Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bravo! Cucina Italiana

We’d seen this Italian restaurant under construction in the new section of the Spotsy mall called the “Village at Towne Centre.” My expectations weren’t high—it’s yet another “plastic menu” chain. With an exterior that looks like it would be at home on Disneyland’s Main Street. And then there’s that annoying exclamation point in the name. And I’d read somewhere that it wasn’t as good as Carrabba’s. But in celebration of their grand opening, we got a coupon in the mail, and I can’t resist a coupon, so we decided to check the place out last Sunday.

Low expectations must be a plus, because we were very pleasantly surprised at how good the food was. The service was excellent (thank you, Andrew), and the menu had a lot of variety. We generally like Carrabba’s, and were expecting something along those lines. Which Bravo is. But I prefer the ambiance of Bravo’s spacious dining room, with tables and booths that afford more privacy than the jam-packed Carrabba’s.

It's still a chain (although a very small one, with only 35 locations), so you're not going to get innovative chef's specials. And a good food critic would visit a restaurant several times before passing judgement, so this review might be premature. But we had a lovely time (the inexpensive bottle of wine we consumed helped, I'm sure), it didn't cost us a fortune, and we'll definitely go back again.

Here's the "Flatbread Roma" we shared, in lieu of the pricier appetizers. It was crispy and delicious.

In front is the seafood risotto, and in back is the grilled scallops over potato gnocchi. The herb bread is forgettable, and I hate the dishes with the goofy logo, but the entrees were tasty.

Happy cooks are a good sign, no?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Wolfe Street Gardens

About twice a week during nice weather, my husband and I head downtown for a walk. The neighborhoods of downtown Fredericksburg are at their best this time of year, with everyone’s gardens in bloom. And many downtowners take their landscaping very seriously. I’m not much of a gardener, and my property is entirely shaded, so even when I’m lucky enough to be able to grow some woodland plants, there’s not much color there. So I love the sunny little gardens of downtown. Even among the front yards that are postage stamp tiny, you’ll find many that are chock-full of blooms. This past week, we paid special attention to the yards on Wolfe Street, between Caroline and Spottswood.

The first garden is at the corner of Princess Anne. The gardener is hard at work at the center. From there, it was just a few steps to the next garden, where every square inch of front yard was filled with hydrangea and daylilies (also at top).

A tiny side garden:

I can't resist a white picket fence:

Near the end of the block, close to Spottswood.

Wolfe Street is home to the Wegner Metal Arts Foundry & Gallery, between Kenmore and Jackson, where the block gets more industrial.

I couldn't pass up this truck in a parking lot off Wolfe. I've never given much thought to horse's teeth, but now I'm wondering if there are cow dentists and pig dentists and goat dentists, too.