A fall feast

In case you missed it, here’s my review of Cantinetta Luca that appeared in Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald. I’ll be reposting my reviews and stories from my weekly column for the Herald here on my blog along with extra photos that didn’t appear in print.

Fall is probably my favorite season for food. As soon as the calendar flips to October, my mouth starts watering. The arrival of fall means pumpkin and squash galore at many restaurants.

After traveling for most of October, when I finally settled back into town this past weekend, a single thought was going through my mind: I must get some pumpkin ravioli.

The calling was too strong to resist, and I ventured into Carmel this weekend, joining my friend for a fall feast at Cantinetta Luca — famous around town for its pumpkin ravioli.

Cantinetta Luca's famous pumpkin ravioli is back on the menu for fall!

We started dinner with the burrata cheese appetizer ($9). The rich cheese — like a creamier mozzarella — was drizzled with olive oil and served with crostini.

Mmmmm. Burrata, quite possibly my favorite of cheeses!

This decadent appetizer is a must-order any time I’m dining at Cantinetta Luca. I didn’t even think twice about ordering it, completely forgetting that my dining companion was mildly lactose-intolerant. Oops. Of course, that turned out to be a blessing in disguise — more burrata for me!

The grilled octopus was a tad overcooked, but nicely seasoned.

We also ordered the grilled octopus, served with Calabrese salami and potatoes ($8). The octopus was a tad overcooked, but very flavorful. My friend and I both appreciated the touch of acidity in this dish.

Next, we split the arugula and roasted beet salad, served with shaved pears, aged goat cheese and pomegranate vinaigrette ($9).

The arugula and beet salad featured a unique combination of flavors.

I appreciated the sweet pear and pomegranate, which cut the bitterness of the arugula. The flavors were quite nice, but I wish there had been more beets in the salad.

The small bites were a nice start to dinner, but really it was the siren’s call of pumpkin ravioli that drew us over to Cantinetta Luca. Now, the question was whether we’d get just one plate to share or if we’d each order our own.

In the end, my friend ordered the pumpkin ravioli ($16), and promised to share a couple bites with me so I could try a second fall-inspired pasta dish — the chestnut rigatone ($17).

The chestnut rigatone was the epitome of fall flavors.

The chestnuts give this pasta a rich and slightly nutty flavor. Served with shredded duck confit, porcini mushrooms, squash and cipollini onions, this was a rich, savory plate of pasta — it was like eating a bowl of fall.

I saved my bites of pumpkin ravioli for last, knowing I’d want to savor that dreamy pumpkin pasta as long as possible.

Served with a prosciutto and sage brodo, then topped with toasted breadcrumbs, the pumpkin ravioli was everything I had dreamed of. Each bite was filled with a velvety smooth pumpkin puree, perfectly complemented by the rich brodo.

As stuffed as we were, we decided to continue our pumpkin feast with dessert — the pumpkin cake, with toasted pumpkin seeds, golden raisins and toasted cinnamon gelato ($5), sounded too good to resist.

The pumpkin cake was decent--but those toasted pumpkin seeds on top were superb!

The pumpkin seeds were a great touch, but, unfortunately, the texture of the raisins and the sweetness of the gelato clashed with the spiced pumpkin cake.

We also tried the chocolate torte, topped with crumbled hazelnuts and salted caramel gelato ($5). It was a nice sweet finish for dinner, but the crust was too thick and brittle.

We were a little disappointed that the desserts didn’t wow us as much as the savory selections. But then again, that pumpkin ravioli is a tough act to follow.

Now that we’ve moved into November, I can feel the brisk chill of fall in the air. I’m sure many more meals of that sweet and savory pumpkin ravioli will be in store at Cantinetta Luca.

Cantinetta Luca is located on Dolores Street, between Ocean and Seventh avenues, Carmel. 625-6500 or www.cantinettaluca.com.

This entry was posted in Herald, Off The Menu, Restaurants, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

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