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Does anyone realize that North Carolina and other states take children away from parents who are charged with doing...

La Casetta offers authentic Italian cuisine

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La Casetta's Gemelli Della Nonna.

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Christina Ruotolo

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Sometimes the best restaurants can be found in little houses on the outskirts of larger towns. One such restaurant, La Casetta Italian Restaurant, can be found at 7434 N. Main St. in the heart of Bethel. Moments after you walk in and take a seat, you automatically feel as if you just came home to your parents’ house. You will enjoy a family-centered, reasonably priced dinner in an inviting atmosphere.

Owners Joe and Angela Amato, originally from southern Italy, have been running the restaurant for 15 years. Even their children, Salvatore “Sal” and Annalisa, work at the restaurant when not in school.

You can choose from handmade pastas, fresh vegetables and meat creations and handcrafted dishes that bring international flavors directly to your table.

The Amatos grow their own vegetables on the family farm, using imported Italian seeds to grow the same vegetables that are found in the fields of Italy. They grow sweet basil, parsley, zucchini, Roma tomatoes and an Italian eggplant that is round, lavender purple in color with a sweet, soft flavor. They also partner with local farms such as Carolina Country Fresh to provide additional produce. They make handcrafted pastas and raviolis, bake Italian bread daily and offer dishes with unique pairings and flavor combinations. They even make their own sausage.

La Casetta’s large menu features appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, pizza, strombolis and lunch and dinner specials. It also includes imported and domestic beer as well as sparkling, white, blush and red wines. Prices range from $5-$20. All entrees come with a basket of homemade Italian white bread served with European butter. The restaurant also offers a children’s menu.

Dinner specials, including Fusilli Arcobaleno, Penne Palermitana and Veal Scaloppine in Agrodolce, are entrees taken straight from their family in Italy. There also is a “secret menu,” for those who are feeling adventurous or want to come in, sit down and enjoy good food without having to decide what to order. Prices vary.

La Casetta’s Veggie Manicotti is stuffed with spinach, mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini and peas, then topped with mozzarella cheese and homemade tomato sauce and baked until the cheese is hot and bubbly. The vegetables were fresh and vibrant. This dish costs $9.50.

An authentic Sicilian Italian dish is the Gemelli Della Nonna. This is a recipe that has been passed down from their Italian grandma, hence the name “Nonna,” which means grandmother in Italian. They start with a homemade twirled-style pasta called Gemelli. Pair the pasta with a slightly spicy homemade sausage and sweet Italian eggplant and top it with a homemade sauce and Parmesan cheese. It’s served on a large wooden plate that Joe made himself. You set the dish in the middle of the table and eat it family style. You get a soft creamy bite from the pasta, a sweet flavor from the eggplant and a bit of spice from the sausage. The sauce is flavorful and evenly balanced, not acidic like some sauces can be. This dish costs $16.99 and comes with a house salad. This dish pairs well with Tasca Regaleali Nero D’Avola, a Sicilian red wine.

The Chicken Martino features pan-fried lightly breaded chicken tenderloins served over potatoes and ham and topped with a creamy white nutmeg sauce. Slice a piece of the chicken and hidden under the creamy sauce is a half of a baked potato layered with a thin slice of ham. The chicken sits on top of that, so when you take a bite, you taste the mellow, smooth potato, the salty ham, the savory chicken and the creamy and buttery sauce with that warm note of nutmeg and pepper running through it. This dish is $13.99.

In the Salmon Alfredo, a salmon filet is stuffed it with Italian ricotta cheese and spinach, baked and topped with a creamy pesto sauce. The salmon was perfectly cooked, and the fresh pesto sauce was made with the basil leaves from the family garden. It’s priced at $16.99 and comes with a child’s spaghetti or house salad.

No Italian meal would be complete without dessert. All of La Casetta’s desserts are scratch-made. Choices include Italian cookies, Cassata Siciliana, spumoni, sfogliatella, cakes, pies, cannolis and cheesecake. I tried Angela’s tiramisu.  It was decadent and divine with its spongy layers of espresso-soaked ladyfingers, sweet, creamy mascarpone cheese and its delicate dusting of cocoa and powdered sugar. Cost is $3.99.

La Casetta is open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays. Call 825-6699, visit the website www.lacasettaitalianrestaurant.com or follow on Facebook and Instagram.

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