A longtime favorite in Cape Coral is Ariani’s. They opened in their present location since 1989, that is 28 years of serving Northern Italian food in Cape Coral. They are known for not only great food but for the hospitality, jokes and singing of Chef Dario.
When we arrived, we were warmly greeted by the hostess who took us to our table. They tables are elegantly set with white table clothes, napkins, crystal glasses for wine. We just knew we were in for a wonderful experience. There are murals on several walls of his homeland on Istrian peninsula. Soft Italian music is playing in the background. The only signs of age the restaurant has is the carpeting as you can see the wear of the many patrons who have dined there over the years. The servers are all dressed in the formality of a fine dining restaurant yet they are warm, friendly and provide excellent service. The drinks are promptly refilled, they are quick to respond to your requests. They even use a table comb to comb away the crumbs after your meal and before dessert. Yet, despite the apparent formality, the atmosphere is casual, warm, welcoming and relaxed. Just what one needs for a great dining experience.
We started by having a bottle of wine Berringer Main and Vine Chardonnay. I am not a fan of Berringer but this one was surprisingly good. It is not an expensive wine by any means but light, smooth and well-balanced flavors.
For appetizers we chose the escargot ($9) and bruschetta. I adore escargot and Chef Dario’s special creation of the escargot served on crostinis with a light cream tarragon sauce did not disappoint. The bruschetta was a huge portion, easily enough for 2 people. One can tell they use all fresh ingredients which made it delicious.
We then moved onto the entrée’s. We ordered the Pork Medallions alla Florentine ($19) which 3 pork medallions, perfectly seasoned and grilled served over sautéed spinach, and finished with Italian prosciutto and melted fontina cheese. It also comes with a side of real mashed potatoes. There are no words to describe how delicious this was. It is over the top good.
My dining partner had the Chicken Schnitzel alla Ariani. What a treat they are. If you never had one, they are chicken cutlets lightly breaded, pan-fried and topped with sautéed mushrooms mix, and melted quattro formaggi cheese. What a heavenly delight they are. My dining partner opted for a side of pasta. The sauce is slightly sweet but otherwise extremely good.
We also had the side of bread that traditionally comes with all meals. My only suggestion is that this is such a fine establishment, the butter used should be served on a plate and not the little, self-open square cups placed in a bowl. It just does not fit with the rest of the atmosphere.
Dessert we opted for the Napoleon. It was so fresh and wonderful, just a perfect ending to a perfect meal.
While the food is certainly the star at Ariani’s, the real star is Chef Dario himself. He greets each table and one would think he knew each and every customer. At one point, he heard his staff singing happy birthday to a customer and he dashed over to join in. One does not just meet Chef Dario, he like his food is an experience.
Ariani’s is one restaurant that gets it right and that is why it is so popular. If you have not been there, put them on the top of your list of places to try. You won’t be disappointed.
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