If the only thing you learn here about Cafe Verona is that you MUST try the Almond Cream Cake, then you will have been a good student in my book. Right now as I write this, another piece of that lustfully delicious cake sits downstairs in my refridgerator. It’s taking nearly all the will power I can muster not to go pop open that box and have a couple heaping bites of heavenly goodness!
Ok so more about the cake later, let me tell you about this quaint yet unique little spot just off the town square in Independence. As I drove down the street looking for the sign, I did a double take when I encountered the beautiful, intricate wrought iron gates and windows adorning the exterior of the building. A large sign of elegant letters across the top told me I was in the right place.
After passing through a courtyard that made me long for summer dining, I entered the bar area and was immediately met by an enormous mural of Boticelli’s The Birth of Venus behind the bar. It was quite striking and set an elegant tone for the otherwise understated bar stools and exposed brick walls. The main level dining room was small but sported slender arched windows framed in the scrolling iron and looking onto the downtownstreet.
It was already late and I was dining alone, so I got right down to business. Having pledged to try places I haven’t been for KC Restaurant Week, Cafe Verona was one of my last stops on this now daily foodfest. I examined the regular menu to ensure there wasn’t anything I couldn’t live without, then inquired about their KCRW menu. Having already found the special menu online, I was surprised when the server’s description didn’t quite match up. It was basically the same menu I previewed on the website but was only the chicken entree and did not include any choices. She also explained the $30 offer was a meal for two and she would box up the extra portions for me to take home. I was a little confused. But I had been leaning toward the chicken selection anyway and she was even throwing in a dinner salad, so actually four courses. My only hesitation was that the online menu offered lasagna as an entree choice and I do love a good lasagna – and ask anyone I know, really like having options! But knowing I shouldn’t carb-load at this hour, let alone this point in my Restaurant Week adventures, I smiled and asked her to put in the order.
The wine list had a nice selection of wines by the glass at a reasonable price. I studied the page interested in some of the Italian brands I had not heard of. The waitress had a few suggestions and helped me settle on a nice Super Tuscan. The wine arrived in a nice big glass filled with a generous pour.
My first course of Toasted Ravioli came out quickly. Honestly, I had not been looking forward to this dish. Picturing in my mind the standard 2×2 inch square of deep fried pasta filled with bland meat and dipped in red sauce just didn’t sound appealing. So I was pleasantly surprised when a plate of four lightly colored, delicate squares on a bed of spinach was placed before me. I knew this was either going to be a treat or something I would hate.
The menu described the ravioli as being filled with cheese and chicken, served with basil pesto butter. I found the green whipped butter beneath that pile of spinach, did a little dip and took my first bite. Nice! The outside was light, thin and crisp as if made from wonton wrappers, and the filling was creamy and tasteful. I grabbed a second ravioli and took a sizeable bite only to find a cold creamy mixture in my mouth! Oh no! Thinking I might have just piled on too much pesto butter, I touched the middle of the half-eaten ravioli. Yep, refridgerator cold! Of the remaining two, one seemed warm and the other not quite. I savored the good ravioli and pretty soon my salad had arrived.
The salad was small but more than I needed. It was served with shaved carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes in a sweet oily dressing. Not bad.
Halfway through my salad, the entree appeared. This timing was just fine by me since I was ready to get home after a long day. The Chicken Carciofi was dusted in flour, pan-seared and topped with kalamata olives, artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes. I was a little surprised there wasn’t a drop of sauce or a reducation on the plate. The golden meat was tender and moist with a very nice light crust – just crisp around the edges. It was a nice dish but could have been improved with a little lemon butter sauce or even some pan juices.
The chicken came with a side of Spaghetti Rosa, what I assumed was pasta with marinara sauce. But the generous side dish arrived wearing a creamy sauce of yellowy-pink hue. It didn’t look that appealing but I thought maybe this sauce – a mixture of the house alfredo and marinara – would pack a lotta punch. Nope. It was rather unimpressive.
As I do in most any Italian restaurant, I requested a side of marinara sauce. It’s funny. I am a huge fan of good marinara and always have to try it, but I rarely order an entree made with it. I suppose most are just too pasty-heavy or involve something fried. The white ramekin of chunky, deep red marinara looked like it was right up my alley. And – bingo – I was right. This stuff was G-O-O-D good! I cleaned out that ramekin dish dipping forkfuls of twisted pasta and dunking bites of chicken in the thick, rich sasuce. It had a wonderfully deep, layered flavor with a hint of red wine. Just fantastic!!
Now back to that cake. I suppose I shouldn’t be so closed minded, but when I read “almond cream cake” on the menu at an Italian place I think of cheap and fast – definitely not worth the calories. But boy was I wrong! This thick cut of dessert flaunted simple layers of cake soaked in something wonderful and a creamy mixture with just enough sweetness. The style reminded me of some of the best tiramisu I’ve eaten, but with the most delicate almond essence. The bottom layer of cake was extrememely moist having been generously brushed with an amazing but light almond flavor. The creamy sections resembled a marscapone filling, thick but not too cheesy. I could not stop eating it! And not because it was simply better than anticipated, but this modest dessert was just flawless! Not fancy, but perfect in exactly what it was – amazing almond cream cake.
Well, you might have guessed that won’t be the last time I have dessert at Cafe Verona. And while I may not be rushing back next week, I do think the eatery serves some solid Italian fare. I hope to go again and partake in the marinara friendly dishes, especially the popular lasagna. I completely enjoyed dining there alone and it would also be a nice place for a night out with the girls. But I think Cafe Verona would be best enjoyed on a date. It’s a pretty romantic place.