In fact, I was apparently their first customer on their first official day open. I stopped by the truck during their regular Friday evening gig at Dutch Bros. on Milwaukee, and since they were still setting everything up I used the time to thoroughly study the menu.
|Updated menu, as of 8/9/13|
Since my last take-out pasta experience had been a little underwhelming, my attention was drawn to the two pork-based sandwich options: the meatball sandwich referred to as the Brad, and the char-broiled pork patty sandwich called the Rubino. At that time the menu didn't have a lot of details on it, so I asked for some clarification and was told that the former was a standard meatball sandwich, while the latter basically consisted of a giant meatball, smashed down like a burger patty and topped with spinach and peppers. Both are finished with sauce and provolone. The standard meat and cheese style of meatball sandwich isn't my favorite thing in the world, but it is the classic, and according to the man running the show it was the item that rated the highest when they were developing the menu. So, I ordered a Brad, paid (making sure to give a single in case they wanted to do the whole framing of the first dollar thing), and waited for my order to come up.
My food was ready in fairly short order, which was nice because the people who showed up after me ordered the pasta toss, and watching that made was getting me jealous. The Brad, as I said before, is your basic meatball sandwich: meat, cheese, bread, sauce. The quality of the respective items is what elevated it. The bread is a rosemary-studded foccacia, soft and light as a pillow. The sauce comes from a 150 year-old recipe, a fact the proprietor tossed out casually as he handed my sandwich to me, and I was amazed by how perfectly balanced it is. The provolone was wonderfully melty and had a surprisingly strong flavor. The star of the dish was definitely the meatballs though. I don't even remember how many there were, because I was just too busy enjoying them. Just a little spicy, densely packed, juicy on the inside and beautifully seared on the outside. The way the sandwich is made, with a hollow being cut in one side of the bread and then packed with meatballs, leaves a heel on the other side for mopping up any leftover sauce with. I enjoyed it, but to be honest I kept finding myself craving peppers, maybe some onions. I've already been lectured about this by a purist, but I can't help what I like.
My second visit was during the National Night Out festivities and brought me to, of all things, Cloverdale Memorial Park. I had both of my roommate's kids with me, which was nice since the event was kind of family geared. All in all, the experience was pretty surreal. There were a couple of giant inflatables for the kids to play in, several informational tables dealing with everything from catering to free Bibles, a classic car show, a raffle, a band, a selection of games and activities like you'd find at a church picnic, and a short row of food vendors a literal stone's throw away from the graves themselves. Oh, and there's a pen with a few freaking reindeer in it that the funeral home apparently rents out for the holidays. The mind boggles. Anyway, the children had eaten a rather large lunch at The Olive Garden earlier in the day, so they weren't particularly peckish. I ordered a pasta toss this time, choosing fettuccine, marinara sauce and all the veggies on hand, which if I recall correctly was zucchini, yellow squash, onions and a selection of peppers. After a moment's thought, I tacked on an order of bruschetta and a Bucksnort root beer as well. I sent the kids next door to snag smoothies from the Maui Waui stand, and by the time they were back my food was ready.
I grabbed a couple of extra forks in case the kids wanted to try the bruschetta, but I don't know what I was thinking. They have the typical childhood suspicion of vegetables and there were a LOT of them here. As in you couldn't even see the bread. They refused to try the dish (and I didn't even mention the goat cheese!), which was fine with me because once I tasted it I got greedy. The balsamic was amazing and the goat cheese was some of the best I've ever had, not overwhelmingly pungent and perfectly melt-in-your-mouth creamy.
|Fettuccine and marinara pasta toss|
It was much easier to talk them into trying the pasta, and they were soon sitting across from me and helping themselves to it, which I didn't mind at all because this was way too much food for someone who had already eaten a very generous appetizer. I don't know a lot about fresh pasta, but if you held a gun to my head and asked me to guess, I'd say that this stuff was fresh. The noodles were wide, thin, delicate and perfectly coated with sauce. The veggies themselves were generously but judiciously applied. Of all the things I've tried, this will probably be my go-to dish, which is kind of surprising considering the lack of animal protein. Perhaps in the future you'll be able to add on some meat for a little extra money. Some sausage would go great with this.
Yesterday I caught up with them again at Dutch Bros., and this time I was picking up eats for several more people. I had originally planned on trying the pasta tossed with olive oil and herbs, but since my mother and one of my roomie's kids had requested that, I figured I'd just sample theirs. I ordered a Rubino for myself, and an order of spaghetti and meatballs for the younger child.
The spaghetti is definitely a safe dish for the non-adventurous types. The noodles are good, you get that wonderfully balanced sauce, and of course some of those amazing meatballs. During the twenty minute car ride, the cheese had melted down into the noodles and and turned the whole thing into a gooey, delicious mess. The six year-old really dug it, shared a little with my niece, and still had plenty left over for lunch this afternoon.
|Linguine, olive oil and herb pasta toss|
The drive wasn't as kind to the pasta tosses. The olive oil had settled into pools at the bottom of the containers, and the large amount of Parmesan cheese melting down into the noodles in this case had congealed the whole thing into a huge mass that had to be cut with a fork. Still very yummy though. You just can't go wrong with pasta, sauteed veggies and cheese.
Speaking of sauteed veggies and cheese, take a look at that hot, beautiful mess right there. This is hands-down my second favorite dish from Cacicia's, and a close second at that. A massive, charbroiled pork patty severed on ciabatta bread with lots of sauce, melty provolone, sauteed peppers and spinach. This thing was so big that I had to remove it from the box before I could take a picture of it. The patty has to be 1/3, maybe even 1/2 a pound. The ciabatta stands up to the sauce much better than the Brad's foccacia, but I still chose to attack this monstrosity with a fork because any other method seemed like it could become dangerously messy.
|Inside the Rubino|
I guess "Rubino" does have a nicer ring to it than "giant Italian pork burger", but that's basically what you're getting here. If you're looking for meat, sheer mass, the most flavor, and the best general bang for your buck, this is the dish you want to try.
Cacicia's may be new to the scene, but they're definitely coming out swinging. They've got steady gigs, they're making the rounds at the farmer's markets and various events, and they will soon have a presence in the Dhondalicious co-op on Fairview. I cannot recommend enough that you check this place out. Personally, I'd go out for Italian a lot more if there were restaurants serving food like this, rather than the conceptual dishes and flavorless standards that you find most places. My recommendation is to eat it while it's as fresh as possible. Seriously, pull up some curb or lawn space and dig in. Sunlight definitely helps the pictures, too...
|Another look at my favorite dish|
Food: Classic Italian comfort food, flavorful, balanced and delicious. Not any sides at the moment. A
Value: The portions are substantial and nothing on the menu costs more than seven bucks. A+
Service: Super friendly people, and they love what they do. A+
Atmosphere: Depends on where they're parked. N/A
Final Grade: A+