Dinner at Antimo’s-good to the last cannoli crumb

Every so often, I meet my friend Marie Galastro at Antimo’s Italian Kitchen in Hopewell for dinner. Her husband Nino is their Executive Pasta Chef, in charge of making elegant handmade pastas for the restaurant. He works right up front where customers see him as they enter, or wait for a table. We sit at a back table, and Nino takes care of us, with Antimo stopping by occasionally. Marie loves this because she doesn’t often get to taste Nino’s filled pastas herself, since none ever make it home. (They refuse to let me pay, so I bring vino and leave a tip for the staff.)

The menu at Antimo’s is full of Italian-American dishes, plus they have pizza, although that’s more obvious during the day, or for takeout at night. There’s even a selection of gluten-free pastas and pizza; all the menus are on their website.

I know a lot of places say they have “homemade” pasta on their menu – even Antimo’s menu does – but I’m never sure what that means at other places. I know they’re not really made in someone’s home kitchen, due to regulations. Do they mean house made, i.e. in the restaurant kitchen? That might be so, but I’m still leery, unless I’ve questioned the staff to ensure that’s the case.

So it’s great to actually see the pasta being made right out front, and, in the case of the colorful ones you see below, using organic beets, fresh baby spinach, and real (and pricey) squid ink.

The beet and spinach raviolis we sampled were filled with a mascarpone/ricotta/Parmesan mixture, seasoned with fresh basil.  The beet raviolis were served with brown butter and sage, slightly crisped on the bottom, which I love. The spinach ravioli had a vodka/prosciutto tomato sauce, and the seafood ravioli a spicy (very spicy!) arrabiata. The seafood filling was a mix of chopped scallops, clams, parsley, and shallot. Delicious!

But, first, our ravioli sampling was preceded by a plate of white anchovies (alici) with capers, lovely shrimp and scallops in lemon butter, and a nice arugula salad. We also enjoyed good bread with olive oil enlivened with chopped garlic. (I was especially taken with that super fresh garlic.) We also had a plate of sautéed spinach with the raviolis, I think after this winter we are starved for fresh greens!

And (and here I really digress), take a close look at the Tartufo they brought us for dessert. Click on the photo and get up close. See those little flakes of something brownish sprinkled on top, over the chocolate drizzles and whipped cream? That delicious bit of crunchiness, my friends, was crushed cannoli shells. And it made the dish (that, and the fact that they wisely let the ice cream soften a little before serving it, which brings out the flavors and makes it easy to eat.).

What do you do with smashed cookies or dried out baked goods at home? Throw them out? Give them to the birds? Try using them to top creamy desserts instead, like ice cream or pudding. When I asked about the topping, Antimo bashfully admitted that several cannoli shells in a box got crushed, and, being the good, thrifty, chef that he is, he made use of them as garnish. Inspired and delicious! (He also makes a mean pie, I remember from two winters ago when he made cherry pie for President’s Day.)  Sorry if I’ve embarrassed you here, Antimo, but it’s just one of those telling details that lets me know you really care about the food you serve.

One of these days soon, I’m coming in to have pizza for lunch, those look so good!

(Click on any photo to get the full-sized version, and then you can scroll through the rest.)

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