Conventional thought holds that one should resist visiting a new restaurant until they “work out the kinks.” At least that’s what we tend to do, yet here I was on Day One of Cipriano Cucina and Bar opening . . . in fact, I arrived the first HOUR they were open. Was I anxious to try it out? You bet!
Owners Steve and Heather have garnered a huge fan base over the course of 30+ years of owning restaurants in Dutchess County, in the heart of Hudson Valley, New York. This time of year, there are a lot of those past customers visiting and living in our area. I may have been one of the first customers, but I wasn’t alone.
But before anyone yawns or gasps at the thought of yet another Italian restaurant in the area, ask yourself this: Why are there so many Italian places to choose from? Perhaps a clue can be found HERE.
This is a chic, yet welcoming and homey redo where Evie’s Tavern was previously on 53rd Avenue West in Bradenton. This new spot has enough crowd-pleasing offerings, and taste twists that I can comfortably predict Cipriano Cucina and Bar will likely become another people-pleasing success for another 30 years!
On entering, the bar area is already an instant party, with a virtual reunion of former regulars from their NY location exchanging hugs, and “How have YOU been? Do you live in Florida too?” remarks that make for the perfect happy hour. For me, it was part curiosity, and
part mostly hunger – call it a gut feeling – that led me through the door.
Cipriano’s offers a large dining room with high ceilings that will certainly evolve into that lively, clattering family-style vibe that I love!
Since I was dining “Solu,” (insert rimshot here) I felt compelled to over-order.
After placing my order, a complimentary bread plate arrived. Stop the show right here! This sensational offering featured a serious serving of cheesy-butter that incorporated butter, gorgonzola, ricotta, and garlic. The hot rolls are hand made daily. My server, Joe, (incidentally the son of Steve and Heather,) pointed out that he was responsible for these master-bread-pieces with their crisp, golden crusts and irresistibly soft center. Some julienned roasted red peppers added another pop of flavor and color to the plate. The owners could seriously open up a booth at the County Fair for just this and watch long lines forming. So simple – so good!
The appetizer that immediately caught my eye was the Marinated Seafood Salad. Joe explained that after introducing this as a special some years ago at their NY restaurant, the marinated seafood salad became so hugely popular that it was quickly a permanent dish on the menu. Sold me! And no wonder – the crisp, cool greens arrived topped with succulent shrimp and sliced tender scungilli the likes of which I haven’t enjoyed for some time. The dish was lovingly bathed in a citrusy herbed dressing with EVOO that hit another bullseye!
Knowing I had another achingly anticipated plate coming, I tried to back off a bit – but Nooooooo! I didn’t leave a single delectable morsel on the plate.
Two dishes down, three to go…
I’d “almost” forgotten that my choice from the Lunch Specials section- which is entirely enough to satisfy anyone, came with a cup of soup or salad. My choice of the Pasta E Fagioli (there are no bad choices here,) arrived in short order. While the menu states CUP of soup, this was a veritable birdbath-sized serving! The rich, deeply flavored soup had all the comforts of Nonna’s kitchen. I mean, just look at the picture of this beauty. ☺! I just know that I won’t be able to finish this . . . mmm . . . slurp . . . oops! All gone!
I know it wasn’t scripted, but the immortal strains of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” was playing softly as my Chicken Sinatra dish arrived (“If I can make it there, I’m gonna make it anywhere…”) Truer words could not have applied.
While the menu description of my entree was enough to entice me to order it in the first place, the reality was that it totally exceeded both the description and my expectations. The execution the Chicken Sinatra revealed the proprietor’s decades of dedication to delicious food. The perfectly tender organic chicken breast was presented with its BFFs (Best Flavor Foodmates,) a brandy cream sauce highlighted with artichokes, and mushrooms. As if that wasn’t enough, the plate was accompanied with a potato croquette – fried golden brown, its crispy exterior crumbled away to reveal a silky smooth interior. I had a good portion of this packed up to go, and I’m not gonna lie, I devoured it a few short hours later. Still incredible!
I was starting to feel like I might slide off my chair in a euphoric food dream. Hey, it happens! I may have to patent a Foodie Seat Belt for occasions like this because there could only be one answer to my server’s next question — “How about DESSERT?”
Can you possibly imagine turning your nose up at a Limoncello Mascarpone Mousse Cake? Me neither! This dessert is not to be missed, it was so light and airy with a creamy citrus icing and a side of fresh whipped cream. Sound good? It tasted divine, or diviner if I’m being honest.
Appropriately enough, another Sinatra classic was playing as I finished up – “My Way.”
I am so happy that I made the decision to make my way to Cipriano Cucina and Bar on their opening day, especially since I beat the huge crowds that will surely discover this wonderful restaurant. Is this another Italian restaurant worth trying? You bet!