The venue was romantic and Saturday night’s weather sublime. It was the first evening of spring-like temperatures after a brutal winter. We traveled to the Sherman Hill district to eat at Café di Scala where the historical architecture and eclectic community provide an energy that is unique to this part of Des Moines. Café di Scala resides in a house on a prominent corner hill on Woodland offering an intimate view of the neighborhood and specializing in southern Italian food.
We were some of the first diners for the night as we nestled in with a couple of glasses of refreshing Proseco. The bold interior colors of rust, red, dusty yellow, and olive green grew subtle as the light of dusk came through the bay windows of this Victorian mansion. Our waitress was efficient and helpful and we learned that Anthony, the owner, was out for the evening on a catering event. We brought along a special bottle of Brunello di Montelcino to accompany our dinner, and after our server opened it we let the wine breathe as we got acquainted with the menu.
For an appetizer we started with Crostini alla Rustica, slices of toasted South Union baguette topped with roasted red pepper coulis and baked goat cheese. This was finished with capers and drizzled with balsamic reduction. It was a flavorful, tangy and crunchy beginning to our meal that complimented the last sips of our sparkling Proseco.
David and I then each have Insallata, a salad of field greens, cucumber, and red onion, mixed with tangy oil and vinegar dressing and then topped with pieces of parmesan. The pricing and sizes on the salad choices were a welcome relief to the often expensive prices we encounter when everything is sold ala cart.
For the main course David ordered the Mailae Ripieno, gorgonzola stuffed pork tenderloin topped with a crimini port reduction served with seasonal vegetable and lemon renoni risotto. The pork tenderloin was tender and delicious with a sweet and tangy finish and just the right level of mild gorgonzola. The crimini port reduction and mushroom garnish was deep in flavor and richly satisfying, the perfect touch for the tasty fresh green beans and lemon risotto.
I selected the Manzo con uno di Rosso or filet of beef seared and pan roasted. The steak was topped with a red wine proscutto sauce and served with the seasonal vegetable (green beans) and stuffed baked potato. The meat was juicy and had a touch of pepper zing. I ordered it medium but it seemed more medium well but it was still quite tender and delicious. I liked the mini stuffed potatoes which provided just enough starch for me to enjoy without feeling guilty for over-indulging in a starch portion.
Interestingly we generally are used to having bread served with our meal but that must not be a standard here at Café di Scala. When we asked for bread, our server said she “could find something”, which she did, and she served us some fresh and chewy artesian bread and butter.
We didn’t hang around for the music portion of the evening, although we hear that the jazz offered up later is always very good. We decided to enjoy a coffee on our back deck to savor this first warm burst of spring. It was a great meal, and overall Café di Scala serves delicious upscale selections and a distinctive neighborhood restaurant experience. Pricing is in line with the other more upscale establishments in Des Moines but the ambiance provides a point of departure from many of those other fine restaurants. Café di Scala is a lovely place to spend time away from it all.