Dante’s Italian Bistro & Pastry – A Review

by artfuldiner on August 5, 2022

in Breaking News, Opinion, Pennsylvania, Review, Wining and Dining

Dante’s Italian Bistro & Pastry

550 Kimberton Road

Phoenixville, Pennsylvania

(484) 924-8072

https://www.facebook.com/DantesItalianBistroPhoenixville

Dante's Bistro - ExteriorFor those of you out there who may be keeping score, the answer is Yes. Yes, I am aware that I’m reviewing two Italian restaurants back-to-back. Last month it was Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse, this month it’s Dante’s Italian Bistro. Initially, this one-after-the-other formula struck me as an exercise in futility, sort of like comparing apples and oranges; but, the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that having a look-see at their similarities and differences might prove very interesting to readers – from a fiscal as well as a culinary perspective… Especially since one is the absolute antithesis of the another.

Davio’s, as you may recall, is a loud, bustling, pricey (overpriced, in my opinion), classy chain establishment with 10 outposts stretching from Massachusetts to Texas.  Dante’s, on the other hand, is a quiet little mom & pop BYOB restaurant and pastry shop that tends to fly right under most people’s radar (my dining partner and I only discovered it via word of mouth from a friend who just happened to give it a try).

Tucked away behind Citadel Federal Credit Union in the Kimberton Shoppes, sharing space with Kimberton Nails, Gracie Jiu Jitsu, RK Arters Tax Prep, Z Best Cleaners, and the Asian Café among others, Dante’s is easily passed by without notice.

Dante's Bistro - Pastry Display CasesYou cross the threshold, stroll past the pastry displays (have a good look, as you’ll want to take some goodies home later), and follow the hostess to a small dining room in the rear.

Utilitarian and brightly lit, the area isn’t exactly high on ambience… but it’s comfortable, the service is friendly & attentive and, as an added treat, every once in a while, you’ll catch a glimpse of papa toting a tray of freshly-made pastries from the kitchen to the front of the house.

Dante's Bistro - Garlic Knots & SauceThe food here, as you may have surmised, is just as homey and down-to-earth as the atmosphere. Everything is made from scratch; red sauce – which, I will warn you in advance, tends to be on the sweet side – predominates the proceedings, and portion sizes are prodigious. You won’t go hungry here. You won’t go broke either, as prices are decidedly easy on the wallet. The menu tops out at $28.99 for Homemade Scampi Ravioli; salads and appetizers range from $4.95 – $9.99; and, should you order a pasta dish, the price will include not only homemade garlic knots (pictured) & a side salad, but the dessert of the day as well.

You may start things off, as noted immediately above, with either a salad or an appetizer. Among the former, the Chicken Caesar is always a good bet… ditto the Italian Chef’s Salad, a hefty combo of lettuces, deli meats, olives and provolone cheese. When it comes to the latter, you discover many of the standard – but exceptionally well-prepared – items such as Mozzarella Sticks, House-Made Crispy Onion Rings, and Classic French Fries served up au naturel or with bacon & cheese or bacon & a delightfully decadent Alfredo sauce.

Dante's Bistro - Arancini al FromaggioFor my money, however, the Arancini al Fromaggio (pictured) is clearly the way to go. A staple of Sicilian cuisine, Arancini are Italian rice balls that are stuffed with mozzarella (and, occasionally, other items such as green peas and ham), coated with bread crumbs, deep fried, and served with a marinara dipping sauce… Definitely a “Wow” factor in the works!

As you move along, entrées clearly demonstrate that this restaurant understands its proper role in the ultimate gastronomic scheme of things and will not allow its reach to exceed its grasp. In other words, the kitchen knows its limitations and doesn’t attempt to do too much. Diners are offered main courses from only three major categories: Seafood, Chicken, and Pasta.

Even the Seafood option, which may at first appear to be rather broad in scope is, in reality, exceedingly narrow, as the kitchen’s culinary creations, at least according to the printed menu, are limited to various incarnations of shrimp. The Homemade Scampi Ravioli, mentioned above, for example, consists of homemade ricotta-filled ravioli in a vodka sauce with bacon crowned with shrimp scampi. Variations on the theme include Shrimp Scampi, pan-seared garlic butter shrimp served on a pillow of fettuccine, and Linguine & Shrimp with bacon vodka sauce.

Dante's Bistro - Sicilian Citrus ShrimpOther possibilities include several familiar items – and some not so familiar: Shrimp Fra Diavolo, a traditional favorite of sautéed crustaceans in a spicy marinara over spaghetti; Shrimp Alfredo in a made-to-order white cream sauce with parmesan; and Creamy Garlic Butter Tuscan Shrimp in a creamy sauce with garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and melted mozzarella.  For something a bit different, however, be sure to try the Shrimp Regina with fresh tomatoes & broccoli in a white wine sauce, or Gameretti al Limone (pictured), pan-seared shrimp and broccoli in a lemon white wine sauce with fettuccine.

The chicken dishes tend to round up the “usual suspects”: Parmesan, Francese, Piccata, Marsala. But there are also a couple of interesting surprises that are well worth trying. Balsamic Caprese, for example, caresses the sautéed chicken breasts in a tangy balsamic glaze with tomato, basil, and melted mozzarella in strong supporting roles. On the other hand, if you prefer your entrées on the rich, rich, rich side, there’s always the Gorgonzola Chicken, pan-seared breasts swimming in an addictively creamy gorgonzola sauce spruced up with Italian herbs.

Dante's Bistro - BologneseIf this kitchen has a claim to fame, however, it is undoubtedly their pastas – and there’s something for just about every taste. If you like it rich and creamy, go for Fettuccine Alfredo or the Pasta Norcina, penne pasta with slices of mild Italian sausage in a cream sauce with parmesan. Or, if you’re prefer not to go overboard on the cream, I highly recommend the Fettuccine with Authentic Bolognese Sauce (pictured). Here you have a slowly simmered meat sauce awash with celery, carrots, and onions buttressed by tomato sauce, wine, and just a touch of cream.

On the other hand – with apologies to Alighieri – if you like it hot, there’s always Dante’s Inferno, a fiery combo of penne pasta, hot Italian sausage, and hot cherry peppers swimming in a spicy marinara sauce. It isn’t the Nine Circles of Hell – but it’s close. And since it’s specifically noted on the menu as “VERY spicy,” don’t say I didn’t warn you. Since gastronomic discretion is the better part of peristaltic valor, you might want to settle for the less lethal Pasta Arrabbiata, penne in a made-to-order spicy tomato sauce. Yes, I know it’s a step down on the spice scale … but it may save your delicate innards from an uncomfortable stay in purgatory.

Other options, two of which my dining partner has enjoyed during separate visits, include the Baked Homemade Cheese Ravioli smothered in marinara and melted mozzarella and Dante’s House Special Pasta. This latter selection features penne luxuriating in an Italian spiced bacon tomato sauce awash with morsels of the rich house special sausage. Both proved to be excellent choices.

Dante's Bistro- Eggplant ParmMy own proclivity is for Eggplant Parmesan (pictured). When I see it on a menu, I freely confess that I find it difficult to resist; and my visits to Dante’s certainly proved to be no exception. I have also discovered that it is an excellent test of a kitchen’s prowess (or lack therefore). For while it is relatively simple to prepare, it is also quite easily mucked up. The eggplant could be undercooked, or overcooked and mushy… The breading could be too sparsely or too liberally applied, burned to a crisp or raw-tasting on the palate… The sauce could be too sweet or too acidic… The cheese, etc., etc. Well, you get the idea.

Fortunately, Dante’s kitchen does an excellent job of keeping all the elements in perfect sync. The eggplant is hand-cut, breaded, and fried to perfection. It is then pillowed on a veritable mountain of spaghetti marinara and smothered in melted mozzarella. As I mentioned at the outset, and as you will note from the photograph, the portion size is, indeed, prodigious.

Dante's Bistro - Dessert CookiesDesserts (if you still have room) vary with the day and whim of the kitchen. On several visits, my dining partner and I took the pasta route, which meant that dessert was included. On those occasions, we were treated a plate of homemade cookies, which, given the size of the entrées, proved to be the perfect ending to a perfect meal. And, speaking of cookies, don’t forget to check out the pastry displays before departing, as I know you’ll want to take something home.

By the way, Dante’s also offers diners a variety of lunch salads, cold hoagies, hot grilled panini sandwiches, stromboli, calzones and, of course, pizzas.

Just don’t forget… Dante’s Italian Bistro & Pastry is a BYOB restaurant.

Bon Appétit!

TAD

 

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