La Conca D’Oro – May 2016 (dt)
7.01 – 7.75, 7.5, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 6.5, 6.3 (nine scores)

A rare individual repeat selection, now done in consecutive months, fooled many of us into thinking which restaurant in Catskill we would enjoy. A pleasant surprise found us parking in front of Conca D’Oro.
          February 2007 was DP8’s last visit to Conca, and many of the details are similar.

Italian cuisine reigns supreme, reflected in our choices:
==> Chicken fra diavolo (Mark: very good; Chay: excellent)
==> Veal parm (Ken: very good, even better than a recent parm choice at one of our favorite places.
==> Chicken parm (Dennis: excellent sauce, very good chicken prep)
==> Grilled scallops (Deb, of course: satisfactory; the competition out there is tough)
==> Stuffed shrimp parm (Joyce: rich and yummy)
==> Fried shrimp (Kriss: very good)
==> special: rigatoni & portobello mushroom & goat cheese & basil (Deb K: fabulous)
==> special: trout and sweet potato fries (Don: very good, a nice change of pace, with a tasty seasoning)

Appetizers lured no one—the Monteverds had generously appetized us just a half-hour before.
          However, a salad was included with the entrée, a practice that meshes with our ordering comfort zone. ‘Twas basic but still a nice mix of greens, onions, a couple cherry tomatoes, and cucumber slices awaiting our choice of dressing, the most commonly selected of which was the house preparation.
          Two baskets of Italian bread, accompanied by two ramekins of softened garlic butter, started the evening, with the salads soon to follow.

Somehow, despite our protests of fullness, the siren call of dessert beckoned and we could not resist.
==> Strawberry shortcake (a wide mix of opinion: Deb T: dough not cooked, cream a bit thick, mediocre; Dennis: wonderful; Kriss: good, not great)
==> Flourless chocolate torte (Don: a pleasant chocolatey dessert, felt like a thick fudge brownie)
==> Cannoli (Deb and Chay share: good)
==> Sambuca was enjoyed by Chay (black) and Ken (white). Quality is always consistent!
==> And a few cups of coffee, in addition to Ken’s perpetual supply, graced the table.

The drink orders was simplified by the availability of a carafe of Opici Chianti, an order that was repeated, and at a very fair price.

Service by Nikki was appreciated. A table of nine poses a few extra demands, and Nikki smoothly took orders, drink requests, water re-fills, check-ups, etc., all in good shape.

Old friend Conca is one of our most visited fine dining area restaurants. Thus, it is easy to overlook the ambiance of a familiar place. Lots of brick. Dark floors. Linened tables.
          We were set in the side room, a favorable happenstance this evening because we were the only table in our room for most of the evening. Conca has a reputation as a noisy, hard-to-hear setting on a normal night, so a long table of nine is a sure recipe for not hearing each other. Tonight was much different, with end hearing end if we so chose. (On the way out, we were feeling sorry for Conca for a slow Saturday night.)
          Several windows faced toward Main Street or the side alley. Lighting from the fan/globe combinations cast a medium light. Chilliness from the fans was eliminated when the tallest of us reached and turned off the whirling dervishes.
          Water glasses were regularly filled, although a couple noted an occasional dry glass. And Ken’s coffee was mostly kept filled, a situation we last faced in November (Rule #7: Ken must have coffee).
          Pacing was satisfactory, with two hours circumscribing our stay. Courses were presented at appropriate times and no lengthy lulls were noted. Again, part of consistency at Conca. (Having said that, a few in the know reviewed the recent changes in chefs.)

The final bill, including all expenses, was a quite modest $75 per couple. No extra appetizer/salad cost, and a wine tab that equaled the cost of one bottle most evenings, pared the final bill.

The evening had started at the Monteverds, a very welcome happenstance. DP8 last enjoyed the company of Ken and Kriss in December.
          Ken kept the liquids flowing—a nice variety of reds.
          Kriss supplied modest but ample supplies. A four-divide plate of three cheeses, four veggies; two pineapple bowls of crackers; a pan of bites of Grandma Pizza Pie (Freehold Grill, I suspect); and a three-divide pineapple bowl of cashews, M&Ms, and Krause’s malt balls (a favorite of one of our members).
          The group became DP9 for the evening with the company of Mark, Joyce, and Dennis.

          We caught up on the news that is shaping our lives. A big one was Christopher’s new job, with graduation coming up, and the obligatory parental concerns about adequate housing, satisfactory furnishings, the three hour distance from the CT coast, and a realization of a major benchmark both in his and their lives.
          Other topics included: post-cruise notes from the Teators; Don’s surgery and some ribbing; Deb’s painting; lawn mowing; early season golf games; wildlife sightings; Dennis’ upcoming trip to Alaska; his photography; the Notar cruise next winter to SE Asia & other parts (wow); Canadian wine; Ken’s acquisition of a heavy safe and figuring how to get it home; Kriss’s journeys since her return; the Teators’ new car; Deb’s 60th birthday party next month; graduation parties coming up; the wisdom of making Dennis sit next to Deb K!; the whereabouts of the Quinns, Adamses, and Pisano-Burhouse; summer plans shaping up; and more.

          Oh, wait, there was one more topic.
          Ken was presented with a gift from Venice, via phone from Judy. He obediently, slowly opened the package, unfolded ...