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il Casale in Belmont Center - why no buzz?

I understand they haven't had an official opening yet, but they have been serving food for a month or so now. Why isn't there any buzz about this place, especially with a top notch Boston area chef running the kitchen? Do they need a new PR person? Is Belmont too boring? The il Casale website finally has a dinner menu up (and it looks real good with moderate prices for both food and drink) but not much else is on the website. TV Diner filmed there last week and the interview with Dante was shown this past weekend. I'm anxious to check out the bar and try their "little tastes" menu to sample a variety of their food. Menu: http://ilcasalebelmont.com/dinnermenu...

Has anyone been there and what do you think?

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  1. Didn't even know it existed. Menu looks awesome.

    1 Reply
    1. re: StriperGuy

      Its in the old firehouse on Leonard Street - has been undergoing work for months now. They have outdoor tables in front, which look great, but I haven't been by at a time when they are actually open to see them in action. I did stop and look in the windows on Saturday with my kids - no menu outside but looks very nice inside. I overheard a passerby say it was "the best food in Boston" but took it for hyperbole as "the best food in Belmont" wouldn't be much of a bar to jump.

      At least it isn't another bank.

    2. I've seen it mentioned in a few local publications and online: The Globe (or at least boston.com), the Improper, Yelp, a bunch of local food blogs. Part of the problem may be that this project seemed like it had an endless incubation: it was "coming soon" for months and month and months. I'm guessing this was because it's a pain in the butt to get permits and licenses etc. sorted out: Il Casale is one of the first full-liquor licenses (if not the first) since Belmont recently ended a decades-long spell as a dry town. I'm anxious to try it now that it's finally, actually, for-real open.

      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

      1. My understanding is that the business at Il Casale is booming, they were doing several hundred covers a night a few weeks after their soft opening.

        One of the bartenders from the restaurant Dante, Jason, is/was at Il Casale to help that side of the house get up to speed.

        1. I've been hearing about it for months and I don't even live in Boston anymore...reports from my long-distance spies all bode well.

          1. I've been, and it's good, but I'm not "wicked" jazzed about it. Definitely the best food in Belmont, not the best food in Boston. The room is very nice - lots of nice exposed brick, lovely open kitchen at the back, good looking bar. The full liquor license is a HUGE boon for them and for us Belmontians.

            The menu is nice and varied. Pastas all come in large and smaller portions. Would be a great place to share w/your tablemates. We all ordered individually, and I had two small plates and a salad and it was a nice amount of food for a light-ish dinner. The salt cod balls were solid, not outstanding - nice red sauce on top but my perception of them was likely colored by a huge bone that was in one of them . . . the arancini were delicious - small (4 to an order IIRC) and again w/the nice maranara on top. My fava bean salad was well executed w/a nice shaved parm on top and just enough of their light, bright, lemony dressing. A few too few favas for my taste, but I love fava beans.

            The service was excellent. Can't recall our watier's name, but he was pleasant and helpful and friendly w/o being overly friendly. Attentive and even swapped out my cocktail for another when it was clear I didn't care for the one I'd ordered.

            I'll go back - it's not only convenient but good. I think it'd be a great place to sit at the bar and order a nice cocktail and some small plates and chat, and I'm pretty sure it's going to put Savino's out of business.

            1 Reply
            1. re: gansu girl

              Thanks for the update. I think I'll give it a try one night this week. We definitely need better restaurants with full liquor licenses in Belmont (like Savino’s and il Casale). The town has been an upscale dining wasteland for a long time.

            2. My husband and I went this evening and actually really enjoyed the food. We sat at the bar and had a great time (nice TV) and Jason was great (excellent service and he obviously knew what he was doing). It was quite busy and again we were pleasantly surprised by the food. I say that not because you wouldn't expect that of this restaurant/chef but because we've lived in Belmont for 17 years and you know what I mean. The $5 mini entrees were actually pretty awesome - I had the meatballs and loved them!! My husband had the carpaccio and some kind of risotto/cheese balls and they were amazing!! I had the capellini for an entree and it was just as good as my dad used to make which was pretty amazing. I plan to go back and try the pork meatballs as that is supposedly a must try - they were out of them. Overall I'd rate my experience an A+ - I'm Italian and really found the food to be just really delicious and reminding me of family meals.

              1. We went tonight with friends who had been there before and knew the drill (we also got the same excellent server that they had their first time). Place was jam packed even on a Wed night. The bar scene was too crowded - trying to get a drink was uncomfortable - a lot of reaching and shouting above seated patrons trying to enjoy their meals (hey, isn't this why we leave Somerville once in a while?!). The space was lively and loud. We shared everything - creamy, almost runny burrata (with the lovely crunch and saline of the pistachios to contrast), salt cod balls (we all loved them), pork loin with tonnato sauce (I didn't try it but every who did seemed to like it), the pomodoro bruschetta (I wouldn't have thought to order this since - groan - it's bruschetta but it was simply rustic and tasty - I imagine Toro's tomato-rubbed bread is in the same vein), got arancini on the house (I found the crust a bit too thick and leaden). The seasonal greens with hazelnuts, gorgonzola, grappa-soaked raisins came next and refreshingly cut the richness of the other dishes. The gnocchi with porcini cream and fava beans was my favorite of the night - wow! I guess this is how gnocchi is supposed to be (I rarely eat out for Italian). Ignudi were tasty (although I didn't like the way it was plated - they looked like two big green lumps in a sea of (delicious) tomato sauce. Fritto misto proved that someone knows how to work the deep fryer. We had the pleasant malbec by the glass. I was expecting the La Foret Chardonnay to be a bit more crisp and steely. Our friends had the panna cotta and tiramisu but I refrained. Totally reasonable at $60/couple before tip.

                Sadly, though, I felt hungry when we got home. I guess that's what happens when you don't eat in a pub. :D

                1 Reply
                1. re: digga

                  It got an amazing review in yesterday's Globe food section.

                2. Went last week, liked everything (except how loud it was). The menu looks similar to Dante, but the food is a bit more rustic, bigger portions, lower prices. Good reasons to go to both places.

                  1. After reading the Globe piece I made my reservation for next week!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: shaebones

                      I did too.. they must be doing well, the earliest reservation on a Thusrsday night was for 8:15.

                      1. re: shaebones

                        Ok, had dinner there last night. One of the best meals in recent memory as well as superb service. We shared a salad of greens, gorgonzola, grappa soaked raisins and toasted ever so lightly sweetened hazelnuts. I thought I hated hazelnuts until last night. Used the yummy bread to sop up the remainder of dressing. Very good. I had the grilled seafood and my DC had the frito misto seafood. Again, both superb. The grilled calamari was stuffed w something wonderful. It was creamy and rich and I thought it might be ricotta. It was a mixture of breadcrumbs, raisins and pine nuts. Oh my...so good. My DC sub'd calamari for the small fish w eyes in her dish. Arguably the BEST fried calamari I've ever had. So light and crispy and the dipping sauce sublime. We also shared a side of mushrooms. Our bill totalled only $57 which I thought was a great value for the food and experience. Atmoshere was a bit loud and festive. Debra First was right on w this place. Can't wait to go back

                      2. My DC and I went there last Friday night for my birthday. Everything was excellent. For starters we had the pork meatballs, the arrincini, and the burrata. The pork meatballs were great - there was a little cheese inside them and they were in a very interesting sauce. The arranicini were also delicious, tho they tasted very strongly of mushrooms, which are not my favorite. I overlook that for fried cheese and rice. However, the burrata, which I had never had before was the clear winner. It came with candied pistachios and a little olive oil. It dissolved on my tongue as soon as I put it in my mouth. It was outstanding!
                        For drinks, DC had a beer and I had a margarita. I know it is a weird choice for an Italian restaurant, but it was on the cocktail menu and it was so light and refreshing. It was probably the best margarita I have had and I was glad I ordered it.
                        We had the salad with grappa raisins and it was quite good. Next time I would get the salad with burrata, simply so I could have more of it!
                        For entrees, I had the squash ravioli, and my DC had the carbonara. The raviolis were super thin and super fresh. The filling was light and sweet and the half size was just right amount. I think it was six large raviolis. The carbonara was also good, but I only had a small bite of it.
                        For dessert we had the panna cotta, which was excellent. It was light and not too sweet and came with strawberries that may have had some balsamic on them.
                        The service was outstanding - our server could not have been nicer or more helpful. We had crumb service and new flatware with each course, which always scores high marks with my DC, esp considering that Is Casale is not crazy expensive. For all of the food and 4 drinks, the bill was still under $80, which I consider a good deal.
                        I really enjoyed it and I cannot wait to go back!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Lowren710

                          the joint was jumping last night - packed, and the noise level was our only complaint. i had the chicken liver bruschetta (lovely), my spouse had the burrata, our friends the tomato bruschetta. the spinach ravioli in sugo was a big hit with the table, as was the side order of spinach. the trout was a winner and the only wrong note was the chicken which one diner found overcooked. the panna cotta was lovely and light with excellent strawberries, the wine list user-friendly, and the service pleasant and attentive. High value, high marks, just don't expect to converse if you go at busy times unless you are good at shouting!

                        2. We went on Saturday and had a fabulous menu. We ordered the 5-course Ferrari family meal. It was unbelievable - we sampled 17 items from the menu. I loved all but 2 of the dishes. My favorite was the black pepper panna cotta. More details in my blog.

                          gltsoi.livejournal.com

                          1. I had a fine experience here last night. Mr and I sat at the bar since we couldn't get a reservation. I prefer to sit at the bar anyway. It worked better for sharing our food. I will second others' review of the burrata: delicate, delicious, and nicely complemented with those pistachios. I also enjoyed the arancini, similar to what my dad makes. We split the fava salad which was light and refreshing. For an entree I had the "vesuvio" pasta which was a goat ragu. Very delicious and fresh tasting which a generous amount of meat. Mr. had the griglio misto. I only got a bite of scallop which was great but he seemed to be really enjoying it.

                            My biggest surprise of the night was the dessert. We split the "fratelle"- really similar to churros y chocolate but the chocolate even more addictive.

                            I will be back here since I work so close. The food seemed really authentic. I liked the simplicity that really let some great ingredients shine. The food was simultaneously rich and light. After dinner I did not feel like I needed a nap.

                            1. Firstly, if you think there is no buzz about this place your wrong. My first complaint it took me like a week and a half out to get a 645 reservation, even then 7 or 8 wasn't available. Next complaint, busy busy busy, the place was jammed people waiting at the host stand, at the bar, outside, and this was a Tuesday. Inevitably the place was noisy, VERY noisy. Even with our reservation we still had to wait about 10 minutes, the young spikey haired host/manager who we recognized from Dante, assured us we would be seated shortly. 15 minutes after our reservation time, a young girl seated us at a lovely table next to a divider, muffling out some of the bar noise. The next thing we know here is that manager again, this time with half glasses of champagne coming over and saying happy anniversary, sorry for the wait...unbelievable, my husband swears he didn't tip him off. The next thing we know we are eating just blissful food. The shaved pork in tuna sauce as well as the burrata are to die for...both tender and flavorful and a great way to start off! We shared some of the pasta for a second course, the squash ravioli and the pasta nudi...the ravioli were delicious but a little sweet for my liking, but brown sugar and sage are a nice touch, the ravioli nudi were great, but weird since we didn't expect 2 large balls to show up, our server explained that nudi, really means nude, hence no pasta. Since neither of us are big drinkers, we rarely order a bottle of wine, so we asked our server what to get with our entrees, she said that she recommended the sauvignon which was white, with trout for me, and a glass of the red blend for my husbands steak. I have to say the trout was one of the best pieces of fish i have ever had, even the it's white eyeball was staring at me the whole time. The wagu steak my husband had was delicious, the red wine reduction was really tasty and simple. Dessert came next, a piece of some sort of ricotta pie with a candle, sweet thought, however not a fan of that type of dessert. So we went typical Italian and ordered the terimisu which was delighfully lighter than normal, but that was a good thing !

                              All in all this place was amazin... the food, service, and little touches that they did, to make our special night, SPECIAL! It made us forget any wait or noise complaint we had. Best advice MAKE RESERVATIONS WAAAY IN ADVANCE !

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: theITspot

                                I finally went two weeks ago having made an online reservation a week earlier. Arrived on time and was seated promptly at a two-top near the bar in front of the house. Not a great table but despite the noise, DC and i were able to converse without much difficulty. Our waitress was terrific. Very knowledgeable, friendly and attentive despite her obviously being very busy (place was packed -as others have noted). She engaged us in discussion about our wine choice (she was gushing about it being her favorite and she seemed to know a great deal about its pedigree). We ordered everything to share. One small plate - maile (sp) which were two perfect meatballs made from pork I think and we soaked up the gravy with our bread. I could have made ameal of them alone. Followed up with a half order of the angel hair pasta with lemon, pine nuts and golden raisins. Another poster in this thread mentioned that they were not big fans of raisins in pasta but somehow it worked. It did. I am no fan of raisins in much of anything except right out of th box. However this dish was perfect - light and fragrant - but somehow not sweet. Someone else may remember what else was in it if I have missed something. We also split the veal saltimbocca which was three nice medallions of veal with some excellent cheese on top and some herbs. Not a busy dish at all - just simple and perfectly prepared. We also had a side order of the spinach which was described a being in a cream and cheese sauce - yet it was not at all heavy - probably only a very small amount of cream- and a hint of cheese. I didn't notice the cream at all. I love spinach and this was a great preparation.

                                We didn't order desert - onyu because it was getting late. Our waitress made it clear in a very playful way that we had made a big mistake in not trying one of the deserts but not in a critical way - just sort of a "oh you will be sorry you missed it".. kind of way. i assured her we would be back for a larger feed next tiem - and we will. I think the buzz about this place is well founded. My only criticism (besides the noise factor which did not bother me) was my pet peeve about the wine list - which is a rant oft repeated on this board. It was a very nice and well thought out list but once again - not many options in the under 45.00 range. Pretty large mark up and the prices were disproportionate to the very reasonable food prices. I guess I just have to get used to it or stop ordering bottles and stick to a glass.

                                Nevertheless, it was definitely worth the ride to Belmont from the 'hood.

                                1. re: theITspot

                                  "Chronicle" did their Best of Boston (from Boston Magazine's picks) and Il Casale was featured. They said it had been packed since it first opened, so it must have raised a buzz from the get-go.

                                2. We ate there earlier this week. While I won't say it's the best meal, it was solidly good, esp for a suburb!

                                  DC & I shared 3 apps - the arancini (decent), salt cod balls (very good), burrata (OMG good).

                                  I ordered 1/2 portion of the gnocchi/procini creme with asparagus, peas and fava beans. It was nice, but the flavor was a bit odd. The gnocchi was nice and soft, but a bit on the salty side. The veggies were super fresh, yet they with the cream together were less salty than the gnocchi. So I felt like I was eating 2 separate dishes mixed together but didn't blend well.

                                  DC had the grilled wild striped bass. It was fine, but he said the fish was too salty. We also shared the parmigianetta side, which is cubed eggplant cooked in tomato sauce. That was fine.

                                  We shared the fratelle - I agree with previous poster that it is similar to churros.

                                  It was my birthday, which I mentioned in my opentable reservation (where you type a message to the restaurant). It was never acknowledged by anybody at the restaurant. No big deal, but far cry from the "extras" I got last year at Il Capriccio for my birthday.

                                  Major complaint - this place is ridiculously loud.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: y2000k

                                    I ate there for the second time on Friday night. This time my DC and I brought his family, so there were 6 of us. Four of us got the $45 tasting menu and two ordered entrees. One of the ordered entrees was the naked ravioli, which were excellent. As for the tasting menu - I think in total, I tasted 22 different items - which is a lot for the money. Everything was delicious. I was glad that we got to try some of the meats because on my own, I don't know that I would ever leave the pasta camp. The sirloin was delicious. The roast chicken was so tender. For dessert we tried the panna cotta, the tiramisu, and the fratelle. The fratelle were by far my favorite of the desserts.

                                  2. Had an unremarkable meal at il Casale last week. I ordered the pasta Bolognese and was quite disappointed by the entree size and overall lack of flavor. Maybe the sauce was "rushed" as it lacked the layers of flavor that only comes with slow cooking this type of complex meat sauce. I rarely use salt on food to add flavor, but in this case the sauce was so bland that I had to salt it several times. Very disappointing... If I am going to spend $35 for a small bowl of pasta and a glass of pinot noir, I will leave Belmont for il Capriccio or L'Andana or a few other more established Italian restaurants in the area and find better quality and value. On the plus side, the service is usually very good here.

                                    1. We are headed to Il Casale next week...any regulars with specific menu recommendations?

                                      1. Finally got to Il Casale last night and had a lovely meal. We started with the poork meatballs (excellent), the beef meatballs (very good), the arancini (good, but won't make me forget Umbertro's), and the burratta (excellent, though I'm not a fan of the candied pistachios). My wife had a small plate of the gnudi (spinach and ricotta ravioli without pasta), our friend had the Chicken Milanese (very good), and I had an entree portion of the spaghetti carbonara (excellent but a bit skimpy for an entree portion). We had the fried dough with chocolate for dessert (excellent) and the panna cotta (best in Bosotn for me so far, and I always order panna cotta if it's available). The cocktails were also nice (I had the bourbon crusta -2 actually), my wife had the chef's blood (rum, lime, sugar), and our friend had a Bellini. Excellent food, not as loud as I thought it might be, but we were tucked in a corner, and the room wasn't full). I'd give it 3.5 stars out of 5.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: kimfair1

                                          Was there about a week ago. Between the two of us we had eight courses, plus two drinks and two coffees for $114--a bargain. Everything was pretty good, but we both agreed that the only standout was the gnudi. I can't stop thinking about those spinach-ricotta balls somehow wrapped in melted parmesan cheese, in a delicious, fresh, chunky tomato sauce. They're really into balls at this place: rice balls, meat balls, pork balls, gnudi balls, dough balls....

                                        2. When I was really enjoying my spaghetti carbonara at Dante this week, the server told me that il Casale boasts one of the two oldest pasta machines in the country (?) -- the old-fangled crank style, that turn out that slightly rough-textured pasta that sauce just clings to. If the carbonara is like it is at Dante, this place is definitely appealing.

                                          1. The OP's post about "no buzz" is pretty old. Since then, it's gotten rave reviews from the the Globe, Herald, Phoenix, and BoMag.

                                            I gave it a Stuff Magazine 2009 Dining Award (which I'm sure will be hugely influential in Belmont) for "Neighborhood Restaurant Most Needed By Its Neighborhood", tied with Ecco in Eastie.

                                            Don't know if anyone mentioned it, but it also just got included in Esquire Magazine's national list of "new restaurants not to miss", the only local restaurant so recognized. The food really is good (better than the much-more-accessible-to-me Dante, I'm afraid), it's a relative bargain (suburban discount), and it's the only place in town to get a decent cocktail outside of someone's home. It will be a tough reservation for a long time.

                                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                            1. I've been twice now. Food not bad, but not earthshattering. The bartender is INSANELY slow and not very friendly and does not show a real interest in doing things like oh say pouring drinks.

                                              Both times I've been it was like you had to beg for a refill, a second glass of wine, etc. No vibe of hospitality at all. Does not make me want to go back.

                                              10 Replies
                                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                                I completely agree. My husband and I went in to eat at the bar and the bartender looked at us like we were ruining her night by being there. If we would not have ordered a bottle of wine, we probably would have left. I have not been back since and cannot help but wonder where all the buzz about this place is coming from

                                                1. re: pathfinder

                                                  I have to say that I have felt discriminated against by the staff on several occasions (due to having two very well behaved children in tow), but it sounds as if this is not really directed at me, but rather a general attitude of the establishment.... that being said, I think the food is generally quite good and there is really no competitor in Belmont, so I will keep going. Love the outdoor tables as well. Once seated, the service has always been excellent.

                                                  1. re: tdaaa

                                                    I think you hit on the key to Il Casale's continued success - no reasonable competition in Belmont. The food is pretty good, but not superfantastic, the drinks are meh to bad (never sat at the bar, so haven't witnessed attitude, yet), and it is loud. But, it's one of the only places in Belmont to get a decent bite to eat (w/alcohol to boot), and that keeps it rockin'.

                                                    GG
                                                    http://www.semisweetonline.com

                                                    1. re: gansu girl

                                                      How is that restaurant that got the first beer/wine license in Cushing Sq. is it? Can't remember the name. It looks nice tho.

                                                      1. re: Joanie

                                                        Forgetting the name of the place, but somehow it has never really clicked. Space is a bit jammed up and the vibe just not quite right. Ate their once and the food was okay.

                                                        1. re: StriperGuy

                                                          I think the name is Savinos?? I ate thier once as well. It was just ok. I would have much prefered to go across the street and eat at Kitchen on Common. BYOB and for the price you can't beat it.

                                                          1. re: pathfinder

                                                            That's it. I have to get around to trying KOC. Thanks for the reminder.

                                                        2. re: Joanie

                                                          Yeah, everyone's right, it's Savino's, and I'm frankly not sure how long they'll stay in business w/Il Casale in town. Savino's price point is super high, IMO, for dining in Cushing Square, Belmont, and the food is truly meh. KOC, on the other hand, is loved by many of our friends, although we have never been. More casual, but supposed to be tasty food for the $ and they are kid-friendly (although a small room). Family-owned & operated.

                                                          GG
                                                          http://www.semisweetonline.com

                                                    2. re: pathfinder

                                                      I've only been once (posted about it above) but I sat at the bar and had nothing but a warm welcome. I also didn't experience this noise everyone is talking about. However I did go in the summer when maybe they had more (albeit inexperienced) staff. Maybe there feeling even more of a crush.

                                                      1. re: heypielady

                                                        I've only been once too, also in summer, but had EXCELLENT service - I'd noted on our opentable reservation that it was our anniversary, and as soon as we sat down, the manager brought complimentary champagne. Our waitress was fantastic. The food was very good, but I agree, very loud room.

                                                  2. I think the food is pretty good, not earth shattering, but a good neighborhood restaurant. I will hesitate to return, except in the summer to eat outside, due to the high noise level.

                                                    1. Not sure why it took so long to try it, but...wow - we were blown away by the quality of the experience we had at the bar for drinks and light dinner. Both bartenders (Keith and Marsha) were warm, engaging, friendly, professional, and responsive. The cocktail I ordered (bourbon crusta) was tasty and well-balanced, but served in a slightly warm glass (it was late and they were busy, but still...). I jokingly mentioned to Keith and he admitted that they needed more chilling capacity (or how about some ice water while you make the cocktail?) - I learned several interesting new cocktail factoids and found yet another reference text to order.

                                                      The food was, well, phenomenal - the highlight was the smoked trout fettuccine alfredo - unique and amazing. The other was the fried calamari/smelts/lemon slices-there should be a lot more deep frying of thinly-sliced citrus going on!

                                                      The blood orange salad with prosciutto was really good and quite large - plenty for two to share. The arancini would have been notable had other items not been so amazing. The ignudi was interesting and tasty. The spinach with mascarpone and the mushroom sides were good size and perfectly prepared.

                                                      White wines by the glass were really good at $8 and $10. Couldn't stay for dessert with the new Rancatore's open next door...

                                                      The room is nice and eating at the bar very pleasant. It had a definite energy and buzz, but wasn't deafening, can't talk to your companion loud (like Deep Ellum earlier this week).

                                                      The whole tab before tip was $100 - great value - finally, a place in the burbs that's better than many city options in Cambridge (including Dante, IMHO) and Boston (similar tab and meal composition to Sportello with the addition of full bar - far better overall value!)

                                                      Expecting to be back often if this reflects the typical experience there!

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: rlh

                                                        Lloved that spinach! gotta get back there soon. Thanks for the reminder.

                                                        1. re: rlh

                                                          Went early on Sunday evening and found it pretty packed by 6p - bartender Keith is still outstanding and getting more creative - he really needs to put that Jalisco Sangria he made for us on the menu rotation ASAP - and the Bruleed Pisco was really good and tasty. His Old Cuban is also a standout.

                                                          The food kind of suffered Sunday nightitis - seemed like a lot may have been prepped for service last night, stored and then assembled/heated for dinner tonight - the gnocchi in particular was pretty bad (Keith overheard us and took it off the tab!) and the wonderful tasting spinach was pretty discolored, the fries were tasty but tiny little bits instead of proper potato lengths, and the fryer needed to be hotter to do justice to the calamari like last time. The five cheese ravioli was tasty but quite lukewarm when served. The poached salmon pate doesn't work for me as a dish at all. The hazelnut/brandied raisin/gorgonzola salad was really good and really shareable.

                                                          Definitely heading back to the bar again soon, but now realizing we must be careful about ordering the food - best to stick to what the staff recommends the night you are there, I think. It is NOT across the board excellent at any time.

                                                          Rancatore's khulfi for dessert was as awesome as ever - and why is the service SO much better (faster, friendlier, etc.) at the Belmont location than the Lexington one????

                                                          1. re: rlh

                                                            This has been my thinking for many years. We mostly stay away from even our favorites on Sundays and Mondays, and almost never go to a new restaurant for approx. 2 months. I don't need to be first in line. You wouldn't spend full price to watch a rehersal?
                                                            CocoDan

                                                            1. re: rlh

                                                              Surprised to learn Friday night that Keith is no longer bartending at Il Casale and no one there was willing to share where he went, apparently abruptly and just last week.

                                                              I hope they can keep the bartending standards up to the same level going forward (Marsha made a fine cocktail that night and seems totally capable and friendly, by the way) - anyone happen to know where Keith is headed next or has landed? - hoping it's around this area (Belmont, Arlington, Lexington, Winchester) that so sorely needs capable, creative bartending.

                                                              As for the food, it was uneven - the spinach was good again, the pork chop main was fine, but the squash ravioli was WAY too sweet, the shrimp app was bland, and the previously-amazing fried calamari and lemon wheels was underfried and the thicker, fried lemon slices didn't work at all.

                                                              No longer a destination for me, but an OK option when in the Belmont Center area.

                                                              1. re: rlh

                                                                Thank you for posting, rhl!! I was just at Il Casale tonight and sorely missed Keith. So upset to learn he is gone.

                                                                I have no idea where he went -- but if anyone does please share. My first trip to Il Casale was amaing thanks to him. He had great info on different grappas and digestifs.

                                                                I also agree on the squash ravioli -- too sweet. Cauliflower salad was delish as was the smoked risotto and tomato side. yum.