Written by Hulda Lawrence
This is a large restaurant with three floors of dining rooms, a downstairs bar and an upstairs bar. We recently lunched on the second floor where our waitress was Rachel with an MBA degree from NYU.
With all the emphasis on beer, my order was for Pilsner, a favorite of mine. Tim Yarrington, the brewmaster with many credentials, is responsible for handcrafting many beers. Later, I tried his Dunkel, a smooth dark lager that "is linked to the earliest brewing traditions of Bavaria." The beers are $5.50, and for $9.95 a 5-ounce sample of each beer is presented on a wooden plank. In addition, there are specialty beer drinks Lager and Lime: Pilsner with Lime Wedge; Brown and Tan: Half Dunkel and Half Pale Ale; and Shandy: Beer with Lemon Soda; all at $5.75 each.
The menu is vast, and in the spirit of its atmosphere we selected as our starter a Ploughman's Platter for $14.95. This is a huge display of Buffalo Wings, Baby Back Ribs, Soft Beer Pretzel, Beer-Battered Fries and Onion Rings. It was enough for a meal, but we shared the very good food. Other "starters" include Clams on the Half Shell, Oysters on the Half Shell, Baked Creamed Spinach and Bleu Cheese Dip, Baby Greens Salad, Buffalo Chicken Wings, Fried Calamari, Steamed Mussels and Baby Back Ribs. Prices for "Starters" are $6.25 to $14.95 for our platter.
Two soups, Classic Onion Soup and New England Clam Chowder at $5.25, always are on the menu.
Among the sandwiches are two kinds of burgers. A 10-ounce char-grilled chopped sirloin on a sesame bun with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickle and beer-battered fries is $9.50, toppings are extra. The second is a char-grilled turkey burger with cranberry citrus mayonnaise.
All of the following sandwiches include beer-battered fries and cole slaw: Fresh Roasted Turkey and Apple Smoked Bacon with red onion jam on sour dough bread; Marinated Steak Sandwich with tomato and frizzled onions on rosemary foccacia bread; grilled Chicken and Roasted Peppers with fontina cheese on chiappata bread; Marinated Vegetable sandwich with Portobello mushroom, eggplant, red onion, roasted peppers and goat cheese on a chiappata roll; and Grilled Bratwurst with sauerkraut on a toasted hero roll. Prices are $7.95 to $8.50.
There are salads, and we chose one to share - a Roasted Vegetable Salad with spicy walnuts, apples, cheddar cheese, zucchini, eggplant, Portobello mushroom and red onion at $10.95. There also is Cobb Salad, Caesar Salad and Grilled Salmon Salad. There are three pastas available: Macaroni with three cheeses; Linguini with shrimp and tiny tomatoes; and Penne with fresh mozzarella - $11.95 to $13.95.
After our salad we shared an entrée of Grilled Shrimp with a sweet soy-ginger glaze and rice pilaf. An ear of corn was included. Other entrees are: Honey and Whole Grain Mustard Baked Salmon; Grilled Striped Bass; Beer-Battered Fish and Chips; Grilled Marinated Chicken Breast; Roasted Pork Tenderloin; Grilled Sausage Platter; Baby Back Ribs; Roast Prime Rib of Beef; and Char-Grilled Sirloin. Entrée prices are $14.95 for Sausage Platter to $23.50 for Roast Beef.
If you prefer wine to beer, there are 15 available by the glass from $6 to $12 (Mumm's). My companion had Jadot, Macon-Village Chardonnay at $7.50.
Desserts are geared to those with very sweet cravings. We shared a piece of Intensely Decadent thick Chocolate Cake, a Brownie Delight topped with New York Cheese Cake and Vanilla Ice Cream, and a delicious piece of Pecan Pie.
Other desserts are Warm Apple Crisp, Banana Split, Bread Pudding, Chocolate Mousse and Toasted Marshmallow, Times Square Cheese Cake and Sedutto Ice Cream. Deserts are $4.25 to $6.75.
This is a great place for kids and large parties. It is on the noisy side, but its well-located and reasonably priced.
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight daily. Bar is open 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday to Wednesday: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday to Saturday.
Cascina, which means "farmhouse" in Italian, is located at 647 Ninth Avenue, between 45th and 46th Streets, (212) 245-4422, and when diners enter this charmingly understated ristorante they fall under a spell of simple food that is very good. A small bar greets those who enter, and tables in a bucolic atmosphere are located towards the rear. For those who want to view the doings on Ninth Avenue, there are several tables near the front.
At a recent lunch time we were greeted by Gianni from Bologna and were escorted to a table where he took our orders. We began with a Campari and soda for me and a Negroni for my companion. A basket of excellent bread was brought, along with a cruet of olive oil. We sipped and dipped our bread in the oil and enjoyed the "farmhouse" paintings on the walls.
We decided to share two antipasti: Carpaccio de Manzo, thinly sliced beef with arugula and parmesan cheese and lots of lemon; and Involtino de Melanzane, a wonderful dish of eggplant, mozzarella and prosciutto rolled and baked in tomato sauce. This was a revelation - a dish we had never had before. The sauce was so rich, I sopped every bit up with my bread!
There is a huge oven for pizza set in the center of the restaurant with five outstanding variations of "pizze" to be ordered. The Cascina" contains mozzarella, gorgonzola, fontina and parmesan. Pizze prices are $13 to $16.
Upon consultation with Gianni we had Liguine al pesto, a specialty of the restaurant. The pesto sauce was fine and the dish included whole green beans and potatoes. After our "primi piatto" pasta we felt we could not appreciate a main course and requested a simple dish of Shrimp, fresh from the sea and set on greens.
A special note must be made about the wine selection. There are wines by the glass from $7 to $12 and there is a superb Monferrato Rosso Sole, Cascina Orsolino from the restaurant's vineyards. With merlot, pinot noir, barbera grapes, it is rich, austere and full body. There are three red wines from their own vineyards and two whites. My companion enjoyed Chardonnay Riserva Rosanna, Cascina Orsolina a delicate white. However, there is a full assortment of fine wines from Italy and other countries. Available by the bottle is Tignanello, Antinori at $180; Brunello di Montalcino $96; Castelo do Romitorio at $98 and Chianti Classico Riserva Nozzole at $46; Valpolicella, Fratta Pasini at $28 and Pinot Grigio, Santa Margherita at $46.
We ate every bit of a very good Tiramisu that was light and flavorful.
Antipasti prices are $9 for Grilled Vegetables to $15 for Piatto Rustico of cheese, prosciutto, salami and olives. The Carpaccio di Manzo is $12 and the Involtino is $10. Salads are $7 to $14.
The pasta dishes are $10 for Spaghetti al Pomodoro to $18 for Spaghetti ai frutti de mare or Risotto Alba with asparagus and truffles. Strozzapreti al salmone, homemade pasta with salmon and pink sauce, Cavatelli ai fagioli e cozzo, homemade pasta with mussels and cannelloni beans, garlic and olive oil, and Ravioli di spinaci e ricotta al filetto di pomodoro.
Second piatti include Milanese farcita, chicken roll stuffed with spinach, mozzarella and prociutto; Scaloppine di vitello al vino bianco; and Spigola all'acqua pazza, sea bass sauteed with fresh tomato slices, celery and white wine with spinach. These dishes are $18 to $24.
There is a three-course pre-theatre menu for $24.50: Daily Soup or Mixed Green Salad followed by either Penne with tomato sauce, Grilled Salmon with mashed potatoes or Sauteed Chicken Breast with Broccoli and dessert with American coffee or tea.
Each day there also is a special luncheon with either soup of the day or mixed green salad followed by either Penne with Tomato Sauce, Fried Calamari or Chicken Paillard with Salad. Then comes dessert and coffee or tea for $16.95.
For special business or celebratory occasions there are rooms on the second floor nicely decorated where arrangements for bridal showers, office events and business luncheons can be accommodated.
Owner, architect and restaurateur Emilio Barletta (who also has Trattoria Dopo Teatro and Zanzibar) has decorated the second floor to enhance the cozy atmosphere in the restaurant proper. The party rooms can handle 75 for dinner and 125 for cocktails and antipasti.
Hours: Dinner Monday through Saturday. Luncheon noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Saturday Brunch. Closed Sundays.
The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.