By William Gardner
MICCO -- My wife and I were excited to be going to a wine dinner at the Red Rooster Cafe in Micco. It was quickly becoming a favorite dining spot of ours. But our first visit almost didn't happen.
A few weeks ago I'd made reservations there for our anniversary. When I told her where we'd be dining, her response was, "A cafe? You're taking me to a cafe for our anniversary?" Luckily for me, it was every bit as good as I'd heard and she went home with a smile!
The restaurant is cozy. It seats less than 35, and is decorated in a rooster motif that reminds me of my grandmother's kitchen in the country.
But, there's no "hash slinging" here. The menu was full of appetizers and entrees that you'd find at high-end restaurants. They also had an impressive wine list with some of the best labels.
That night, my wife thoroughly enjoyed Salmon Wellington in a puffed pastry with a fantastic lemon-dill creme sauce. I was lucky enough to have ordered the Pork Osso Bucco. It was the size of a softball and smothered in a delicious balsamic glaze. The outer skin was crispy and the meat just melted off of the bone.
We met three couples at the table next to us who raved about the Red Rooster.
"It's our favorite place," one said.
It turns out that the owner, Steve Hahn, and my wife are both from Wisconsin. In fact, Steve's first restaurant job was at a place that my wife had frequented.
The evening was a hit, and we were so amazed that there could be such a great restaurant off the beaten path. So when we heard that there would be a wine dinner a few weeks later, we knew we couldn't miss it.
When we arrived for the dinner, we were greeted with a warm smile by Steve's wife, Joti. She runs the front of the restaurant while Steve handles the kitchen. They had met while they both worked at the Yellow Dog Cafe in Malabar, where Steve had been the executive chef for many years.
They married, started a family and six years ago decided to open their own place. The name 'Hahn' is German for rooster, so hence the Red Rooster was born.
We enjoyed Caprese Salad, Prince Edward Island Mussels in a creamy pesto sauce and a fantastic Veal Saltimbocca. My wife only recently began eating mussels, but raved about these. The Saltimbocca consisted of veal scallopine layered with paper-thin prosciutto and fresh mozzarella, then finished with a delicious lemon-butter wine sauce. The veal was perfectly prepared and very tender.
Jim and Sally from Vintage Selection provided the wines and one of the winemakers, Lee Skelton Venturini del Grecco, graced us with her presence. A former model, her estate in Italy, Castelnuovo Tancredi, produces some amazing wine.
Their '06 L'Assedio DOC was very impressive. It's a well-balanced blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Colorino. It's full-bodied with great structure and powerful tannins. So good, in fact, that we bought two bottles to enjoy at home.
We topped off our meal with the most amazing Tiramisu that I've ever had. The ladyfingers soaked in the espresso with mascarpone and cocoa were out of this world.
Once again, the Red Rooster Cafe lived up to its reputation as one of the area's best-kept secrets. We left with the feeling that we dined with friends.
My wife and I can't wait until the next wine dinner on April 22. We hope that Steve and Joti save us a seat.
The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and from 4 to 8 p.m. for dinner. On Sundays, they are open from 4 to 8 p.m. They offer an Early Bird menu from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily. They are closed on Mondays.
For more information on the Red Rooster Cafe, call (772) 664-4065 or visit www.redroostercafe.com.