Sunday evening at Caruso's.

My girlfriend and I reserved a table at Caruso's Italian Cafe late Sunday evening.

We entered the front door into the waiting area, where we were greeted by the hostess. She directed us to a table in the center of the main dining room, overlooking Staats Lake in Keizer.

We have eaten at Caruso's many times. But each time we visit, we find ourselves admiring the simple, elegant decor of the restaurant. The walls are a golden-yellow color, while the window frames and columns are painted black. The table settings maintain this theme with black linens, dark yellow napkins, and candles.

After a few minutes of reading the menu, we both decided to order the Osso Buco- bone-in veal shank braised in a sherry and tomato sauce, served over saffron risotto. We both chose salads for our first course.

The salads were delivered to our table, along with warm baguette and garlic infused olive oil. The salad consisted of romaine hearts and mesclun greens, tossed in a flavorful and well-balanced balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Garlicky croutons were included as well. The olive dipping oil had a an unusually light flavor, enhanced by the garlic and herbs.

Upon finishing our salads, the main course appeared within the next 5 or 10 minutes. The veal shank sat on a bed of risotto with sauce cascading down the sides of the meat. Our forks were perfectly adequate in removing the meat from the bone. The meat was extremely tender. The risotto was cooked with cream and Parmesan cheese, infused with the golden color and bitter taste of saffron. The risotto was quite tasty.

For dessert, we decided to share the Lemon Genoise Cake and a cup of coffee. Layers of tender genoise, lemon curd, and whipped cream, gave this dessert a wonderful texture and composed flavor. The sourness of the lemon cut into the sweetness of the sugar, while providing a great counter balance to the rich cake. One of the best desserts we've had!

Overall, our experience at Caruso's was delightful. The service was friendly and polished, and the food matched with deep flavor and balance.

Visit their website to see the menu.

Caruso's Italian Cafe & Catering
5745 Inland Shores Way, Keizer OR

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just visited Caruso's for the first time. We were having an anniversary and thought it was a good excuse to make reservations at a place we'd heard so many good things about.

A couple of snafus initially with us being five minutes early to our reservation and our table still being occupied and us being brought in and out of the dining room to then wait in the foyer. However, our table was ready when the exact time of our reservation came up a few minutes later. A nice lake-view table, too. We had the advantage/disadvantage of the evening sun streaming through the window next to us... it was perfectly lovely, but it showed no grace to just exactly how unclean our wine glasses were. Water marks and runs and smudges. I work in a restaurant here in town at a much lower price-point than Caruso's and we wouldn't have let those glasses go out. It just didn't seem up to par at all with the rest of the restaurant... lovely ambiance overall. But my partner and I decided not to say anything and once the sun set, we honestly forgot about that.

The service was nice; knowledgeable and friendly, not overly intrusive. The food was just ok in my opinion. My partner really enjoyed his appetizer of almond-crusted oysters, and I my order of crab cakes (real crab... delicious), but our entrees were just ok. My rabbit came completely doused in a tomato sauce so that it was unrecognizable... could have been any meat under there. And tasted about like it could have been any meat -- I would venture to say that the tomato sauce (I also found two mushrooms in there) was a tad overpowering for the delicate rabbit. The bed of cheesy polenta it came on was delicious, but again overpowered by tomato.

My partner claimed his meal was equally just-ok. Neither of us were completely impressed but the food was not exactly disappointing either. Presentation left something to be desired. Portions were ample. Next time I would probably try a pasta dish as I assume they do those very well. Would love to see more "hand-made" in their pasta descriptions in favor of "imported".

We ordered a bottle of a house red blend that was on special for $15 -- great deal -- and it was actually really nice.

Another really nice touch was the chef coming by around 8 or so and thanking each table for coming in. It's great to meet the person who prepared your food, thank them, and know that they care that you're there.

We thought the pace of the meal was just right. Quick delivery of wine and apps, followed by salads and entrees just when we were ready for them, and we never found ourselves waiting too long.

I would add that their desserts sounded delicious, but we gave up sweets for Lent, and didn't partake.

All said, a perfectly acceptable experience -- beautiful restaurant, kind staff, extensive and well-thought out wine list, but not the most exciting food in town.