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La Casetta’s garden bounty on full display in its dishes

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La Casetta's Limoncello Cake.

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Christina Ruotolo

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

If you’re looking for a reason to get out of town to enjoy a great meal, drive 10 minutes down N.C. 11 and enjoy authentic Italian flavor at La Casetta Restaurant, 7434 N. Main St., Bethel.

Owners Joe and Angela Amato, originally from southern Italy, have been running the restaurant for more than 15 years. They have taken their family favorite recipes from their motherland, bringing you authentic taste and an international food experience in a downhome, inviting environment.

“When we moved to North Carolina from Sicily, we brought more than just luggage,” Joe Amato said. “We brought all the delicious recipes handed down from generation to generation as well as our Italian ways. So come by and become part of the family.”

Spring and summer are the perfect times to taste the garden’s bounty, and, at La Casetta, the bounty is plentiful. The Amatos grow their own vegetables on the family farm, including authentic Italian vegetables from seeds imported from Italy. They grow sweet basil, parsley, zucchini, Roma tomatoes and even an Italian eggplant which is round, lavender-purple in color with a sweet flavor. The taste you get here is farm to table.

They also make handcrafted pastas and ravioli, bake Italian bread daily and offer dishes with unique pairings and flavor combinations.They even make their own sausage.

Let’s start with a delicious appetizer, the Buffalo Bruschetta. Start with toasted Italian baguettes and add a dollop of Buffalo mozzarella cheese and a spoonful of a marinated mix of tomatoes, basil, oil and spices. Top the dish with baby balsamic pearls.This dish had classic Italian flavors to brighten your mood and your food palette.

Next, I tried the Salmon with Capers. This is one of the current manager specials and starts with an 8-ounce salmon fillet that has been slow cooked in a skillet in a broth made with sherry wine, capers, mushrooms, onions and tomatoes. For those who are not sure about capers, they remind me of a cross between a salty olive and a pickle. The Salmon was flaky, mild, a tad sweet and fork tender. It was nestled in a delicate, yet flavorful broth that was savory with the onion and wine and then, you get a briny bite from the capers. This dish is $17.99 and comes with bread and a garden salad.

No Italian restaurant would be complete without glorious pasta.Handmade pasta is much softer than store-bought pasta, and it allows the sauce to melt into it, making both the sauce and pasta creamy.

The Gemelli Joe pasta dish combines handmade pasta with a deep-flavored sauce. Add a bowl full of handmade little gemelli pasta, top it with a rich slow-cooked sauce made with in-house ground pork, pepper, salt, Merlot wine and Bay leaves. The sauce is topped with a dusting of Parmesan cheese. It was savory and filling for $16.99 and comes with a house salad and warm bread.

Add a glass of my favorite Italian wine, the Parolvini Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo. This garnet-colored wine has notes of morel cherry and was full-bodied yet, soft, mellow and warm with dry hints. A glass is $6.

Another pasta with personality that scores high points for flavor is the Fusilli Bruschetta with Shrimp. This dish combines the same intense flavors of the Buffalo Bruschetta with pasta. Start with twirly fusilli pasta and mix it with a pesto broth made with fresh basil, garlic, oil, sherry wine and large shrimp. The dish was super pretty, a summer time postcard filled with flavor and class. The shrimp were superior sized and succulent and tasted like scampi with their herb and oil drizzle. The pasta was al dente and the broth was light, like drinking in a summer day. This dish costs $14.50 and comes with a garden salad and bread.

This dish pairs nicely with the Sangue di Giuda sparkling red wine. This sweet, bubbly wine was jammy and vibrant. It’s made with 60 percent Croatina, 30 percent Barbera, and 10 percent Uva Rara and a great after dinner choice or pairs nicely with this pasta dish. A glass is $6.

The restaurant has imported and domestic beer including Italian beers Moretti and Peroni, sparkling, white, blush and red wines. Prices range from $4-$25.

All entrees come with a basket of their homemade Italian white bread made with semolina flour, dusted with sesame seeds and served with European butter.

If you don’t know what you are in the mood for when you come, just ask for the “secret menu.” Trust the Amatos to make you something delicious, and they will prepare you a tailored entree with Italian pizzazz. Prices for the secret menu vary. Now that the weather is nice, enjoy any one of these delectable meals at one of the restaurant’s patio dining tables under an umbrella.

Let’s end on a sweet note. All of La Casetta’s desserts are scratch-made from the Cassata Siciliana, Sfogliatella, cakes pies, cannolis and cheesecake. I tried the Limoncello Cake. Limoncello is an Italian liquor made with lemons and clear liquor (grappa). This dessert starts with two layers of vanilla sponge cake that is filled with a luscious limoncello crème made with fresh whipping cream, Limoncello, and mascapone cheese. It was dreamy and divine anytime. Enjoy a single slice for $4.99 or buy an entire cake for $50.

Grab your friends, hop in the car and check out La Casetta in Bethel or choose carry-out or catering options. For more information, follow La Casetta on Facebook, Instagram, visit the website www.lacasettaitalianrestaurant.com or call 825.6699. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

China 10

China 10, 1904 E. Fire Tower Road, will offer a Mother’s Day buffet from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday. The menu includes scallion chicken, Hakka beef stew, honey shrimp, pad Thai curry chicken, garlic Japanese eggplant, broccoli and snow peas stir-fry, veggie drunken noodles, veggie spring rolls, three soup options, walnut and honey wontons, fresh fruits and assorted desserts. Cost is $11.95 for adults and $7.95 for kids. For reservations, call 830-2238.

Bone Appetit

The Humane Society of Eastern Carolina (HSEC) will host a Bone Appetit fundraising event from 5-9 p.m. Monday at Chipotle, 610 S.E. Greenville Blvd. Fifty percent of all food and drink sales will be donated to HSEC. Write “for HSEC” on the receipt and alert the server. Visit www.hsecarolina.org.

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