Cafe CaNole: Restaurant Review…Get Your Coat And Get There!


Is there anything more decadent?  Thanks Dean!!!

Is there anything more decadent?
Thanks Dean!!!

So.  There’s nothing like a home cooked Italian meal…(especially if you can get someone else to make it for you.)  If you are looking for authentic Italian cuisine, you have to make the trip from where ever you may find yourself on the planet to Cafe CaNole.  This small business is a jewel in Central New York.

Owned by the Nole brothers, Dean and Jason, they offer True.  Italian.  Cuisine.  If you’re looking for spaghetti and meatballs, you won’t find it here.  Instead they offer the dishes from your Nonna’s table.  In fact, I would venture as far as to say that if you don’t know what Rabine greens are, you haven’t eaten true Italian food.  Yet.

Traditionally, Italian food (as the Italians know it,) is different than what we’ve come to expect here in the states.

This restaurant has found the perfect balance of upscale Italian food and good old-fashioned, peasant, comfort food.  Served in an urban style of sparse class, the chalk board walls have the daily specials as well as the finest list of wines this side of Greve in Chianti.

Dean is a perfect host, both gracious and gregarious.  He flits around the restaurant’s two kitchens overseeing the creations being wrought from scratch.  Whether your preference is for savory or sweet, they have both.  The menu for both lunch and dinner is presented on plates in the European style of contorno .  This means that each part of the meal is celebrated for the work of art that it is.  (Much like a “contour” in art, it completes, gives depth, and adds color.  Here, is the added bonus of taste.)  They use tiny sauce pans to serve their risotto and truffle potatoes, which allows you to appreciate and register the tastes of each separate component of the meal.

When you are seated, the ambience is both convivial and intimate.  There is a screen showing old Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin movies and the tables are cozy, especially once the fresh baked bread arrives.  The bread plates beckon for olive oil.  Jugs of the best, buttery olive oil are the centerpiece of each table.  When you are presented with the bread and cheese, pour some olive oil onto the plate, sprinkle it with the cheese and dip your bread.  By the time your meal arrives, you will already be satiated, but keep on going…the salads are huge and fresh and beautiful.  Findings like beets, gorgonzola cheese, apples, and tomatoes are like little gems hidden among the baby lettuces.

Whatever you order, you will be thrilled and filled.  There is a relaxing atmosphere that invites you to linger over espresso and pastries.  Be sure to look in their bakery case.  Whatever you choose will be fantastic.  They have a plethora of favorites coupled with creative and delicious delights.  They also make wedding cakes, as well as everything from First Communion to birthday cakes. Their cookies are the kind that everyone’s Zia used to make, but no one ever wrote the recipe down.

Almond Paste Cookies

Almond Paste Cookies

Enjoy your meal.  I’ve said before that “Buon cibo loda Dio.” (Good food praises God.)  Here, that old Italian expression is a full on worship service.

…and when you go, tell them Cindy sent you.

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“It’s All Fun and Games Until You Can’t Order A Cake.” – Mrs. Sirni


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“It’s all fun and games until you can’t order a cake.”

-Mrs. Sirni

SAGE ADVICE FOR HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS-

What cake?  What cake?  They always ask.  Don’t you know?

( In my other life, I teach the youth of America.  High School.  Seniors.  Yup.)

Back to the cake…I tell them this every year on the first day of school.  It’s vague and catchy all at once.  Immediately, they are intrigued.  What cake?  They want to know…

The Graduation Cake, of course.

I tell them, every year, that when the guidance counselor calls to break the unhappy news, the first words out of the mother’s  mouth is always, “but I ordered the cake!”

They laugh, of course, because that’s the normal reaction of teenagers…laugh heartily at their moms.   Yet, I repeat it through the year.  They don’t always believe it.

Until.  Their mother gets That Call.

So I am here today to remind you, one and all, don’t break your mother’s heart.  Do your work and graduate.  Your parents want you to get a good education so that you can get a good job.  You’ll have to pay for their nursing home and they’ll want a good one.

Trust me.

Italian Iced Tea


rome rooftops 2Summer time treats are appreciated all around the world, especially when it’s hot and sticky out.  Rome in July is not just hot, it’s HOT.  The closeness of the buildings, the throngs of humanity, the lack of American air-conditioning, the traffic and the smoke are just some of the things that make it Hot in La Citta Eterna.  One way to refresh yourself is to go to any one of the little corner cafes and bars that you will see.

Italians don’t drink as much soda as Americans.  They prefer their drinks less sweet, (and with less ice cubes.)  One such drink is an Italian Iced Tea.  Not to be confused with the alcohol laden Long Island Iced Tea, this drink is an entirely different animal.

The Italian Iced Tea is made with two ingredients.  Unsweetened homemade iced tea and a scoop of lemon ice.  The lemon ice is much like what you would find at a carnival with a snow cone kind of flavor.

The drink is served in a glass.  A.  Real.  Glass.  They put a scoop of the lemon ice into the glass and then pour iced tea into the glass until it’s about 2/3 filled.  They will serve it to you on a silver tray.  (Really.  Even in simple local bars.)  Usually, it is accompanied with a slightly salty and savory snack.  (Nuts, small pieces of focaccia bread, or tiny crackers, for example.)  The drink is served with a spoon in case you want to scoop the ice out and eat it first. It won’t be as cold as you would get here in the States, but it is a refreshing drink all the same.

This is one of the best parts of being in Italy.  Ordering a drink like this gives you a chance to rest your aching feet and People Watch.  There is no where else in the world that is more exciting to sit and Watch the World Go By.  The fountains and the people and music and the booths are all there for you to enjoy.  The view is like no other you will ever see.  Breathe in the heat of Italy and carry it home with you!

Children. Breakfast. Italy.


While your children may think it’s hilarious that you are bringing them to a bar, ( in the morning no less,)  they will soon be dismayed to find that their usual breakfast of choice is unavailable.

My suggestion for parents is this; get them a hot chocolate and a cornetto.  The hot chocolate is thick and creamy and more substantial than we make here in the states.  (Be prepared for a scalding hot container arriving at the table with your squirmy little ones.)   The cornetto will work because there is nothing “weird” in it.  It is basically a horn shaped roll.  Sometimes they are served with confectionary sugar on them.  Most people put Nutella or jam on them. Whatever they choose, kids usually will eat these without a fight.  There’s nothing worse than them picking out a pastry only to discover what they thought was chocolate is in fact, figs.   The secret is you need to get them to eat some protein and fat.  Museums are opening and lunch is a long way off.  Forget all normal dietary rules, haven’t you heard that whatever you feed your kids on vacation doesn’t count?

Fill them up at breakfast as much as you can because most restaurants will not open for lunch until later in the day.  It’s unlike our American culture that you can run in and out and grab something quick to eat.  While they do have McDonald’s, it’s not the same.IMG_4084

Traveling with children can be a challenge on a good day.  Couple it with jet lag and not eating well and you are sure to have it all…Screaming.  Tantrums.  Feet stomping.  Tears.

…and I’m just talking about the parents.

Choose a bar that offers a sit down service.  While it is more expensive, it may be easier for you to manage the children, the food and the check all at once.  This is the time when pick pockets will swoop in.  There is nothing like a frustrated, distracted parent to rob.  Talk about kicking someone when they’re down.

So remember.  “Vorrei cioccolata caldo e cornetti per tutti.”

I would like hot chocolate and cornettos for everyone.

Get one for yourself too.  There really is nothing like their hot chocolate.  It’s more like drinking warm pudding with cream in it.  Delicioso!

Savor the moment.  You’re having breakfast in Italy with your children.  It’s a memory you will all carry forever.

The Bar


The author with her dear cousin

The author with her dear cousin and great uncle at Sant’Eustachio Il Caffe’ (photo taken by her husband)

…So in my post The Italian Breakfast, I was telling you about Il Bar.  Not an establishment of ill repute or a public house, a bar in Italy is where coffee and treats are served.  THIS is where the locals go to eat.  In fact, if you see a sign that says “American Breakfast” you can be sure no locals will be there.

“American Breakfast” as it is called on the sign is designed to lure you in with promises of what they think Americans eat each morning.  Eggs.  Bacon.  Toast.  Cafe Americano.  (Italians think this coffee is watered down and silly.  Why drink all that liquid when you can have an espresso for the same caffeine hit?)  The problem with this breakfast is that, for me at least, I don’t eat that.  Cereal and milk is difficult to find.

This is where you have to open your culinary horizons. You are better off going to one of the said “bars” and watching for a moment what the locals do.  They already know by your bone structure that you are American, so don’t get worried.  They will make you feel welcome, and they will love that you are honoring their local customs.  You can point and smile and they are so helpful!

There are lots of famous ones throughout La Citta Eterna, but there are a couple you might want to go to just to steep yourself in history, culture and coffee.  One is Sant’Eustachio Il Caffe’, just off via Monetrone near the Piazza Rotondo.  The other one is the oldest caffe in Rome, Antico Caffe’ Greco on the world famous via Condotti.  The photographs alone are worth the trip.

The oldest caffe' in Rome.

The oldest caffe’ in Rome. (Photo by Michael Sirni)

You order your espresso then point to what you would like in the displays.  They put it all on a plate, much like a cafeteria with “il conto” (the bill.)  You pay and then stand and eat it at the bar like the locals.  Espresso is literally a shot.  Add sugar and gulp.  It’s over.  While Americans may nurse the same foam cup of coffee all day long, Italians finish it all in a sip.  (They do go back and have them all day, so don’t think they have taken any kind of higher ground….no coffee pun intended.)

If you sit down, there are additional charges, much like a tip.  It is called “coperto” which is an umbrella term for bread, use of forks, table services, etc. If you want to appear really in the know, watch someone order ahead of you.  Smile at the counter worker, nod your head to the said person ahead of you and say, “lo stesso.” This means, loosely translated, “I’ll have the same thing.” Just hope they didn’t order something you’re allergic to…. 🙂