14 difference).
The “Caesar Salad” was strange and a very loose interpretation. It had whole romaine leaves with montasio frico (a toasted, grated cheese “cracker”), perched atop the leaf pile and finished with a well-cooked quail egg on top. The cheese was hard and salty and not good with the salad (in our opinion). The whole romaine leaves were hard to deal with. SO liked the quail egg touch. I had a crab salad with chilled asparagus and a creamy dill sauce. My monkfish had a slight Asian note to it. The meal took two and one quarter hours for drinks and three courses!

High notes: The bread they make is excellent and they gave us two, small loaves. The crab/asparagus was delicious with the dill sauce. The sweetbreads were very good with the soy dressing. One was slightly overcooked. The rare duck l’orange was divine. We were trying to leave, to pick up someone at Bradley, and told the waitress we had to forego dessert. Still, she insisted on bringing us a dessert amuse-bouche. It was quite nice, but waiting for it almost made us late to the airport.

Cavey’s is highly rated by some; we think overrated. There’s not a lot that’s French about the restaurant except (perhaps) the room’s accoutrements and the bread (though they do call the food “Modern French”). I thought the interior of the French dining area to be semi-gross with its gaudy, highly raised, flocked wallpaper and "French" appointments. There was an all red dining area, too! They started with some jazz but soon switched to playing louder tired, rote and sentimental French songs (sung by Edith Piaf [good/OK], and then another singer who was over the top in shrillness). The whole thing seemed plastic and Vegas-like, including our waitress with the permanent smile and too effervescent and charming demeanor.
Cavey’s is pretty much only for high rollers! There were women there in evening gowns. We dropped $220 in a heartbeat (and skipped dessert)!

It’s also an Old Fogey’s Place. The maître d’ reminded me of Dick Cheney. He asked, “Was everything acceptable?” Acceptable, yes, but not good enough, nor our style. I think we can forgo Caveys.

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    1. Guess you should have stuck with the bar - better prices for sure, with many "small plates" for under 7 bucks. Had dinner upstairs about 3 weeks ago, and while a bit pricey, it was very good with many wines available by the glass. (Virtually every restaurant price gouges on drinks these days. So sad.) Too bad about the French restaurant. Haven't been in years (prices), but you seem quite knowledgeable and I hope it was just an off night. When I first moved to this area over 30 years ago, Cavey's was the only Ct restaurant to earn the NY Times' highest rating. Maybe "downstairs" need an upgrade.

      2 Replies
      1. re: thos

        I don't know what you mean by "you should have stuck with the bar". We had reservations for the "French" restaurant....
        I see now they have "bar bites".
        Is there really an upstairs? I thought the Italian restaurant was on the ground level, as you come in. This is confusing. I didn't see a stairway going up.

        1. re: Scargod

          There is a stairway going down. The Italian restaurant is on the ground level, and the French is below. This is why they refer to the Italian restaurant 'upstairs' .

      2. Thanks for the great review!
        Was that old man Cheney in one of the pics?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Td61

          Yes, the very last one of the second set. I tried to be surreptitious and not be seen too many times taking photos, thus no flash. The camera did output an orange glow (for focusing), just before the shot, so it was a giveaway that I was taking pictures, just less intrusive than the flash. The bussers, scurrying around like worker bees would invariably walk in front of the camera just as I took a picture of the room. I use my scotch glass and other props for a tripod. After a while I felt like I had to stop, thus no pics of our entrees or the dessert amuse-bouche. I felt like I had sneaked a camera into a meeting of the Skull and Bones at Yale rather than just taking pictures in any old restaurant...

        2. Didn't realize you had reservations for the French restaurant. Sounded like you just walked in to check it out. "Upstairs" is, in fact, the ground floor, but most people refer to the Italian part of the place as "upstairs" as opposed to the French or "downstairs" area. A little confusing I guess.

          1. We ate at Cavey's downstairs in April and felt it had lost alot of the qualities it had 30 or so years ago, when it was at the top of places to eat. Decor needs updating for sure, but we had missteps in our meal, preparation of some things so oversalted we had to complain. Definitely not really "French" anymore. There was only one server and the level of service was less than good really. Very expensive though they say their prices are comptetive. I am sorry it has lost its specialness etc.

            1. A couple of follow-up notes. First, irrespective of which dining room you eat in, you can (and should) ask for both wine lists. They have one that they refer to as the "French" and one that they refer to as the "Italian". But both contain selections from other regions. The Italian list has many more low-priced options. And they certainly serve more than one "wine by the glass". In fact, Cavey's has a fairly diverse wine by the glass program. Perhaps those selections do not appear on the French list. But the restaurant has only one wine program, so you are free to order any wine in either dining room. From the report above, it looks as if only the French list was consulted. That is indeed pricey, but still below average for like wines in other restaurants. Yes, $250 is $250. But when other restaurants charge $325 for the same wine, it is hard to complain about Cavey's wine pricing. I have dined there with serious wine collectors from all over the country, many of whom think nothing about ordering a $500+ bottle. Every single one of them has commented on the low prices of Cavey's list, comparatively. Still, if you want to keep the wine under $100, it's not hard to do if you take a look at the Italian list.

              Second: as to the loose interpretation of the Caesar Salad, it is true that several elements downstairs are a stretch, the whole leaves are not one of them. Whole romaine leaves are from the classic and original presentation. See "Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home" wherein she writes:
              “I am probably one of the few people around who saw the real Caesar
              Cardini making his salad. I was about 9 when my parents took me to his restaurant
              in Tijuana, just the other side of the border from San Diego. They were so excited
              when big jolly Caesar himself came to the table to make the salad, which had already been written up and talked about everywhere. And it was dramatic: I remember most clearly the eggs going in, and how he tossed the leaves so that it looked like a wave turning over. This version is quite close to the original, and you can see it is really a very simple salad. Use small, tender whole leaves, real Parmigiano-Reggiano – none of the fake stuff – and the 1-minute egg for creaminess"

              And from Julia's classic "The Way To Cook":
              "When Caesar Cardini first served his famous salad in the early 1920s, he used
              just the hearts of the romaine lettuce, the tender short leaves in the center, and
              he presented them whole."

              The Caesar Salad "upstairs" is less adorned and more classic, without the quail egg.

              16 Replies
              1. re: FoodieJim

                Thanks, Jim ,for again putting things in perspective and clearing up some of the confusion.

                1. re: FoodieJim

                  For people not interested in really special (ie expensive and/or rare) wines, the choices downstairs were indeed limited. There were just a couple at $40, none less, and at that price, the wine was only fair in my opinion. The wine list is HUGE and overwhelming for the casual drinker, but maybe that is not the intended consumer.

                  1. re: FoodieJim

                    I appreciate all the good info. Sounds like you've been a few times; this was our first.
                    Several comments in response. We asked about wine by the glass. This is not the only place that makes the availability of it somewhat obscure. Our waitress did not offer us any other choices other than the French wine list and the "house wine" option. From what you are telling me there are wines for us; that many are not just for high-rollers or those on a business expense account. I like to keep our dinner wine in the $30-$60 range.

                    Not long ago SO and I read "The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America" by Michael Ruhlman. He stressed how he was taught to not cut food bigger than a bite you could manage. The reason being, you don't want things flopping around, falling off a fork or out of a spoon onto a silk gown or suit jacket! I don't think you should have to do food prep to eat a salad. These were awfully large leaves for being from the heart of a head of romaine, too. The picture I took shows a quite large charger plate and the leaves were very well coated with dressing. Many were difficult to eat, even when cut in half. I had to fold a bite up under my fork then stab it or cut it up. I didn't like it and I've never seen whole leaves like this before.
                    This is my romaine and other lettuces. I tear them up in a salad. I mean no offense.

                    1. re: Scargod

                      Some critical comments on the preceding posts. First, the maitre d' downstairs , if its the same man, I think, is the owner, a tall cavernous looking guy. I forget his name He has been there forever. He is a true gentleman, absolutely old school, and one of the most knowledgeable sommeliers I have run across. He is an institution there and part of Cavey's (downstairs) charms. Yes, they have some very pricey wine on the list. But ask for advice, and you can get an amazing burgundy or bordeaux for $70-100, which considering retail prices of french wines these days is not outrageous. Its great fun to explore their list. Part of the experience.

                      And yes, the food is not three or four star Manhattan. Alas. But no place in central Connecticut is, or comes close for that matter. Downstairs at Cavey's is a cocoon. They coddle you, comfort you, it remains a great place for special times.

                      1. re: chrism23

                        On the issue of wine, I've just read through the French wine list Cavey's has online. The prices do look very fair. That doesn't mean that they are prices I want to pay, however. It would be nice if they added more economical options. This sort of thing turns me off from trying a place, and it isn't an issue at any of the really great restaurants I've been to in Connecticut.
                        As to central Connecticut not having any three of four star restaurants, being located in central Connecticut isn't an excuse for striving for anything less than perfection, especially at the prices they are charging. It's just as expensive as places in southern, western, northern, and eastern Connecticut that are as highly regarded as a three or four star Manhattan restaurant. And those places have more balanced wine lists.

                        1. re: chrism23

                          The maitre'd downstairs is Andre. His is an older gentleman with an emphasis on gentleman. If you request his sevices, he will serve as your table captain, sommelier and advisor during dinner. A true pro. But he is not the owner. The owner is Steve Cavagnaro. Definitely not a tall, cavernous looking guy. He rarely makes appearances in the dining area. The maitre'd upstairs is Marcos. Much younger, but just as professional.

                          1. re: FoodieJim

                            thanks foodie jim. I always wondered about that and am glad for the correction.
                            The "emphasis on gentleman" was well said.

                            And for danieljdwyer's comments above. I do believe that Cavey's strives to be as good as they can be. And its not just central Connecticut. I know this issue is a hot button. And I am not at all knowledgeable about Fairfield county restaurants. I think I have been to most of the places with a buzz in the rest of the state. And, very much in my humble opinion, I don't think there is one restaurant, that would garner three stars from the New York Times (Frank Bruni and not their CT, critic). NYC standards are so different. For that matter, I have been to a bunch of restaurant's on Long Island, especially Italian places, that put the best I have been to Connecticut to shame. I know I am going to get a bunch of grief from people singing the praises of Restaurant du Village, West Street Grill, Feng, Bricco, Metro Bis, Union League Cafe etc. but, sorry, none of them would last a month in Manhattan. Connecticut, again with my caveat about Fairfield county, is just a bastion of mediocrity.

                            And MrDwyer, you're right, they are expensive, as expensive as places in Manhattan. And it quite frankly pisses me off. I am not quite sure who is at fault here, the restaurants or the customers. I think the later, we settle for mediocre, pay the prices, because we don't really have any alternative. We want to go out for a good meal, have a good time, we are a captive audience. And we are getting shafted. While I am ranting. I was in Washington last weekend and had reservations at two of the 'hot' restaurants, Central Michel Richard and Source. Both just absolutely blew me away. They were astoundingly good. And I wasn't in Manhattan. So it is possible to be great and not in NYC or Chicago or LA. (there is not much between)

                            I am thinking that maybe I should start a new thread organizing a consumer revolt, boycotting restaurants that are suppose to be "good" until they actually start to deliver.

                            1. re: chrism23

                              You have a much higher opinion of Manhattan dining than I do. Probably half of the small handful of truly remarkable fine dining experiences I've had have been in Manhattan, so I will take nothing away from it as an elite food city close to the level of any of the other I've been to.
                              But New York, like anywhere else you can get rich quick, is and always will be a sucker's city. There are certainly a lot of discerning palates in New York, but they will always be grossly outnumbered by splurging tourists, young businessmen looking to impress clients and friends, and the rest of the folks looking more for flash than substance.
                              Bruni has only given five restaurants a rating of extraordinary, so I agree that he probably would not award four stars to any restaurant in Connecticut. There are two places outside of Fairfield County that I am sure he would at least rank as excellent, however. That's not to say that there are not more, but, to my knowledge I have not eaten at the other Connecticut restaurants outside of Fairfield County that the New York Times has awarded three or four stars to.
                              Mark Bittman - who I have always preferred to Frank Bruni - reviewed Ibiza for the Times a few months after it first opened, awarding it three stars, saying, "I have not eaten at a better Spanish restaurant in the United States, and this is among the best restaurants I have eaten at all year." It has improved substantially in the six plus years since that review.
                              Stephanie Lyness - admittedly more generous than Bruni - rated Still River Cafe as extraordinary, and they're new enough that there is still room for improvement.
                              Neither of these restaurants is as expensive as Per Se, Daniel, and Bruni's other four star restaurants, and are below the median for a three star restaurant in Manhattan. There are dozens of one and two star Manhattan restaurants that are quite a bit more expensive.
                              Also, having grown up in Fairfield County, I must say that while it has a higher number of high quality restaurants than the other seven counties, it has a higher number of restaurants, period, and most of them are mediocre at best. The proportion of quality restaurants is higher than in certain parts of Connecticut, but not noticeably higher than the state as a whole, and not as high as certain parts of the state.

                              1. re: danieljdwyer

                                Thank you for your measured and intelligent reply. I am embarrassed to say I haven't been to the Still River Cafe despite its buzz. Hell I don't even have a clue as to where Eastford is. I suppose now I must make the trip. As for Manhattan, I am not really talking about the 4 star restaurants. Its unrealistic to expect that restaurants at that level can flourish in a limited market with their stratospheric prices. Even Greenwich couldn't support one.

                                But, I would expect more restaurants in Connecticut that could garner three stars, or two for that matter. And there simply are not that many contenders. Compare Cavey's for example to one of my favorite NYC restaurants, Picholine (I have a thing for cheese). Or compare the Union League Cafe to the Grammercy Tavern. Or Max's Oyster Bar to Esca. I am trying to pair similar places and prices here. I think there is a world of difference between 3 stars in Manhattan, and three stars in Connecticut. Let alone dreaming that a really innovative place like wd-50 or Momofuku Ko, would appear in this gastronomic wasteland.

                                This is an interesting thread for me because there has been a few very informed replies and comments. It has caused me to think more seriously about the state of Connecticut restaurants. I appreciate your comment about Fairfield County restaurants, saying that "most of them are mediocre at best". And I think that speaks to the point I am trying to make. Connecticut consumers are paying top dollar for less than mediocre dining experiences. But this is where I get stumped. Whose fault is it. Is it the ignorance and lack of knowledge, lack of a basis for comparison of the customer who puts up with the situation. Or is it the restaurant owners who do the bare minimum to keep the tables turning over knowing that there are few choices and limited options. I don't want to be cynical but I fear its the fault of the consumer. If you read posts here saying the Olive Garden is a good Italian restaurant or Morton's is the best steakhouse they have ever been to, I have to say the consumer is getting screwed but getting what they deserve. Am I wrong here? Are people that sheepish and stupid.

                                1. re: chrism23

                                  Gastronomic wasteland is kind of harsh. If anything less than New York is a gastronomic wasteland, then the entire rest of the US and most of the world is a gastronomic wasteland.
                                  I would identify a few factors at work in what you are observing. The first would be population. The entire state has a population that is about 40% of that of New York City. The number of people in New York at any given moment can easily be double the actual population. Connecticut probably has less people in it than its population during the day, given the high number of people that commute out of the state. Those people are spread out over an area a bit more than ten times as large as the area of New York City.
                                  You seem to be measuring primarily by fine dining. Connecticut is essentially a collection of suburbs, with rural pockets here and there, and a few quite small urban cores. That makes fine dining difficult to support. Still River Cafe is only open on the weekend because there's no way they could get a reliably sizable crowd all week, no matter how good it is. New England also has culinary traditions which run counter to fine dining, and still have a hold in Connecticut. Even knowledgeable food lovers in this state often prefer pizza, fried clams, and home cooking to haute cuisine. I love fine dining, and I think Daniel Boulud is amazing. Despite that, I'll take lobster from my clambake pit over a lobster tail at Daniel - at least if I could only have one; I'd rather have both.
                                  Another important factor is that the fine dining demographic is not primarily composed of people with kids under the age of 18. If you consider the people in the city that can afford fine dining compared to the people in Connecticut that can afford fine dining, I believe you'd find that most in New York don't have young kids and most in Connecticut do. That's just the nature of suburbs.
                                  Now, New York has 33 three star restaurants, according to the New York Times. With the population difference, that would mean Connecticut would need something like 13 to be even with New York in three star restaurants per capita. If we don't have quite 13, we're at least pretty close.
                                  Finally, I don't think those people are stupid for enjoying Olive Garden. Sure, they have bad palates, but so what? They're paying for a good time, and they're getting it. In a way, I think we're the stupid ones. Sometimes I don't get my money's worth of happiness out of a restaurant meal. If I could be as happy with a meal at Olive Garden as those people, I would always get my money's worth. And I'd have more money.

                                  1. re: danieljdwyer

                                    Not a bad commentary, DJD.
                                    I would propose that Connecticut is not unlike Texas. In Texas they like their barbecue, chicken fried steak, Tex-Mex and chili. In Connecticut they like pizza, fried clams, Italian and hot dogs. Who's really into fine dining?
                                    For the most part, fine dining gets boring to me. If you have unlimited funds you can do whatever you want, as often as you want. Boring. As Chowhounds, we seek out new, different and exciting food. This might be a taco! It might cost $1.50!

                                    I think you get my drift. I can afford to go to a Cavey's type places once in a while, but they tend to leave me wanting. If I die and go to heaven I don't want a bunch of starched shirted, stiff people waiting on me. I want the kind of meal I had in Valdosta, Georgia, where the manager sat at our table and the food was good; it was relaxed and informal.
                                    If a restaurant jacks up their prices for exclusivity, uniqueness, fine wines and a quiet meal, fine, but it doesn't necessarily mean you get a better meal.
                                    I could stack food and drizzle sauces around the plate at home, if I want to go to that effort or do food art. I want something I can't do or don't do very often. Something that piques my interest and gets my creative juices flowing for cooking at home six nights out of the week. A place really doesn't require a three to five star rating to do that.

                                    1. re: Scargod

                                      Both you and DJD are right. I got lost in an elitist riff here and that wasn't my intent. I too crave great fried clams, super Italian grinders, basic stuff. But here's the rub. I can't seem to find that stuff either. A few months ago I started a thread on 'where to find great onion rings'. I love onion rings. I got one response. I still can't find any. Fried clams, the same story. They used to do good fried clams at the Bloomfield Fish Market, hardly a fine dining place, but they went out of business. Italian grinders, the same story. I need a place that at least roasts their own peppers, and I can't find one of those. My greatest thrill as a foodie is finding a cheap, hole in the wall place, that serves great, simple food. There used to be place in Hartford near Trinity, Timothy's, that mad the best Turkey grinder in the world, fresh roasted turkey, thrown on the grill for a little while with veggies-peppers, onions, tomatoes, melted cheddar cheese,so it was like a hash, and then served with hand cut fresh fries. For $5.95. And he went out of business too. I am not a food snob, who thinks only of fine dining. Its just the way the thread was running. So where in the hell can I find some onion rings and a good grinder.

                                      1. re: chrism23

                                        Archie Moore's had good clam strips the other day, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/1597... and the Willow street menu says it has "Homestyle Onion Rings", while the menus for the other locations just say "onion rings". I think they also have sweet potato fries, which I like.

                                        1. re: chrism23

                                          chrism23: We live in the land of killer fried seafood--how are you missing great fried clams when you could drive to the shore and get to either Lenny & Joe's (two locations) or Johnny Ad's? Take your pick. How about fried scallops? Best I've ever eaten are at Maine Fish Market Restaurant in East Windsor. You have to get past the sides there--those are unspectacular, unfortunately. But those scallops are GREAT.

                                          Can't help you with onion rings. And can't say if the grinder places I've liked roast their own peppers. My own grandparents made killer grinders--the kind you almost struggle to get your mouth around--but sadly, they are long gone now, as is their old place in East Hartford (Silver Lane Deli--it's now Queen Pizza). Do you ever get to Stratford? Gaetano's makes a mean sandwich. You'd have to call and ask if they roast their own peppers. I haven't been recently, but remember them fondly, too.

                                          Report back if you hit any of these places. Would be interested to hear your take on them.

                                          1. re: chrism23

                                            If you want great fried clams, go with kattyeyes suggestion of the Fish Tale, in Madison. They also have good onion rings. Most of the better fried food or burger places seem to have good onion rings. I rarely order onion rings, but I see onion rings come up as a positive note about a place around here regularly on this board. Much as I love sandwiches, I'm not an Italian grinder guy. Italian grinders do get mentioned on this board with some frequency, however, so doing a search of the board might turn up what you're looking for.

                              2. re: chrism23

                                Some of the food items were spectacular. I mentioned "The rare duck l’orange was divine." My crab salad with asparagus salad and sweetbreads were very good and the bread excellent.
                                I don't go to "star rated" places often enough to compare/rate it, but it was equal to Le Petite Cafe or Union League Cafe. I prefer the service style and ambiance of these two over Cavey's. I believe Cavey's is a little more expensive, too.

                                I will probably want to try the Italian restaurant if I am in the area and if it compares favorably to Tre Scallini.

                          2. I was just at caveys last saturday and had a great time. The room being a bit "OLD" but things were nice. I just want to mention that the monkfish on our menu was described as being vietnamese so that might be the reason behind it tasting asian. The duck breast had a star anise--tamarind sauce. the duck confit had the orange reduction. Were not big wine drinkers so i can't comment on the wine list.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: 2000fair

                              To 2000fair, As you just went this past Saturday night the menu upstairs should be fresh in your memory,, Did you see any thing on the menu that you can honestly say would be classified as an Italian dish? I know they call the upstairs Restaurant as being Italian but I've been there before and have posted before that I have found nothing Italian about there up stairs menu. Except for Wed night they barely serve any dish that I would consider to be Italian. What did you think, I'M interested... Earle

                              1. re: Earle

                                Can you expand on what you mean by there being nothing Italian about the menu upstairs? The French menu doesn't look terribly French, except for a few items, and does look like it has Italian influences. The descriptions on the Italian menu seem Italian, but you never know until you eat it, and I've never eaten it. Is it just all around sort of fusiony? Or is there something else making it not classifiable as Italian? And what's the story with Wednesday nights?

                                1. re: danieljdwyer

                                  As far as Wed. night goes they were advertising it to be Italian night as they served a pasta dinner. As far as it being an Italian Restaurant, I would expect that they serve a dish of Veal Parm, Chick Parm. Veal Sorrentino or something to that effect which they don't. How about Lasagna, Or some kind of stuffed shells. But unless some thing has changed then serve none of these entries on a regular basis. I don't consider pork loin or new york strip an Italian dish. That's one reason I was waiting for a reply from 2000fair, as he ate there just last Sat. night. Any way I hope this sheds a little light why In MY OPINION it shouldn't be called an Italian Restaurant , may be more like American style. Just because a man of Italian descent owns it doest make it so.

                                  1. re: Earle

                                    I have dined in the Italian restaurant and enjoyed numerous fresh pasta dishes. The don't have the mom and pop spaghetti and meat balls.

                                    1. re: 2000fair

                                      They do have "pappardelle with sweet sausage, bitter greens, virgin olive oil and caramelized garlic". Close, but no red sauce. They mention Northern Italian which I think would imply heavy on the beef, yet they have a lot of seafood. They make their own sausage.
                                      This is their more casual of the two rooms (their words). I might like to give it a try.

                            2. I believe Cavey's is a true Mediterranean restaurant, and is certainly one with continental Italian flair. In true Italian style, everything is fresh from farm to table, and almost all items are homemade in house. I can assure you that it would be difficult to find the aforementioned items (chick. parm, lasagna, etc.) in most restaurants in Italy. They rarely serve pasta as a main dish there, but rather as a "primi," or first course, as it is served at Cavey's. I recently dined at the Culinary Institute of America's Caterina d'Medici restaurant, where some of the best chef's are trained in their craft. Not a stuffed shell or Alfredo sauce in sight.

                              1. at the risk of reopening the CT v Manhattan argument - has anyone been to Cavey's lately?

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: sarapeater

                                  I live in Boston and came to the Hartford area to visit my soon to be in-laws last week.
                                  They proposed that we all go to Cavey's French restaurant while we were there. They had been there a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. I did an online search and came up with the bad review on Chowhound and tried to talk them out of going there.
                                  We ended up having dinner there despite my doubts and we had a wonderful evening. Everything was so different from the way that the reviewer described it that I wonder if they had ever really been there.
                                  1. They have two wine lists - one with the more expensive and rarer wines and one with more affordable options, starting at $25.00. They told us that these less expensive wines had always been on the list, but because the list was so extensive many people had trouble locating them without help so they have separated them and put them into a separate list. This seems to be a recent change.
                                  2. They were serving at least 8 wines by the glass.
                                  3. The food was quite French, unless you don't consider coq au vin, beef bourgoignon, and foie gras French. ( In fact the menu was entitled " An Homage to Julia Child".)
                                  4. The food was not all that expensive, in fact we orderd a couple of $22.00 entrees! It seems like you can gto in there and spend a lot of money or spend the same that you would in any local upscale place.
                                  5. The maitre d' ( I can't remember his name but he is from Italy) was very gracious and to us did not resemble Dick Cheney in the least.
                                  6. The restaurant did not look drab or out of date, on the contrary, it was very warm and attractive. They had some beautiful prints on the walls, lots of candles, and lots of polished antique wood moldings.
                                  7. The walls were not covered with flocked wallpaper - it's very interesting antique crewel fabric.
                                  8. We didn't see a bunch of untrained busboys running around. There were four waiters and one busboy. The service was quite good and very friendly.
                                  9. There was not an evening gown in sight - in fact some people were casually dressed.
                                  10. Although it's very warm and attractive, ( it doesn't have that kind of restaurant chain look that so many Hartford restaurants seem to have ) and has an elegant feel, this restaurant doesn't seem to be trying to be over the top - just aiming to offer very good food and service at reasonable prices, but you can also get some great foie gras (expensive) and some great wines (expensive) if you understand what you're getting and are willing to pay the price. I don't know too much about wine but my soon to be father in law claims that their fine wines are known for being very reasonably priced.
                                  Everybody was pleasant and seemed to be trying to make the experience a good one for us. They even have a cheese cart with some really nice cheeses and marmalades that they serve at the table. It's a nice touch.
                                  They're trying to offer something different and we thought that the job was well done.

                                  1. re: bostonlawgirl

                                    Thank you, blg. I've been to Cavey's a few times and your experience sounds just like all of mine. I loved the foie gras. When I was eating it I was thinking to myself, "Damn I wish I made more money."

                                    1. re: bostonlawgirl

                                      ^What she said!^ I haven't been recently, but used to go to Cavey's frequently for their wine tastings/pairings and agree, what bostonlawgirl described above is an accurate description of the experience. Glad to hear nothing's changed since I've been. Thanks for your report and welcome to CH!

                                      1. re: bostonlawgirl

                                        Such is the problem with a site that has threads that span years. Cavey's (downstairs) underwent an overhaul last summer, hence the discrepency with the visual description of prints, fabrics and wallpaper. The negative review you found predates the renovation. But the star is and always has been the food, wine and service. Cavey's was, and remains, tops in its class in that regard. BTW, the maitre d' is Andre. A classic.

                                        1. re: FoodieJim

                                          Here's some news from Cavey's (perhaps you read it, too):

                                          Steve Cavagnaro, the executive chef and owner of Cavey's Restaurant, has been nominated by the James Beard Foundation in the category, "Best Chef: Northeast."
                                          He's the only Connecticut contender on the list. Let's hear it for the Land of Steady Habits!

                                          Also, they're doing 5 and 5 for $25 again--the wine tastings/pairings on Tuesday nights. I used to attend these events fairly regularly and always enjoyed them. 5 tastings + 5 small plates. Call for reservations: 860-643-2751

                                          1st one is March 9th and they run each week through April 13th. Total cheers to that! Practice the secret Chow sign so we can identify one another should we bump into each other there. ;)

                                          1. re: kattyeyes

                                            Unfortunately, I had to cancel my planned tasting date, so have not had the chance to get back to Cavey's again recently, but wanted to share this writeup from The Hartford Courant's Flavor section last week. It makes me want to get back there even sooner:

                                            Cavey's Restaurants
                                            45 E Center St, Manchester, CT 06040

                                        2. re: bostonlawgirl

                                          Darlin', (I hope you are still around), because yes, I was really there; I mean "we" were really there.

                                          FoodieJim touched on the fact that Cavey's downstairs (French part of their restaurant), was closed for renovations shortly AFTER I was there. I would like to take full credit for their realizing they needed changes, however, my ego is not quite as large as Texas.
                                          I regret that I compared Andre's looks to Cheney. Andre is much taller and better looking. I meant nothing more than there was a slight facial resemblance and that they can both dress well...
                                          Less than a year later, it sounds as if Cavey's has made some good changes for the better. I intend to go back very soon.

                                      2. Sorry to branch off an old review but in a moment of nostalgia I looked up Cavey's and found this disappointing review -- I hope the new renovations downstairs have brought some better results since last year. My father was the head chef at Cavey's during the early 1980's (including at the time of the 3-star review for the NYT, I believe) and I have many great, albeit fuzzy, memories of the restaurant, food, and staff. I would give anything to view a copy of the PM Magazine TV show episode that featured my father & the restaurant! Anyway, I will try to stop by sometime during one of my next CT visits and see how the restaurant has (or hasn't) changed over the years.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: boxingclever

                                          boxingclever, I hope you read the WHOLE thread and not just the original post...most people on this board, as far as I can tell, are FANS--NOT detractors--of Cavey's. After all, the executive chef and owner of Cavey's Restaurant was nominated by the James Beard Foundation in the category, "Best Chef: Northeast." Cheers to your dad...and thanks for the walk down memory lane re PM Magazine...too funny--what next, Chef Tell? :)

                                          Cavey's Restaurants
                                          45 E Center St, Manchester, CT 06040

                                          1. re: boxingclever

                                            can you give me a hink regarding your father? What was his first name?...along with Steve...there were only three other people working in the French Restaurant at that time...and I still have the original write up from the times as well as the big article in the courant and Northeast Magazine...

                                            In the early 80's the staff between the two restaurants shared alot...it was a very educational place...many of the things I see being touted as innovative in today's world were being done at Cavey's thirty years ago.

                                            The names of Jeanot, Russel, Joe, Jerry, Grillman Lou (just passed away last summer), Jeanette, Bruce, George, Bob and the infamous Mike L, Glen T and others all brought creativity to the table that made the time at Cavey's a unique and wonderful experience. There were too many others to mention...but Andre and George C...Maitre D's...down and up were real professionals who knew every customers names and what you liked...very hard to find people like that today.

                                            Back then..the business community onManchester was part of the lunch rush...the demiseof local businesses and especially the big expense accounts ended all that.

                                            Anyone who remembers those days will know who Mario was...and the other guy who owned the first string of video stores in town...and the Dunkin Dinuts guy who showed uop every Sat night at 10 for a seven course meal...

                                            Thise were the days...

                                            When we went out to bars after work and people from other food businesses found out where we worked...the doors opened and the wine would flowed...

                                            Dunkin Dinuts
                                            38 Hazard Ave, Enfield, CT 06082

                                            Cavey's Restaurants
                                            45 E Center St, Manchester, CT 06040

                                            1. re: jms123

                                              Sorry for such a late reply but Jeanot is my father! All the other names you mentioned are familiar to me as well, although I was still pretty young while that was all going on. My uncle still tells stories about bringing his clients to Cavey's and watching my dad prepare a spun-sugar "bird's nest" dessert (tableside) while his clients' jaws dropped. If there's any way you'd be willing to scan and email the Courant & Northeast stories, I'd be very grateful. My email is ronchito2 [at] yahoo [dot] com. (No worries if you can't -- I'd just love to read them)

                                              Cavey's Restaurants
                                              45 E Center St, Manchester, CT 06040

                                              1. re: boxingclever

                                                boxingclever and jms123 - I remember going to Cavey's "downstairs" many moons ago (early 80's), and having that spun sugar bird's nest dessert (made tableside)! I believe our waiter's name was Victor. What a hoot! I haven't been back for years, but may have to revisit, as that dinner was the first real "date" for my now-husband-of-25-years and me. Cavey's always had an aura about it back then, and I hope it has returned!

                                                Cavey's Restaurants
                                                45 E Center St, Manchester, CT 06040

                                          2. yes i remember the dessert. its name was coupe elezze. the waiters name was hector. great guy and excellent dessert. there was ice cream.. grand marnier sabayon and grand marnier strawberries,,yumm!

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: 2000fair

                                              There is a famous street in Paris that runs up to the Eiffel Tower named Champs d'Elysee...not sure if the spelling is correct...the dessert was named after that...

                                              I remember when I started working at Cavey's Jeanot worked tableside downstairs...and had a block of wood with alot of nails in it...he used it to pull the sugar nto threads...then Jeanot moved to run upstairs when Steve C upgraded the menu...back in thoise days lunch alone could exceed 200 covers...I still have abunch of menus with Jeanot listed as the Chef de Cuisine

                                              we used to spin the sugar and put it on top of other desserts as wellll such as Floating Islands...merangue with Creme anglaise...

                                              Hector was great...everyone thought he was French...but he was like many of the waiters...from Argentina

                                              Cavey's Restaurants
                                              45 E Center St, Manchester, CT 06040

                                              1. re: jms123

                                                I have some of those menus as well -- when the occasional Hartford Whaler would stop by for a meal, my dad would have them autograph the menu and bring it home to me. In the previously mentioned PM Magazine episode, my sister & I could be spied eating hamburgers during a pan of the restaurant interior. I was the celebrity of my 3rd grade class. Sad my 15 minutes of fame came so early.

                                            2. jms,,did you work at caveys too?

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: 2000fair

                                                Yes I did...I can't say more because too many people would know me...I learned to cook at Caveys and all I can say is that as a CIA grad, and after having the pleaseure of traveling all over the country for the last twenty years...Steve C is one of the most underated professionals in the industry...ever...

                                                Most cooks don't ever get the opportunity to work at his level...most can't take it, most restuarants can't afford it...and despite all the comments I see on this site...at one time Cavey's was one of the best restaurants in the country...we did things 30 years ago that I see on TV today...which are looked at as cutting edge...

                                                Here is an example of the level we were at...one time we needed a green mayonnaise...basil and parsley were the main ingredient...so we minced up parsley, ...strained it rhough a linen napkin, squeezed out the green chlorophyll...boiled it to solidify the green pigment...and that is what we used to color the mayo...today...even the great chefs would use food coloring...

                                                I remember making head cheese with Jeanot...that was a big pig head...what a great dish...he was a terrific cook...he taught me alot...

                                                Cavey's Restaurants
                                                45 E Center St, Manchester, CT 06040

                                                1. re: jms123

                                                  i agree jms,now if i could only remember you. we used the greem mayo for the dots of sauce around the lobster gourmand. i made the head cheese with jeanot and cooked and cleaned turtles with bigg george after jeanot left. hmmmm,,

                                                  1. re: 2000fair

                                                    Steve showed up from one of his overnight NY trips with a biox of turtles...alive and kicking...so we boiled them like lobsters...I dont think thayt was the right way to do it. I think we got a cup of meat out the little guys...we had shells floating around for months...

                                              2. Great meal for four at the upstairs Italian restaurant this past Saturday evening. Sea scallops (two orders), chicken and sausage, and brown butter ravioli all were outstanding. Wonderful bread and still the best Caesar salad just about anywhere.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: howaboutthat

                                                  I know who you are jms, and thank you for your comments and for your own devotion to the food industry. You are doing a great job.

                                                  Recently ate both downstairs and up. Downstairs is nearly as good as the old days. I felt Upstairs was slipping a bit, though I agree with the recent remark about the Caesar and the bread. Just happy they are still here.