My sister, bless her, gave us a gift certificate to Café Caturra this past year. We decided to try the one on Alverser last night.
The evening started off rocky. We entered, saw folks eating, and waited to figure out the protocol. What looked like a menu graced the counter where the cash register and a young woman donning an apron stood. She finally asked what we wanted (no real welcome). We told her we wanted to have dinner. She then pointed to a menu on the wall, which we had not seen. Apparently, we were supposed to order at the register and then find a table. The menu on the counter happened to be a wine menu. Okay, so we craned our necks and figured out what we wanted between choices of paninis, sandwiches, and salads. The wine menu contained 6 reds and 6 whites. The wine we ordered could not be found in the register. She also mistook our saying Petit Verdot for Merlot. In a flustered huff she went to find a manager-type to assist (no real ‘excuse me, I’ll be right back’). Once we got the orders straight and sat down to wait, she could not even pick us out of a small place to give us our order. This person even went to the outside patio to try to deliver our sandwiches (it was 50 degrees – no one was outside). We did observe that the rest of the staff seemed to have a pleasant and service-oriented demeanor. But one bad apple had the potential to spoil our evening.
We both had ordered paninis. I ordered the Cured Prosciutto Panini with fresh mozzarella and fire roasted red peppers. The prosciutto was surprisingly tough and did not impart the saltiness that I expected. While the sandwich was decent, I would be inclined to try other items next time. My husband had the Cuban Pork Panini. Now, let’s face it, a Cuban sandwich will always be the one at Kuba Kuba until I travel to Cuba. And this sandwich did not resemble the Kuba Kuba variety in the least. But it was a great tasting sandwich. The pork was smoked and the pickles were sweet. A great combination along with the provolone cheese. This reminded us more of a Southside Virginia version of a Cuban sandwich. Both were accompanied by chips with hints of rosemary or lemon pepper.
The wine selection did come across as sparse. The reds generally ranged between $20-30 and featured a Sicilian, Cotes du Rhone, Bordeaux, Chilean, Argentinean, and Australian. All selections could also be ordered by the glass. And we may have considered ordering by the glass if we had known that the Café had a fantastic wine preservation system. Not even upscale places invest in these babies. Very impressive. If only we had been informed. Anyway, we ordered the most unusual from our perspective – 2005 Deen de Bartoli Vat 4 Petit Verdot from Southeast Australia. Upon the first taste the wine wavered all over. Heavy body; tart, bright fruit. And every taste was separated. No smooth melding of flavors. But as we got some air into the red liquid (Caturra used large 14 ounce glasses, thank goodness), the elements all came together and could pair well even with smoked pork and sweet pickles. At the end we were touting the wine as containing a blackberry body with a raspberry fruitiness.
I was pleased that our evening ended on such a happy note after a very tenuous beginning. I hope that more wine selections will be added in the future. I look forward to trying some white wine by the glass.