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Caffe Molise serves a taste of romance

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If you were to define what romance means to you, no doubt it would be something totally different than the guy next you. We all know that certain something that floats our boat.

But, at the same time, there are some things that most of the people most of the time consider to be romantic. Things such as candles, chocolate, smooth music, luxurious foods and so on.

I visited one of my all-time most-romantic favorites this week: Caffe Molise. I like it so well because it's small, tasteful and elegant. It's fairly dimly lit, there's relaxing music playing in the background and the food is rich and exciting. It has an intimate feel all the way around, with its Italian-influenced menu and original art on the walls.

But Caffe Molise isn't just for couples in love. It has this warm ambience that lends itself well to meaningful meetings of all types.

My husband, Gary, and I visited on a Friday night, when there's a live jazz trio performing. We'd set out to spend some quality time working on our hopes and plans for the coming year. And when you're talking about making really great plans, it sure helps to have all the senses involved. Caffe Molise couldn't have been more perfect.

We started with an antipasti platter of cambozola cheese, Spanish olives, crispy-fried pancetta, cheese-crusted toast, marinated asparagus and marinated artichoke hearts. Good for two, even better for more.

Both our entrees were served with lightly dressed greens and fresh rolls, with oil and vinegar, and soft butter.

I ordered the bistecca alla Do, a tenderloin of marinated beef served with grilled mushrooms, grilled vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes. I couldn't have asked for a better piece of beef, it was so tender and deeply flavored.

Gary had the plate called Arista, a generous portion of roast-pork tenderloin with a sweet-and-spicy rub on the outside, topped with a fig compote. The fig was a nice change from the usual fruits paired with pork, and the rub was unforgettable.

Caffe Molise has very likely my favorite tiramisu in the whole town. It's dense but not heavy. It's smooth and not too light. The flavors and textures are subtly matched. Caffe Molise prepares this and other dolci fresh in-house daily.

I like the meat entrees at Caffe Molise, but I love the pasta on the menu, with their varied and interesting sauces, as well. To read them, the ingredients are familiar and classic; to taste them is anything but ordinary. The secret is in the execution.

It always amazes me how the best kitchens seem to do so much with relatively few ingredients. I think that at the heart of enjoying Italian (and other regions') cuisine is appreciating each single food in the palette, but also as the parts work together. Food can be similar to interesting music, with melodies unwinding, telling a story and resolving. This is the way the food plays out at Caffe Molise.

Meaningful plans are being made all around us right this minute. I say they're best made in spaces like Caffe Molise, where, in the quiet and tasteful ambience, inspired food is there, ready to inspire you. The passion for exciting, well-prepared food is apparent from the minute you meet your server and begin your meal, right down to your last bite of dolci.

Prices for appetizers range from $4.95-$11.95, salads $8.50, pasta $11.95-$17.95, entrees $15.95-$22.95, desserts $5.

Caffe Molise

**** 1/2 (out of five)

Hours: Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Monday-Thursday 5:30-9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5:30-10 p.m.

Location: 55 W. 100 South

Phone: 364-8833

Payment: checks, credit cards

Reservations: recommended on weekends

Other services: catering

E-MAIL: stephanie@desnews.com