For my birthday dinner, SP & I decided to try Arlecchino in McMurray. Arlecchino used to be The Classroom restaurant, and before becoming a restaurant, the building was Thompson School House and I think I saw a stone on the outside of the building with the year 1907 & Thompsonville engraved on it. Arlecchino opened in October 2011 and is a 'sister restaurant' of Alla Famiglia in the Allentown section of Pittsburgh.
Our reservations were for 6:30 pm and even though we were a bit early, we were seated right away. I really liked the atmosphere. It was cozy, but the tables weren't too close together and you couldn't overhear nearby conversations. There was music, but it wasn't too loud. It looked like there was a bar area upstairs.
I really enjoy visiting/dining in old buildings and often wish that we could live in an old home, a home older than our home, one with a lot of history and all those wonderful old characteristics. I kept looking around, imagining this as as a school, remembering that the first house my parents bought in Peters Twp. was on Thompsonville Road, that the restaurant is very near to my parents' second house, the one I think of as the house in which I grew up.
I do not know much about Italian wines, so I was going to order the only white I recognized, a sauvignon blanc, but unfortunately they did not have the sauvignon blanc that evening. Our server suggested two other whites and brought me a tasting of each. I settled on one, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico. I can't remember much about the taste, other than I really liked it, which means it wasn't too sweet, and it had a nice fruity taste but not overly fruity. Verdicchio is the grape, a yellow-green grape from central Italy. The producer is Garofoli.
Our server brought warm bread while we pondered our appetizer options. A dark brown, pumpernickel like bread and a white bread. Both were quite good. There was a plate of olive oil for dipping, but since I could see the garlic in it, I didn't dip.
SP dipped, and he said it was delicious.
We decided to start with one of the appetizers our server suggested: the Smoked Provolone with black winter truffles, arugula, and parmesan. The cheese is seared on a hot griddle so it has a lovely browned, crunchy exterior while the interior is ooey and gooey and delicious. The arugula and truffles add a nice extra flavor so it's not like you're just eating melted cheese, which is, of course, to me, quite delicious, but even more delicious when eaten with an additional ingredient/flavor like this. There were two triangular wedges, which was just enough as we munched on the bread.
The meals come with a salad. Mixed greens, beets, sunflower seeds, raisins, goat cheese, and a red wine vinegar dressing that has garlic in it, so our server brought me small ramekins of balsamic vinegar and olive oil so I could dress my salad as desired. The goat cheese was melted and drizzled. I don't normally enjoy beets or raisins, but with the greens and goat cheese they were quite tasty, plus they were not so abundant as to be overpowering. It was definitely a nice portion size. I didn't finish my entire salad, but SP finished it for me. I can almost always count on him to finish any leftover vegetable part of a meal!
The 'meat/fish' entrees also come with a side of pasta; the pasta entrees do not. Fusilli with Vodka Sauce. Spirals of fresh pasta, quite delicate, in a delicious sauce with fresh basil on top. The pasta is served with a bottle of chili oil so that you can spice it up as you wish. I did not spice, SP did spice his up a bit. We each ate about half because we wanted to save room for our meals.
SP's main meal: Sea Bass with arugula, lump crab, and a white butter sauce. He said it was delicious. I can never get much more out of him than that! The piece of fish was huge. He ate all the crab chunks and half the fish.
My main meal: Cottoletta del Monzu - scallopini of veal finished with fresh mozzarella, colossal lump crab, arugula, and toasted pine nuts. Oh my gosh. I think this is the best veal scallopini I've ever had at a restaurant. The veal was not too thin, it was a very nice thick scallopini, which means that it didn't dry out/get tough like very thin veal can. I don't know if it was the quality of the veal or the quality of the cooking, but this is the first time I've had such tender and moist veal scallopini. The coating on the veal was delicious. There were three large scallopini. I ate one plus all of the giant chunks of crab and most of the arugula then took the rest home.
Part of our strategy of not eating all the pasta and all of our main meals was to save room for dessert and not leave feeling overly stuffed. We definitely had just enough room for some after dinner coffee and a piece of tiramisu. It was a raspberry and toasted almond tiramisu. The thing I like about tiramisu, aside form it's delicious flavor, is that it seems a lighter dessert, lighter than a piece of pie or a scoop of ice cream or a piece of rich and decadent chocolate cake or a piece of cheesecake.
This was light and delicious and full of a not overly sweet and cloying raspberry flavor as well as lots of toasted almonds. I think I like this raspberry tiramisu better than traditional tiramisu. We ate it all.
Which means we failed to depart not overly stuffed!
So, full disclosure, PM gave us a gift card for Arlecchino as a thank you for SP fixing some computer issues for her last spring. One of PM's two children works at Arlecchino and was our server for the evening. One could argue that our service was so great because we knew our server, but remember that we enjoy people watching and seeing what other people order, and it seemed to us that all the servers were quite good. Friendly, not too formal, offering recommendations on food and wine.
Given Arlecchino's price point, this is a 'special occasion' place for us (birthday, anniversary, etc.).
I was a little apprehensive going in because of some comments and reviews on sites like Urbanspoon and Yelp. We both are quite surprised by some of the negative comments. Some people complained about the price, but given that the salad and pasta side are included in the price at Arlecchino while other places charge separately, I'm a little confused. If you figure out an a la carte price for a side salad and a side of pasta at a more upscale restaurant in the area and subtract it from the cost of our entrees, the entree prices are in line with those at other similar restaurants. Our bill, for an appetizer, 2 meals with salad and pasta sides, dessert, and one beer was $117 plus tax plus tip. The bottle of wine was a gift from PM to us and thus not included in our bill. When I looked at the wine list, the price per glass of wine seemed to be the usual. It seemed to us that Arlecchino was as much as when we dine at Wild Rosemary, Eleven, Bistro 19, or Casbah and can also depend of how much, if any, liquor one orders.
I also saw some comments about the bare wood tables, but when we went, all the tables were covered with white table cloths and we received fresh utensils for each course.
Arlecchino is definitely a restaurant to which we will return and it's a place I would suggest to my parents the next time they are in town.