Review: An Evening of Being ‘Foodie-Spoiled’ at Bantam’s Arethusa Al Tavola
If you're in the mood to be "Foodie-spoiled", I know of no finer destination in all of the Northeast United States than Arethusa Al Tavola right here in Bantam, CT.
I've eaten in thousands of restaurants -- from high-end places to low-end joints -- like the disgusting Church's Fried Chicken in Times Square. I've been pampered, and I've also been disgusted at what I've seen served in my 48 years. I say this, because it takes a lot to truly impress me, and that's exactly what Arethusa Al Tavola did last night.
What an incredibly beautiful establishment. With attention to detail like this, you'd think the owners made fancy shoes or something. (Yes, I know the Manolo Blahnik connection)
We were a little early for our 7:15 reservation, so we wandered through the attached Arethusa Farm Dairy shop right next to the restaurant. The smell of fresh ice cream cones being baking wafted through the Bantam night, it was intoxicating. I've seen Arethusa dairy products in local grocery stores over the past few years, and I've tried many. Let me tell you, ain't nothing like the real thing. Stop into the Dairy shop to truly experience what Arethusa has to offer. There are way more products available than you'd find at LaBonne's.
On to the main course:
Mrs. Large and I started off our dining experience with the Arethusa Farm Dairy Cheese Plate, which featured nine different cheeses, the best honey that I've ever eaten, five flatbread crackers, and a couple of edible accouterments. Out of this world. The Arethusa Blue was a revelation. Our waitress suggested to try a slice of the Blue Cheese, a dab of honey, and a grape. It was an insane flavor combination. Thank you.
She ordered the One Dozen Vegetables on a Plate, and I ordered the Grilled Prime Striploin of Beef with Spring Ramped Crust. Astounding. Mrs. Large remarked that "If all veggies were prepared like this, people would eat so many more". I concur. It was the first time in my life that I've tried a fiddle head. They just looked too funky to me before. I'm glad that I held out for these, because it was a first-taste that left a lasting impression.
The staff was professional, very attentive, and kind. We were surprised twice during the course of our dining experience. First, by a small one-bite compliments of the chef, and again at the end of our meal, when a small glass of milk and a piece of chocolate arrived courtesy of the pastry chef, James Arena. Thank you!
Browsing through the Arethusa website, I noticed that Executive Chef Dan Magill was recently nominated for the James Beard Foundation award for the Northeast. Well deserved, sir.
As we were making the trek home to Waterbury, filled with cheese, meat, and veggies, we both felt supremely satisfied. Top to bottom, beginning to end, one of the most pleasurable dining experiences of my life. Bravo.
From an "every day" man's standpoint, Arethusa Al Tavola is not for the "Chili's/Texas Roadhouse/Red Robin" crowd. The portions are human-sized, and the price point is a bit steep, but, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.
If you want a meal prepared by six different culinary experts, paid attention to by an entire crew of attentive waitstaff, and appreciate the finer details of gastronomic delights, Arethusa Al Tavola is an icon.