Carl Anthony Trattoria, a 15-year-old regional Italian restaurant located in a Monroe, CT strip, is the creation master-minded by Executive Chef/Owner Sam DeVellis and his brothers Joseph and Idilio, and sister Rose. This casual take-out/eat-in pizza place formerly known as Carl Anthony’s Pizzeria, which was lacking in character, has been recreated into a regional Italian restaurant full of style and character is flourishing.
Sam, a self-taught chef, uses his cooking experiences while in Italy and his own interpretation of how food should make one feel to create the menu offered at Carl Anthony Trattoria. His passion for food is evident in their signature dishes such as “Original” Balsamic Calamari, the grilled stuffed figs with creamy gorgonzola and prosciutto, rabbit crostini of grilled Tuscan bread, braised rabbit, and favetta (fava bean puree) with shaved pecorino, Delmonico steak with hot peppers, caramelized vidalia onions, and sun-dried tomatoes, and barbeque salmon with crispy sesame spinach.
Sam is now poised for his next venture. “In Fairfield County,” he assures, “there are plenty of towns here with a thriving restaurant scene, as well as towns that are prime for something new,” he explains, “it’s the concept that needs to fit into the area.” Sam jokes that his “hometown advantage” is what laid the initial foundation for his businesses to grow – not to mention his zeal for learning and creating.
The dining room has been turned into a warm and cozy “modern day meets old world” trattoria. The separate bar area offers designer martinis, fabulous cocktails and an exceptional selection of wines. The bar opens up to an outdoor patio that is shaded by huge market umbrellas, perfect for those warm summer evenings.
Our group tested out several of the delightful cocktails on the menu including the Black Cherry Mojito, Blood Orange Smash, and The Campfire. The Blood Orange Smash was a mixture of Jim Beam Honey Bourbon, Thyme, Vermouth, lemon, and blood orange. The Campfire was an adult S’Mores; Smirnoff Fluffed Vodka, Emmets Irish Creme, chocolate and graham rim with a toasted marshmallow. The alcohol is set on fire to toast the marshmallow thus creating quite a spectacle.
As we were sipping our cocktails, we nibbled on a couple different appetizers: Bleu Chips and “Original” Balsamic Calamari. The Bleu Chips were hand-cut potato chips topped with gorgonzola fonduta, fig jam, bacon, and green onions. They were nice and crispy, slightly sweet with fig jam. The “Original” Balsamic Calamari were tender calamari nicely fried with a thick balsamic glaze that added depth flavor. They were unique and a hit with with everyone. I don’t think there was even one left on any of the plates.
After being seated, we were treated to several small plates, served family-style to our table. Heirloom tomato salad bruschetta highlighted by the nice and sweet fresh tomatoes. Charred heirloom carrots: baby carrots with straciatella cheese and cilantro-honey citronette with a slight pepper taste that was nicely balanced out by the honey. The starciatella cheese is made in house. Creamy and delicous Buratta topped with flavorful bacon jam and pepperoncino.
Fig and beet salad was a light and refreshing blend of baby greens, goat cheese ricotta, onion, wildflower honey toasted oats, marcona almonds and Vincotto. A nice textile contrast was given by the oats and almonds.
To accompany our samplings, Chef Sam chose a white and a red wine.
A big hit at the table were the tender and juicy Kobe meatballs in hearty tomato sauce with crunchy garlic bread on top. In fact we asked for more bread for dipping in the leftover sauce.
The first sample of pasta from the menu was the “Loaded Baked-Potato” Gnocchi. Yes, the picture you see below of these hand-made potato pasta pillows baked with smoked bacon, broccoli and Italian cheddar cheese sauce topped with sour cream and chives. This is the normal size when ordered and quite enough for two or even three people to share. These, in my opinion, are not your typical gnocchi, but far better, light and fluffy while super cheesy.
The Italian “Ramen” was the other pasta we tried. Chef Sam’s take on the ramen noodle soup often thought to be mainly offered by Asian restaurants. These hand-made noodles came in delicious chicken broth topped with a local egg, parmigiano, pepperoncino, and carrots. A superb soup that would be great on a wintery day in New England.
For entrees, we had the pleasure of sampling the Wild Ivory King Salmon and the Pig Roast. The white meat wild Ivory salmon came sitting atop a bed of spicy spinach accompanied by Sultana raisin vinaigrette and walnut romesco aioli. The Pig Roast was slow roasted “Porchetta alla Romana paired with broccoli rabe and pickled farm stand tomato. A super crispy “crankling” was on the edge of the melt-your-mouth tender pork. The slightly sweet tomato paired well with the rich flavor of the pork.
To finish the meal, we were served a trio of desserts: Blueberry Upside cake, Coffee and doughnuts, and Quattro Creme Brulee. The blueberry-lemon upside-down cake was a light and moist spongy cake enhanced by the fresh blueberries, both mixed into the cake and along side of it. It was served with a Meyer lemon curd and coconut cream cheese gelato.
The “coffee” of the coffee and doughnuts was cappuccino semi-freddo topped with foam. Accompanying the warm cinnamon sugar Bombolinis filled with chocolate “Nutella” was a high butter fat chocolate sauce for dipping.
Quattro creme brulee was an offering of four rich, smooth textured custards; Baci chocolate, cappucino, torrone nougat, and vanilla each finished with a caramelized sugar crust.
Every Friday night Carl Anthony’s features Pies & Pints on the Patio from 8:30 to 10:30 pm – Wood-fired pizza, salad, bottomless beer and wine for only $20 per person. There is also live music every Friday night.
After having sampled their offerings, I see now what it is consider a “hidden gem” tucked away in the corner of a strip mall. We will have to go back on a Friday night to participate in the Pies & Pints on the Patio as it sounds like a fun evening.