My visit to Carluccio's was completely divine; the perfect oasis for a delicious breakfast, a business lunch, a fun Girls' Night Out Happy Hour, an intimate date night and that SPECIAL Mother's Day Celebration! [hint, hint... Mother's Day is THIS Sunday! Celebrate with reservations at Carluccio's!]. Yes, they are open for breakfast, brunch on the weekends, lunch and dinner daily; with happy hour in between!
I was recently invited to Carluccio's to dine with friends while sampling some preliminary cocktails; designed by the N.Bethesda GM Welton "Logan". Just four lovely ladies out on the town for the quintessential "Girls' Night Out" and Carluccio's did not disappoint. We basked in the glory of the meticulously decorated restaurant; boasting ornate Milanese ambiance with trendy touches.
LIQUID ESSENTIALS: COCKTAILS & MOCKTAILS
With half of our party not consuming alcohol, it was a perfect opportunity for Carluccio's to showcase their delicious cocktails as well as their "mocktails" [mock, alcohol-free cocktails]. Most establishments limit their "non-drinking" guests to a standard soda fountain, ice tea or glass of water, but Carluccio's went above and beyond to accommodate our guests with a selection of mocktails that packed a punch of flavor and creativity; sans spirits. Our timing was impeccable; as Logan just piloted his latest batch of Spring-time beverages; playfully integrating fresh ingredients without losing sight of the restaurant's Italian roots. Bravo on the following new beverage selection:
*Basil Mojito - give mint a rest & allow basil to bring out the savory side of your Mojito!
*Mi Mulo - Tito's Moscow Mike with Amaro with a fresh Tarragon garnish. Rivals any Moscow Mule you've ever tasted. I loved this as a cocktail and a mocktail!
*Peach Margarita (Chili/Salt/Sugar Rim) - Speaks for itself since I've never met a Margarita I didn't like. The peach was perfectly integrated without it being too sweet!
*Cardinal Rickey - Hendrick's and Campari
*Campari Summer Punch was by far the most fascinating beverage to me and one of my favorites! Amongst the muddled watermelon and strawberry were cherry tomatoes; all blending seamlessly and topped with Prosecco. I only knew there were tomatoes incorporated because I was told they were there. Otherwise, I wouldn't have understood how they could pair so perfectly with the melon & berries!
*Cherry Smash - Maker's Mark + Organic Cherry Juice
*Honey it's Thyme - Bulleit Rye + Thyme Honey Syrup
We started our Tour of Italy with two scrumptious "sharing boards": the Deluxe and Formaggi. We also couldn't resist trying the Calamari Fritti. The boards were perfect for sharing, but I could have eaten the whole Deluxe as a meal! My absolute favorite part was the roasted peppers filled with pesto and the fresh, creamy buffalo mozzarella paired with their delicious bruschetta. The calamari was prepared perfectly; drenched in a light batter, fried to a perfect crisp and served with an aioli.
Let's just say that when it came to main dishes, there were plenty to go around (and share) and all were happy. A unanimous favorite dish at our table was one of the most humble dishes on the menu; the Agnolotti. There's no meat or even seafood in this pasta dish; yet its far from being plain Jane. This homemade pasta is shaped like a half moon and filled with an herbed super creamy burrata cheese filling. It was topped with a rich, buttery cream sauce and crushed walnuts. I have never tasted a pasta dish so flavorful and decadent! The sauce was so good that the dish was absolutely dry when it left the table. We ended up dipping EVERYTHING into it. In addition to their lemon-infused olive oil, it was also a great addition to their yummy focaccia. I even topped my Bistecca Bavette with a dab of it. My Bistecca was perfectly prepared to the medium-rare that I requested and the perfectly prepared sautéed mushroom variety on top spoke to my soul. There was so much flavor; and an extra plus is that the steak was antibiotic free; from a grass-fed cow. I can appreciate that Carluccio's uses the very best ingredients to feed their guests. Also presented to our table was the Linguine Ai Frutti Di Mare, Saltimbocca Di Pollo and the Milanese Di Pollo. Our resident vegetarian vegetarian selected the Penne Giardiniera; a pasta tossed in a Parmesan garlic sauce and topped with meat(less) balls made of zucchini, chili and spinach and then fried to perfection. All of the pasta, chicken and seafood in the remaining dishes were cooked to perfection and each dish received rave reviews!
Though I didn't know if there was room for dessert, when I saw it, there was no questioning whether I would force it or not. I definitely have a sweet tooth and Carluccio's delivered on sweet tooth satisfaction! For dessert, were presented a sharing board of sweet decadence so that we could experience a variety of their delicious desserts. Carluccio's has a delicious home-made tiramisu (a classic Italian staple), but their Pistachio Ricotta Cheesecake was a total crowd pleaser; as were their variety of Gelatos and Sorbets : Vanilla, Chocolate, Amarena Cherry - Lemon, and Blood Orange. When you make your next trip to Carluccio's, I strongly recommend saving just a smidge of extra space to at least try one of their desserts!
FUN FACT: Carluccio's first introduced its brand into the US in the summer of 2015, when they opened their Alexandra, VA location. Luckily for Montgomery County, they decided to expand into Maryland and became one of the earliest tenants of the thriving Pike & Rose community March of 2016. I can't wait to see what growth is in store for them in the future as they continue to plant roots in the US!
The Carluccio's Chef Mantra: "Minimum of fuss, maximum of flavor"
A special thank you is owed to our gracious host, Logan, for making a big menu seem super small and intimate. Another special thanks to Sebastiano for his hard work and dedication to making sure both US Carluccio's parallel the same quality and care as the many dozens of European Carluccio's! Cheers to these two men and their amazing Carluccio's US staff!
FOUNDER OF CARLUCCIO'S:
"Who is Antonio Carluccio?
Acclaimed European cook. Award-winning writer. TV personality. Our founder, Antonio Carluccio, has been celebrated by his nation receiving a Commendatore OMRI (the equivalent of a British knighthood) by the President of Italy for services to Italian gastronomy and was also awarded an honorary OBE from Queen Elizabeth II. Not bad for a boy from Salerno, Italy. His lifelong passion for authentic food and drink has established him as the Godfather of Italian cooking, and has helped us export our love of Italian cuisine." - CarlucciosUSA.com