Most large towns and cities have at least one restaurant that is always busy and yet they never seem to advertise or promote themselves in any way. Making a reservation is pretty much essential to be assured of a table. These are the restaurants with a loyal clientele. Places where the locals eat and where you are assured of a good meal in pleasant surroundings. Montecatini is such a place.
Set on a busy street, across from the Lesher Center on North Civic Drive, Montecatini’s exterior is relatively unprepossessing. The front windows overlook the kitchen, so it is difficult to get much of an idea as to what the dining room is like. On entering, you are presented with a quite large (and usually very bustling) bar area, with the main dining area beyond taking up the rest of the restaurant.
The ambiance is that of a typical traditional, but very busy, authentic Italian restaurant. Take note that the noise level tends to be high though. This is definitely not the place to choose for a quiet meal.
Montecatini is very professionally run and the service is everything you might expect – friendly and attentive but certainly not overbearing. The waitstaff are knowledgeable about the menu and I would imagine that many of them have worked there for years.
It had been years since Sylvia and I had eaten there, and when we dined there just before Christmas, it was apparent that nothing had changed. It was as busy as ever and the bar was packed with quite a few early arrivals waiting for tables.
The menu had many appealing options and we could see from other diners’ tables that portions were generous.
Neither of us had an appetizer and unusually for us, we ordered the same entrée, half a roasted duck, one of the day’s specials, served with roasted potatoes and vegetables and with a delicious sauce.
Regular readers will know that I love duck in all its forms, whereas Sylvia only really likes duck that is roasted and quite well done. This is how it is prepared at Montecatini and it is hard to find these days. We both agreed that we had made an excellent choice. Everything about the dish was superb.
On a subsequent visit, Sylvia had Veal Saltimbocca and I had Fettuccine Alla Viareggina. The veal Saltimbocca comprised slices of thinly cut veal served with prosciutto and mozzarella, then topped with their brown sauce. As with most dishes, it was accompanied by penne pasta and vegetables. Based on Sylvia’s comments, I have no doubt that this will become one of her favorite dishes to order here. She enjoyed everything about it from the tender veal to the generous amount of tasty sauce.
My pasta dish is listed as a “House Specialty” on the menu – fettuccine with scallops, large prawns, bay shrimp and fresh mushrooms, all tossed in a tomato cream sauce. Quite apart from the flavor, which was superb, I was amazed to see the generous quantity of seafood, even the scallops. This was one of the best seafood pastas I have had in ages.
Knowing how generous the portion sizes were, neither of us had an appetizer but we did make room for a dessert on our last visit – a shared chocolate, raspberry cheesecake. This was also a good-sized portion and fine for two people. It reminded me very much of the Black Forest cheesecake that was often seen on English menus although rarely in California.
Montecatini is a restaurant we will visit time and time again. If you don’t know it, you should definitely try it. And check out their excellent website at montecatinirestaurant.com