Romantic. Personal. Delectable. Unique. Classy. All of these words immediately pop into my head when I think about my dining experience at Cafe di Scala.
Cafe di Scala, which is a quaint restaurant tucked away in a century old Victorian mansion in the historic Sherman Hill area, provides a dining experience unlike any other restaurant in Des Moines. The staff is knowledgeable and personable. The food is fresh, hand-made and has rich flavors. The environment is low-lit and relaxing. The award winning wine list is something that even Europeans themselves would be jealous of.
Cafe di Scala touts offering “contemporary Italian cuisine calabrese style” to it guests, but many may not know what this exactly entails…which is exactly why Sam Auen, Executive Beard, sous chef, and spokes-model at Cafe di Scala, offered to brake down these culinary terms.
“ ‘Calabrese style’ refers to the culinary style of the southern Italian region of Calabria (the home of Tony’s family), a mountainous area populated mainly by farmers and other working class people,” said Auen. “The cuisine of the region is very simple, typically using very few ingredients per dish, and locally sustained. We use the style of Calabria and some of the classic Calabrian dishes as a guide, then add more contemporary or modern elements while coming up with new dishes.”
What sets Cafe di Scala apart from other Des Moines restaurants is not only the quality of the food, but the quality of the overall dining experience. So many restaurants are loud, crowded and lack personality. That’s not the case with Cafe di Scala. The ambiance is cozy, comfortable, warm, inviting and intimate.
I think Auen best describes why Tony Lemmo, owner and chef at Cafe di Scala, has been able to create this atmosphere for the restaurant. It’s a matter of passion mixed with personality.
“You won’t find many other restaurateurs in this city who have a focused vision for their business yet truly care about their family, customers, and staff the way Tony does,” Auen said.
While the atmosphere of the local restaurant drew me in, what kept me there was the food. While at Cafe di Scala I had the Pollo – Italian cheese stuffed chicken breast wrapped with prosciutto and served with vegetables and risotto and my date had the Cavatelli di Lemmo – traditional noodles with marinara, romano, Graziano sausage and fresh basil.
My chicken (pollo) was moist and flavorful. The proscuitto, which was thinly sliced and wrapped around the outside of the chicken breast, added a different flavor to the dish by adding a salty flare. The side dishes included tender asparagus and creamy risotto – both were equally mouthwatering. I quickly feel in love with my dish.
The cavatelli was made with fresh, homemade pasta noodles, which are one of Cafe di Scala’s specialties, and the local sausage added a bit of a kick to the dish. The marinara sauce was pretty basic but the noodles really made up for that. Although, I was surprised that bread and butter weren’t served with our meal, and especially with the pasta.
After a bottle of wine and the main course we indulged in two of Cafe di Scala’s desserts, thanks to the Foursquare special. Newbie Tip: Make sure that you check into Cafe di Scala on Foursquare when you visit. Doing so will get you a complimentary dessert with the purchase of a regular entree with every check in! Plus, the mayor gets complimentary high fives. (Score!)
The overall experience at Cafe di Scala is one-of-a-kind and will make you a happier person. If you haven’t tried this Des Moines gem, you are definitely missing out.
Café di Scala is open Thursday through Saturday from 5 – 10 p.m. and I’d recommend making a reservation in advance at (515) 244-1353. They are also available for private parties and catering. Keep connected with Cafe di Scala by following them on Twitter and by liking them on Facebook.