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Restaurant Review: Carpaccio Tuscan Kitchen

Jul 26, 2017 09:00AM ● By Cate Reynolds

Wine and Dine on West Street

Carpaccio Tuscan Kitchen and Wine Bar 1 Park Place, Annapolis; 410-268-6569 | Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Major credit cards accepted. Patio dining. Reservations accepted via Open Table. Wheelchair accessible

By Mary Lou Baker // Photography by Tony Lewis, Jr.

Food and wine share star status at Carpaccio Tuscan Kitchen and Wine Bar, the popular establishment adjacent to the Westin Hotel on Westgate Circle. Open since 2008, this authentic Italian eatery has earned a loyal following among discerning Annapolis area residents as well as guests of the hotel who are lucky to have a first-class restaurant a short stroll away.

At a recent al fresco lunch on the restaurant’s flower-themed outdoor veranda, many tables were filled with “suits” as well as casually dressed locals—all enjoying the “water view” provided by a fabulous fountain spraying its cooling contents into the pool below. Aspire to an umbrella table and enjoy the tour of Tuscany on Carpaccio’s extensive bill of fare. I have been to this restaurant many times over the years, and can say its kitchen never fails to please.

Expect a warm welcome at the door, which opens into a versatile space that includes a wine bar where patrons can sip, socialize and eat in a casual setting as well as a spacious formal dining area. On our review visit we were escorted to a table and immediately greeted by a friendly server who provided an impressive wine list appropriately weighted to Italy but including wines from France, New Zealand, California, and other vintners.
According to the manager, Carpaccio offers 40 wines by the glass ($8-$15) – a list that I was told changes every week. Carpaccio’s wine bar is a convivial space, and I suggest asking one of its knowledgeable staff members about their cellar.

We sipped a house Pinot Grigio while browsing the handsome menu featuring a photograph of a hillside vineyard and nibbling on Carpaccio’s version of an amuse-bouche—in this case a basket of delicious rectangles of pizza-style flatbreads.

You can put together a wonderful meal with choices from the “antipasti” section, paired with one of Chef Ernesto’s creative salads. His take on the classic Oysters Rockefeller features a spinach cream sauce touched with Sambuca, crisp bacon bits, and melted Parmesan cheese (mezza, $6.99). Grilled calamari combines the rounds and tentacles, all dressed up with a colorful relish of corn and red peppers (mezza, $10.99). Paper-thin slices of pan-fried eggplant are layered with house-made tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese (mezza, $6.99) and Carpaccio Di Manzo Parma looks like edible art, the white plate ringed with slender slices of raw filet mignon arranged around an emerald-green salad of microgreens, tiny capers drizzled with a piquant Dijon mustard aioli, and shavings of Parmesan Reggiano cheese ($13.99).

About the salads—the Cesare was impeccably fresh, with the happy addition of garlicky croutons and a generous portion of Parmesan. Go bolder with other salad options that include a healthy organic spinach creation brightened with fresh pears and strawberries, macadamia nuts, and goat cheese moistened with a raspberry vinaigrette. Add chicken, shrimp, beef, or salmon for an additional charge and a satisfying main course.

Then there are the pizzas—made to order in the restaurant’s brick oven ($12.99-$16.99). The quality is exceptional as are the options of ingredients (Margherita, Vesuvio, Wild Mushroom, Caprese, Meat Lovers). Nice to know: you can call in your order and pick up your food at the “to- go” shop, where anything on the regular menu is available for take out.

For heartier appetites, there is a wealth of appealing Italian classics, from gnocchi, pasta, risotto, seafood, chicken, veal, and beef. It is difficult to decide upon one and I envied the large table of diners near us where everyone was ordering a different dish—with sharing privileges. But we were just a two-some. But my dining partner gave high marks to his Lasagna Bolognese—an original version of this classic that layered tender noodles with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses and laced with a beefy tomato ragu sauce.

I have enjoyed the kitchen’s signature dish, grilled Bronzini Mediterranean ($18.99) on a prior occasion, so impulsively opted for a grilled pork chop touted as the evening’s special. It was a gorgeous specimen, two-inches thick under a savory herb rub. Carpaccio is a farm-to-table advocate and the multi-colored fingerling potatoes with fresh rosemary and rapini dressed with olive and oil were prepared al dente–okay for me, while others might prefer more cooking.

At a subsequent lunch, I was dazzled by the chef’s Fettuccine Mediterraneo ($19.99) featuring a trio of prawns and a pair of gorgeous deep sea scallops nestled in tender pasta shrouded in a silky Parmesan sauce. One of the appealing features of Carpaccio’s menu is the option of choosing a small or large portion of many dishes on the menu, with prices adjusted accordingly. It is one of the thoughtful touches that make this Italian restaurant special.
Desserts are anything but an after-thought here. We can vouch for the rich flourless chocolate creation partnered with whipped cream, a tart Limoncello treat, and a rum-soaked almond cake showered with cocoa and curls of chocolate. It is obvious that an artistic eye is involved in the presentation of all dishes (from appetizers through sweets). Gleaming white plates in appropriate shapes and sizes serve as a backdrop for the colors and shapes of their contents—from appetizers to dessert.

While the fare is reliably superior, the same cannot always be said of the service. Just two waiters juggled multiple tables during a busy noontime when sunny weather drew everyone to the outdoor dining area. Runners delivered orders from the kitchen, arriving in such rapid succession that our table was cluttered with appetizers, salads and entrees. “The service does not match the food,” observed my guest, a certified “foodie” from Baltimore who was otherwise enchanted with the beauty of the setting.

But once you have visited Carpaccio—the wine bar, the restaurant, or its tiny take-out shop just around the corner–I wager you’ll be back for an encore. Owners Gennaro and Lino DiMeo are brothers and seasoned restaurateurs who take a special pride in sharing their Italian heritage and have skillfully managed Carpaccio since it opened some seven years ago. Chef Ernesto has been with them since “day one” and some staff members have similar bragging rights. About the name, “Carpaccio?” That’s the restaurant’s signature dish of paper-thin raw filet mignon paired with Parmesan cheese—invented in 1950 at Harry’s Bar in Venice, whose owner, Giuseppe Cipriani, named it after Tittore Carpaccio, a Venetian artist known for his love of red and white —wines, as well as colors.

Mary Lou Baker is a frequent contributor to What’s Up? Media publications and self-professed gourmand. She has authored numerous culinary articles and recently penned the book Seafood Lover’s Chesapeake Bay: Restaurants, Markets, Recipes & Traditions.

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