Fiore II

December 29 had to be the coldest day of the year. It was 16 degrees with a fierce wind when Anna and I went shopping at 11:30 a.m. It was still 16 with somewhat less wind when she and I ventured out to dinner that night. (Larry had a meeting which included food, so he was all set.)

Central Connecticut had warmed to a balmy 19 the next day. Of course we’re tough New Englanders, and we can handle it. Temps were still warmer than the 5 below Anna left in Colorado and whatever it was at the Minneapolis airport on Christmas Day.

After all the excitement during lunch, (See ‘There’s a Tree in the Pool’) it was a relief to step into a warm and comforting and very traditional Italian restaurant. A place called Fiore has been on the site for years, but recently it expanded and now calls itself Fiore II. I knew I’d like the place when I saw on the top of the menu a quote from Louis Pasteur, “A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine.” (I omitted some extraneous punctuation and capital letters.)

Fiore’s waitstaff is all male and appears to be Italian or maybe Albanian. The menu reflects southern Italian roots. No beef because there wasn’t much room to graze cattle, but lots of chicken, seafood, veal, and plenty of vegetarian selections. And there are only two items on the dinner menu that cost more that $20.

We started with a wooden bowl rubbed with garlic and olive oil containing crescent rolls that were toasty warm, always a good sign. The waiter informed us that all the red wines on the list complement the restaurant’s red sauces, marinara and meat, so Anna ordered chianti, and I ordered cabernet sauvignon. Having had a few mouth curdling experiences with chianti, I’m reluctant to try it again. Anna reported Fiore’s version was good, so I may venture a taste on the next visit.

We both ordered Baked Spinach Manicotti which comes with marinara sauce. Preceding it was a small salad of romaine and iceberg lettuce, a couple of grape tomatoes and black olives, a slice or two of red onion. Just enough and not large enough to overwhelm.

The wait between courses is fairly long because they prepare everything “from scratch” and explain the menu that “patience is a virtue.” But they seemed to bring bread to the other tables as often as people wanted it.

The pasta “tubes” when they arrived were so huge I could only eat one. Each had healthy quantities of spinach and ricotta packed inside and the entire affair was topped with parsley that hadn’t completely melted into the rest of the dish. The sauce was an excellent balance of sharp and savory. It seemed redundant to have Parmesan on top, but a little brightened the flavors. All in all, our meal was the perfect antidote to winter cold and the trauma of the backyard devastation.

On my next trip, I intend to try the Eggplant Fiore because I love vodka sauce. Also on the horizon, the calamari, because its preparation is always an indication of a restaurant’s true colors. Maybe I’ll venture to Calamari Fra Diavolo, since I love the shrimp version. And on another trip the un-Italian Sole Française just because I’m curious.

To wrap up Anna’s visit, we hung around during the a.m. on Wednesday, a bit worried about how much of a delay she might have despite reports that Bradley was only busier because of holiday traffic. We decided to leave so that she’d be at the terminal two hours ahead. That worked well, though we got slowed just outside Hartford, and it took me forever to get home because there were two bad accidents on the interstate. Anna reported in the next a.m. that her flights were without incident. The only hitch was that the plane from Hartford to Cincinnati was tiny – two rows of seats on one side and one on the other.

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