We were looking for a place to meet friends with teens for dinner. Something that was not too fancy, not too expensive, and not too hard to find. We found it at D'Agnese's Trattoria and Cafe on White Pond, in Akron, OH. The physical location has housed various restaurants over the past ten years or so, including Jasper's AM, a mediocre Mexican restaurant, and at least one other, the name of it long forgotten - all closed and re-opened now under new ownership and new name. D'Agnese's Trattoria is a sister restaurant to the Tomato Grill in Hudson, the Bistro in Bath, and Nina's in Broadview Heights. The Bistro has never let me down with the quality of food they offer, so we suggested D'Agnese's to friends, sight unseen, wine untasted.
The last time we were at this location, it was a really bad Mexican restaurant (sorry, not just medicre, but really bad). Everything was oversalted, and the only way their food was made edible was by the consumption of mass quantities of beer or margaritas. It featured the typical pseudo-Mexican decorations that Americans have come to expect: Sombreros and serapes on the wall (like any self-respecting Mexcian would do that with their clothes. Do American-style restaurants hang Ralph Lauren clothes or Calvin Klein underwear on the walls? Of course not. Yet, for some reason, Mexican garb has become wall decorations in US-Mexican restaurants. But I digress.)
Everything about D'Agnese's has been overhauled, beginning with the exterior signage, and extending into the interior room arrangement, bar set-up and decor. With its casual yet upscale atmosphere, this restaurant, at first glance, appeared to be the right choice for our group.There's even an outdoor patio for dining and imbibing, though it was too warm for our party to consider it that eveing.
Having previewed the menu online, I already knew what I wanted to order. I just had to wait for our waiter to go through the evening specials so that I might not appear too eager or rude around my guests.
Beets were on the menu and I love beets, so I knew beets were going to be a part of tonight's meal. They offered a roasted beet salad, which featured crispy fresh mesculin greens, carmelized walnuts, squash, roasted and sliced beets, goat cheese and a sweet balsamic vinagrette. The ingredients were more appropriate for a fall salad, but I was determined to have my beets! When the salad arrived, I was really shocked by the size of the salad. I expected it to come on a salad plate. Instead, it filled an entire dinner plate. This might make enjoying my dinner a little more difficult.
Crusty and warm Italian bread was served, right before the entrees arrived. And yes, I had ordered the house favorite. Sometimes you'll go places and the house favorite is some bizarre or goofy mish-mash of foods that you might usually love individually, but some chef decides to mix them all together and call them the "special", so I'm not always a fan of a restaurant's specialty. Then other times, you just have to try the specialty anyway. In this case, the Chicken D'Agnese was really Chicken Piccata with artichoke hearts and tomatoes thrown in for good measure.
This too was a feast for the palate. The chicken had been pan-seared and sauteed to a crispy yet succulent finish, with browned edges and a white interior. After plating the chicken, the chef arranged wilted arugula, artichoke hearts, tomatoes and capers on top, then brought all the flavors together by topping it all with their delicious signature lemon butter sauce. Heavy sigh. The aroma of butter and lemon and garlic and tomato wafted upwards from my plate, begging me to cut in and enjoy every morsel. The meal was truly large enough for two after that immense salad, so I couldn't finish it all - though every fiber of my taste buds begged me to take just one more bite.