Ferrari's Little Italy, a Madeira favorite known for its hearty portions, opened its second Cincinnati location in May at Montgomery's Harper's Point in the former location of Ciao Baby Cucina. A huge, copper skillet, somewhat twisted and dented, greets guests at the doorway, a reminder of last spring's devastating tornado. The tornado merely delayed the opening of the new location, and the huge skillet hangs like a trophy, recognizing the hard work many put into rebuilding and remodeling the many homes and businesses in the area.
Six of us decided to try the new location one recent weekday evening. Many of us had been to the Madeira restaurant and enjoyed the featured "family-style" dining consisting of portions large enough to share among two or three. Although the Harper's location does not offer the "jumbo" sized portions found at the Madeira shop, our server assured us that the "smaller" size was still a hearty helping.
We arrived a little later in the evening and were pleasantly surprised to find the restaurant fairly empty, giving us our choice of tables by the window. The upscale, casual decor mimics that of the Madeira shop, but with more light from the storefront glass windows, especially on a pleasant summer evening.
Other than a brief wait while the staff decided who would serve our table, we were pleased with the attentive service. Our server greeted us with an array of recommendations from appetizers to entrées to wine, and we opted for many of his selections. His first suggestion was the restaurant's popular Insalata Ferrari ($5.95), which many of us had enjoyed during previous visits. The extra large platter of fresh romaine and mixed greens, sun-dried cranberries, pine nuts and Gorgonzola tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette has become a signature dish for the restaurant.
However, because we were already familiar with it, we opted for a few selections from the antipasti menu to sample and share.
We especially enjoyed the Toasted Ravioli ($5.75) which included several pieces (enough for six of us to share) of breaded vegetable ravioli, toasted and served with Ferrari's unmistakable marinara sauce. Equally appetizing was the Fresh Mozzarella ($5.75), a simple but tasty salad of fresh sliced mozzarella, roma tomatoes and red onions over mixed greens and drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette. Finally, although we also found the Calamari Fritti ($6.95) served with marinara sauce to be tasty, it was nothing special, and I'd probably try one of the many other salads or soups before ordering it again.
Our server recommended the Salsa di Pesce con Gambero ($16.95), a huge portion of shrimp, artichoke hearts, roma tomatoes, black olives and red and green onions sautéed in a seafood stock served over angel hair pasta, which one of our guests enjoyed immensely, especially with the addition of scallops at his request. The portion was more than he could finish, and we understood why the copper skillet was so large. His guest also enjoyed her Eggplant Parmesan ($12.75), which she likened to a hearty vegetable lasagna consisting of breaded eggplant layered with romano, mozzarella and pasta topped with marinara.
My husband raved about his Pollo Parmesan ($13.50). The chicken breast, coated with tasty bread crumbs and topped with mozzarella and marinara, was especially tender and full of flavor. I enjoyed his entrée more than my own: the Pollo Marsala ($14.25) was topped with a mushroom, Marsala wine sauce which had little flavor. Another of our guests felt the same about his Pollo Marsala as well.
The Linguini Aglio Olio ($12.75), also recommended by our server, was another hit. Our guest enjoyed the fresh vegetables and sun-dried tomatoes sautéed with garlic and olive oil served over fresh linguini. The spicy crushed red pepper gave it a nice kick, too.
The overall consensus of our many entrées was that dishes that included Ferarri's signature marinara sauce were much tastier than the others. The marinara is rich and flavorful but not overpowering and with the right amount of garlic.
We had a tough time choosing how to top off our evening with the many dessert selections. Thank goodness we decided to share, because the portions were immense. The Tiramisu ($4.95) was passed around the table one time until it found its final resting place in front of me. It could have easily gone around one more time if I wasn't so greedy, but the laced ladyfingers and caramel were too good to share. We also fought over the Torte ($4.95), a flourless chocolate cake dense enough to guilt me into an extra half-hour at my workout the next day, and the boat-sized portion of Spumoni ($4.95).
As the last table of guests in the place, we took our cue to pay up and leave, far too full to linger any longer. And although we will more than likely return, it might be awhile before we'll be hungry again. ©
Ferrari's Little Italy
Go: 11384 Montgomery Rd., Montgomery
Hours: Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. Dinner: 5-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 4-9 p.m. Sunday.
Prices: Reasonable to moderate.
Payment: All major credit cards accepted.
Vegetarian Friendliness: Many salads and pasta selections; most pastas can be ordered without meat.