Caf?Citti has few of the amenities of upscale restaurants. If you order a glass of red wine, it comes in a glass tumbler. You have to get in line to order at the cash register. You'd think the place would easily slip under the radar of a hungry public, except it's a huge success. The food is that good.
The caf?was started 20 years ago by Luca and Linda Citti. Luca is from Tuscany and right away established his little Italian trattoria as one of Kenwood's fine restaurants. The list includes Swiss-French cuisine at The Kenwood Restaurant, Spanish and Mexican food at Vineyards Inn, and the eclectic menu at Doce Lunas, and with Cafe Citti makes a quartet of great places to eat in a tiny hamlet of just over a thousand souls.
The building looks like it just exhaled, with its slightly off-kilter framing and roof. Plate-glass windows face busy Route 12 just outside the front door. The kitchen is partitioned off from the dining area by a cold case filled with pastas and salads, and there's a patio on the north side of the building that, despite a remodel, is still a funky, fenced-in enclosure with tables and umbrellas for shade. The down-scale d?or led Guy Fieri to feature the place on his "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives" TV show, but all this well-worn charm stands in contrast to its food.
For locals, Caf?Citti has been a mainstay for the family too busy to cook, and its rotisserie chickens, tender young birds redolent of their rosemary stuffing ($9.95 ***), are legendary as delicious last-minute take-out.
For a modest sum, you can get a peak experience when you order Raviolini in Brodo ($6.95 ****). House-made raviolini -small ravioli - contain ground pork, Swiss chard and fresh herbs, and swim in light chicken stock with bits of herbs, a few small tomato dice, and a shake of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The pasta melts in the mouth and the broth is as delicate as a piece of fine Italian lace.
The nightly specials are always interesting. On a recent evening, the special antipasto was Gamberoni alla Diavola ($10.95 ***?), or deviled prawns. The cooks shell out five fat tiger prawns, de-vein and then saut?them in a sauce of onions, garlic, white wine, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil teased into a bright spiciness with crushed red pepper flakes. This antipasto comes with house-made bruschetta.
Luca's Garlicky Caesar ($6.50 **?) is your standard faux-Caesar salad, with chopped romaine, a creamy-pasty dressing and a filet of anchovy laid across the top. It's fresh, it's good and garlicky, but it's not really a Caesar salad.
If you have a weakness for good lasagna, your dreams will be realized at Caf?Citti. Luca's Tuscan Style Lasagna ($14.50 ****) is everything great lasagna should be. No oven-hardened or burnt edges to the pasta here, nothing but tender, golden sheets of melt-in-your-mouth pasta interspersed with layers of creamy bechamel and meaty, rich Bolognese sauces, all topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. I can't imagine how lasagna can be better than this.
A recent daily entr? special was Maltaglioti alla Funghi Porcini ($15.50 ***). Maltaglioti translates as "badly cut," and sure enough, the house-made pasta was cut into strips slightly less wide than pappardelle, but with the knife squiggled back and forth as it's drawn down the sheet of pasta to produce wavy edges. There's nothing bad about this pasta, however, except that it was cooked a click or two past al dente. Each wavy noodle was drenched in an impossibly delicious sauce made with porcini mushrooms, garlic, fragrant marsala wine and cream.