REVIEW: Caffe Peroni – South Boston, VA
I have been making a few trips outside of the North Carolina state lines to Virginia for work and, as always, I am on the lookout for good local eateries. I usually jump on my phone and hit up Urbanspoon and Foodspotting to see what restaurants everyone is talking about in the area. I have run across some decent places so far but nothing worth blogging about until I went up to South Boston, VA a few weeks ago and found out about a place called Caffe Peroni in downtown South Boston.
The 95% Urbanspoon rating was what stood out first to me about Caffe Peroni followed by one or two reviews which mentioned the “slow food movement” that Caffe Peroni has incorporated into its cooking so you can sit back and enjoy the restaurant instead of “being served, billed and thanked in less than 20 minutes” like Bath Piatti wrote in their review on Urbanspoon. I had about 2 hours before I had to be anywhere and it sounded like a good way to check out some local food and kill some time.
Caffe Peroni has been open in South Boston since 2008 and the owners’ intention was to recreate the Italian home cooking that they remember from their childhood. They start every meal from scratch when ordered plus the chef cooks it right in front of you in an open air kitchen near the dining room (I took a picture of this but it turned out blurry).
As soon as I stepped through the door at Caffe Peroni, I had the feeling it was going to be a neat place to eat at. There was a young couple already seated enjoying an early dinner which was surprising because it was 4:45 p.m. and I tend to beat even the early birds when I eat dinner while out on the road. The space that Caffe Peroni fills reminds me a lot of an old bookstore minus all the books. It had a very relaxed atmosphere where you could come do some work on the computer while having a coffee or just curl up and read a book on one of their couches while munching on a little bit of gelato.
I ordered the Insalata della casa ($3.95) which came with a bottle of both olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a dressing. I believe that you can choose from a variety of dressings but I was trying to be health conscious since I already knew what my entree was going to be. The presentation of the salad was nice and the ingredients were fresh as well as plentiful which is what I look for in a salad. They diced the tomatoes & onions then tossed them together with some Parmesan and croutons on then laid it over the lettuce. Each bite had a little bit of everything from the salad in it. I might be doing this at home from now on when I make salads.
I ordered the Porcini Ravioli cremolati which is a ravioli dish made with porcini mushrooms and then placed in a heavy cream sauce. Caffe Peroni’s version adds a good amount of pancetta and prosciutto making it a little bit heartier that usual. The prosciutto that they added wasn’t the thin, sticky type that you find in the grocery store or on sandwiches from national chains. This was close to the thickness of sliced ham for a sandwich and it not only added a delicious salty taste to the dish but also added a great texture to contrast the softness of the ravioli. (NOTE: Prosciutto dipped in cream sauce can become heavily addicting.) The pancetta in the dish mainly sunk to the bottom of the cream sauce so I didn’t start getting to mix its taste in until about halfway through the meal but it was worth it when I hit the proverbial gold mine of pancetta.
The highlight of the dish for me was the ravioli which was cooked al dente but was still soft enough that a knife was unnecessary. I have been a big mushroom fan since back in the day more than likely because I saw Mario eat them while trying to save peach and gain superpowers. In hindsight, I am pretty sure that Mario was munching on hallucinogenics the entire time as its the only logical explanation for the storyline…but I digress. The filling had a lot of taste that was overshadowed a bit by the cream sauce but I was able to pull some out of one of the pockets and it had a fantastic taste on its own which could allow it to be served with a lighter sauce if you weren’t feeling the cream. The dish was loaded with 16-20 ravioli pieces making it a behemoth of a meal and I was very surprised with myself that I was able to finish it.
Everything about my experience at Caffe Peroni was amazing. The service was outstanding. The food was on target. The atmosphere was friendly and warm. The holiday lights in downtown South Boston were stunning in that Mayberry sense that a small town can have. I couldn’t have asked for a better overall experience at a restaurant and I have since recommended to various couples in the Greensboro area that I know to head up to South Boston one night on a date night because it would be well worth the 30 to 45 minute drive.