Thursday, January 25, 2007

Dining critic candidate No. 33

Okay. I love cheesy, doughy food. So naturally visions of calzones and pizzas wander through my head often. I’ve spent a good many years searching for the perfect pie and found near perfection on a family trip to New York City. Alas, a bit far to go for a slice, but happily we found an Italian restaurant here in town that almost rivals New York City.

The restaurant in question is Rotelli’s. We found Rotelli’s on a recent trip to a new grocery store strip mall on the corner of Centennial and Fillmore (just east of Coronado High School). Their neon sign was intriguing, beckoning us to come in. So in we went.

It’s not your typical Italian restaurant with checkered tablecloths and dim lights. No, you won’t find Tony Soprano there; it’s a bit too contemporary and well lit. The layout is open, yet a private feel still prevails. Golden yellow walls are backdrops for more modern Italian artwork.

From the moment we walked in we felt at home. The host was friendly and had us at our table right away. Our delightful waitress, Hope, was very helpful in our quest for a great meal.

Even though they serve mixed drinks, beer and wine, we were in the mood for fresh brewed iced tea. Judging from the surrounding tables, I’d say their Chianti was a popular choice.

Because we had never been there before we scoured the menu to see which items would tempt our taste buds. It was decided that our entrée decision making would be much easier if we had crispy calamari to munch on. In no time at all a mound of fried calamari was sitting between us. It was very flavorful, but a little chewy. If you set your great calamari benchmark at Carrabas, then you might be a bit disappointed.

For me, reading the menu was strictly informational. Before I even walked in my mind was set on Calzone. I was not disappointed! At a reasonable $8.99 I was served a Calzone that could have easily served two people (that is if you were in a sharing mood!) As it was served all I could see was the glistening, garlic-kissed butter drizzled over a heaping mound of soft dough. Slits cut into the top served as windows to give you a glimpse of good things to come. Sitting mightily on its platter the Calzone is so puffy it just might explode. With that first cut a savory blend of three cheeses stream out like lava. And the best part…you didn’t have to order extra cheese! It’s already there! The mixtures of cheeses are creamy and a delight to the taste buds. Suddenly a new taste is introduced – sausage – thinly sliced, mildly spicy, distinctively Italian sausage.

My dining companion went along another taste route. He chose the Rotelli Sampler Plate. Wise choice when visiting a restaurant for the first time. A Caesar salad and delightfully fresh garlic rolls came with his meal. The lettuce was fresh and crisp, covered with a good amount of tart, garlic infested Caesar dressing. The parmesan was abundant, and there was a good crouton to lettuce ratio. The croutons lacked a garlic flavor, much to my dismay. We noticed on more than a couple of tables were salads served in bread bowls. They looked to be either the Warm Spinach Salad, or the Malibu Chopped Salad with avocado, grilled chicken, bacon, tomatoes, red onions and mozzarella cheese.

Meatballs, sausage, Eggplant Rollatine (eggplant rolled and filled with blended cheeses covered in tomato basil sauce) and ravioli adorned the Sampler plate. The sausage is the same one I raved about in the Calzone. Yum! The meatballs and ravioli were good, as was the eggplant dish. The sequencing was a bit off as far as preparation; the Sampler plate was a little tepid, probably cooling off while waiting for the Calzone to cook. The signature marinara sauce was rather bland. Not much in the way of seasonings. The sauce almost hindered the taste of the food. All in all a good dish with ample portions ($13.99).

Needless to say we were stuffed by the end of our entrees. But, what’s a meal without dessert? It was a hard choice to make. After all, who can resist tiramisu or Chocolate Decadence, especially when they have pictures of these culinary delights on the menu? Yet that Crème Brule cheesecake was calling my name. Hmm, a midnight snack perhaps? Yes, it was. The cheesecake was very good, except I didn’t taste Crème Brule. The strawberry sauce covering the cheesecake rather dominated the flavor, but in a good way.

In summary, Rotelli’s is a wonderful choice for families, dates and hanging with friends. I wouldn’t call it a special occasion restaurant, but I don’t think that’s what they’re shooting for. The menu is varied in choices and price. They have a good selection of pastas, pizzas, chicken, seafood and veal dishes, and, vegetarians would come back for more. They also serve sandwiches. Kids even have a good variety on their menu. Prices range from $5.99 to $16.99.

Oh! For you early eaters…Rotelli’s has an early bird menu from four to six in the evening. This looks like a good value. And if it’s pizza value you’re looking for, Tuesday night at Rotelli’s is for you.

Here are some handy statistics:

Address: 3240 Centennial Blvd., Ste 100 in Colorado Springs and a second location in Monument at 15910 Jackson Creek Pkwy.

Phone: Colorado Springs 520-5600 – Monument 484-0011

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

Plastic: Of course

Checks: No

Liquor: Wine, beer and the basic mixed drinks.

Child dinning: They have their own menu items.

Vegetarian friendly: They would not starve here.

Handicap accessible: Yes – one level dining.

Parking: Plenty in the parking lot right out front.

Delivery: Yes, within a five mile radius and $15.00 minimum order.

Reservations: For parties of six or more.


Anonymous Brenna in Boulder said...

This is an excellent critique; very thorough and informative. I like your style #33, and I would also like to check out the pizza at Rotelli's!

9:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Out of all the other wonderful critiques I must say that #33 out does the rest. The tone is informative yet lively. As if to invite the reader themself into that particular dining experience. This critique intrigues me to give Rotelli's menu a try.
-- Megan
Colorado Springs

10:02 PM  
Anonymous Rose said...

I found candidate #33's critique of Rotelli's delightful, informative, and appetizing. I felt as though I were sitting right next to this person, looking at the same menu, surveying the restaurant, and indulging in some tasty treats. My mouth watered at the way #33 described those calzones, and I appreciated the honest evaluations of the menu, atmosphere, and total dining experience. I think maybe the next time I'm down in Colorado Springs, I'll have to check out Rotelli's.

10:41 PM  
Anonymous Whit said...

I like this cat's style. Number 33 sounds worldly and knows what good food is all about. I've had trouble trying to find Colorado Spring's flavor and I think this critic may help me out.

11:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that all the friends and family have commented in support, someone can give some unbiased feedback. Having been to Rotellis, this may have been written by the owner as the food is mediocre at best.
Also, not sure how the first paragraph can be deemed comprehendible.

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having eaten at Rotelli's as recently as last week, I have to agree with the last comment. The food is not as good as the reviewer claims. The pizza is way to greasy. It's like a giant oil slick on top.

7:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reviewer fails to explain why Tuesday nights are a good value. Is it because they are half price, two for one, what?

7:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boring and long-winded.

12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This place sounds fantastic, I loved the way that you descriced the food, makes me hungry! Well done #33, you seem to know the places to go! -Meggy

2:52 PM  
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