Saturday, June 26, 2010

Casa Visone in Martinsburg: A Treat for the Palate

Whenever Larry and I visit a place our first stop is usually the Visitor's Center. A mandatory question is always: "Where's the best place in town to eat?" Right across the street was the answer. But while we walked around town we passed an Irish Pub. It was Friday and fish and chips is always good Friday fare for those who keep the traditional Catholic abstinence. So after visiting a few of the local sites, we headed back to the pub. But it was closed so we retraced our steps to Casa Visone. I'm glad we did.

The restaurant is small and cozy with tables lining both walls only interrupted by a small bar on one side. Since we arrived at 1:40 (They close at 2:00.) we were the only ones there, but were joined a few minutes later by a couple on their way to Ithaca, NY to visit their son. They are also retired and live in the Highlands of the Shenandoah Valley, where her husband bought a farm after retiring and raises cattle.

Visiting with other patrons seemed natural in this family-friendly setting. One wall is decorated with a large banner showing the Visone family crest and the opposite wall is covered with black and white family photos and banners depicting various provinces in Italy. Very attractive. Eva, half of the owner couple was behind the bar; the other half, husband and chef Francesco, manned the kitchen. The lunch menu offered four choices after eliminating all the meat dishes. I was tempted by the "fresh raviola in pink sauce" but we had decided to go with a salad and a shared main dish so we compromised with "Spaghettini con Funghi" (translated spaghettini with mushrooms in tomato basil sauce). Larry ordered the caesar salad and I chose "insalata caprese" which is tomatoes and basil with fresh mozzarella.

My dad always said you can judge a restaurant by its bread and Casa Visone's is delicious. We each ate several pieces while we waited for our salads. A container of olive oil mixed with herbs was the perfect accompaniement and we weren't too shy to ask for more bread later to go with our entree.

Both of our salads were first rate. I'm used to restaurant Caesar salads that our nothing but romaine lettuce mixed with bottled caesar dressing and a little parmesan cheese. I've rarely had the real thing in a restaurant and I know what it is, because I make it at home myself. Casa Visone's was excellent. I tasted Larry's salad and immediately noticed the pungent anchovy flavor that marks an authentic caesar salad dressing made from scratch. It was delicious. The basil on my tomatoes and mozzarella was so fresh tasting I asked the waitress if the restaurant grows their own herbs. She didn't know but asked Eva. Sure enough, it grows in their home garden.
Our pasta dish was so abundant I was glad we planned to share. The waitress told us their basil sauce is really good and she didn't exaggerate. I'm not a big fan of plain spaghetti, but this was so good I didn't miss the meat one bit. After lunch I told Eva we thought the food was delicious and I was going to blog about the restaurant and she showed me their dinner menu and said they try to offer a good variety. It included salmon, pork, capon, chicken dishes, etc. They all sounded mouthwatering and I'm eager to go back for dinner sometime. I especially want to try a dish in a cream sauce.

Not only was the food good but the service was great too. Our little waitress was precious. She's a rising high school senior and we talked about college. She hopes to go to WVU or Kentucky and was telling us about West Virginia's promise scholarships for high-performing high school students. She owns a mule and two horses and we had a pleasant conversation about our mutual love for horseback riding while she brought our dishes, refilled our drinks, etc.

Our lunch at the bistro was a real highlight of our visit to Martinsburg. My only regret is that I didn't go in the kitchen to meet Francesco and congratulate him on becoming a citizen. Eva told us he achieved that goal last year.

Casa Visone is at 120 N. Queen St. in Martinsburg (304) 260 9294.

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