We’ve lived in Plainfield for six years. I don’t know how many times I’ve driven past the little red building on East Washington. Dozens of times, at the very least. Each time, I’d think, “I need to try that place!” Finally, my husband and I vowed, “Next time we go out to eat, we’re going to give this place a try!”
As we were driving to Danelli’s, keeping our promise to ourselves, the other night, I kiddingly said, “Watch. We’re going to go to this place, and it’s going to be awesome. Then, we’re going to kick ourselves for not going here sooner!”
I hate it when I’m right!
The interior of Danelli’s is all that an Italian restaurant should be. Warm and inviting and comfortable, with red checkered tablecloths and lots of interesting Italian-themed photos and paintings on the walls. Right away, you know this isn’t one of those noisy, impersonal chain Italian restaurants. This is a restaurant where someone takes great pride in making sure things are just right!
Our waitress, Kim (who I knew I’d like right away, given the name-twinning thing!), told us about a few items that weren’t on the menu, including the special for the night – chicken marsala – and the appetizer we had to try – bruschetta.
I knew we were in trouble.
The San Marzano tomatoes were marinated in balsamic vinegar, bringing out an amazing sweetness! The bread was toasted to perfection! Oh, it was SOOOO good! Add to this the beautifully fresh salad I started with, and the delicious chicken gumbo my husband started with, and I was already knowing my joking earlier in the car was going to come true!
Deciding what to eat for a main course was pretty simple for me. The menu included “The Best” Homemade Baked Lasagna. I had to try that! I make a pretty mean lasagna myself, so had to have it! Plus, I added a meatball on the side. I’m a firm believer you can tell the caliber of an Italian restaurant by their meatballs. Kim (our waitress – I’m not talking about myself in weird third-person 😉 ) also noted another delight not on the menu – calzones! Grant had to have that. I also am pretty proud of my homemade calzones, so this was going to be a really good test to see how good Danelli’s really was.
Oh, they were OH SO GOOD!!
Your mouth’s watering right now, isn’t it?!
Let’s start with Grant’s calzone (that he begrudgingly shared a couple of bits with me). It was HUGE!! The monster calzone was overhanging the large dinner platter! I had never seen a calzone quite made this way – a simple fold over method – but it was wonderful! The crust too was unlike anything I had ever had (or made). Instead of a chewy, pizza crust dough, it was light and flaky and crispy! And, DELICIOUS! I was lamenting my choice, after having a bite of the calzone…
… until I had a bite of my meatball!
The meatball was well-seasoned, and had the perfect texture. Tender, so you knew it hadn’t been overworked, but still firm enough to hold together as a good meatball should. After my first taste, I was wishing I had ordered three more! And then I dug into my lasagna…
… it was lasagna heaven!
First, where Grant’s calzone was huge, this lasagna was COLOSSAL! I know it’s hard to tell by the photo, but I not only had lasagna for dinner right then, but also had lasagna for lunch the next day and (I’m ashamed to admit) the last part for breakfast the day after that! Layers of pasta lovingly topped thick layers of ricotta cheese, fresh basil, and sweet Italian sausage. There was the perfect balance of sauce and pasta, so it was not too dry and not too saucy – it was just right! It was so delicious, it was very difficult for me to stop eating when I was full!
Then, Kim told us about dessert. There were several amazing choices, but when she said – “Salted caramel gelato” – I was all in!
This locally-made gelato was as good as anything we had had in Venice or Rome! The hint of saltiness of the salted caramel was a wonderful offset for the sweetness of the gelato and a delicious way to end our meal!
The only question I had, as we walked out with very full tummies was, as I feared, “Why didn’t we eat here sooner?!”