So, my awesome boyfriend, Ben, decided to surprise me last week by taking me out to dinner at a fancy restaurant. This was our first “get fancy and go out to eat somewhere where the waiters wear ties” date we’ve had in like 2 months, so I was excited. He didn’t tell me where we were going, so I spent most of the day trying to get him to give me some clue so I could figure it out. His clue was “it’s somewhere we’ve never been before” which, if you read my previous sentence, could be pretty much any fancy restaurant in Charleston, since we’ve really only been to one. I was really excited when I found out it was Al Di La, as I’ve been wanting to go there for a while. We tried to go for Avondale Restaurant Week back in February, but the wait time was obnoxious.
This time he thought ahead and made reservations, ensuring we wouldn’t have to wait, which is great because I hate waiting, especially for food. The first thing that I noticed when we walked in the door was that it was actually a lot smaller than I realized, which I actually kind of liked. I hate it when restaurants are so big you almost have to get a map in order to find your table. Our waiter was very kind and knowledgeable when informing us of the daily specials and that all the pasta and desserts were made daily in house. He also brought us a ton of bread while we were waiting for out food. The bread is amazing. I’m not 100% sure what it is (I’m thinking focaccia…I was too busy eating to ask), but it was really delicious. Because we hadn’t eaten enough bread already, we decided (after much deliberation) on the bruschetta with fresh mozzarella and tomato salad, which I thought was really good, even though they did kind of burn the bread a little bit.
For entrees, I kind of weaseled my way into getting two things I really wanted by convincing Ben he really want to order one of them (I’m very good at this… I’ve had my mother trained since I was 3). So Ben ordered the proscuitto-wrapped chicken breast stuffed with fontina cheese, pine nuts, and golden raisins. It was served with grilled zucchini and some little potatoes that where very home fry/hashbrown-like (crispy on the outside, but soft and potato-y on the inside). It was kind of similar to the chicken he made me for Valentine’s dinner (someday I’ll get him to write out the recipe), but at the same time it was absolutely nothing like it. But it was quite delicious. I think I’m going to start wrapping my chicken in other meat from now on, it seems like a winning idea.
For my own entree, I ordered the tagliatelle with duck confit, porcini mushrooms, and truffle oil. It was downright sinful. Although I ended up picking out the mushrooms and making Ben eat them (it’s a texture thing for me), I have to say that the combination of flavors worked really well together. I absolutely loved it. The noodles were fat and perfectly cooked, the duck was tender and flavorful, there was a hint of mushrooms in the sauce, which I went really well with the truffle oil and the flavor of the duck. I really, really enjoyed it. It could become one of my new favorite pasta dishes.
I ordered myself a glass of champagne to celebrate our evening out and the fact that I’d gotten hired on that day to the best branding firm in Charleston (if not the world!), and even ordered dessert without feeling guilty because it had turned out to be such a great day. I got the ricotta cheesecake with strawberries and italian amaretto cookie crust as my dessert. I don’t know that I’d ever had a ricotta cheesecake before this, and I have to say, I don’t really think I’m a fan. There’s just something about cream cheese cheesecakes that are just better, in my opinion. The cheesecake was good, don’t get me wrong, I just felt that it was missing depth. Without the strawberries, it didn’t really taste like anything.
Ben got the chocolate tiramisu with toasted hazelnuts. I liked it better than my cheesecake, but I thought that the chocolate kind of overpowered the tiramisu. I was thinking it was going to be dusted with cocoa powder, but instead they drizzled it with chocolate sauce. Now, I am of the opinion that anything drizzled with chocolate sauce immediately becomes 100% more delicious, but this tiramisu was definitely an exception to that rule. Ben considers himself a tiramisu connoisseur, and he wasn’t really impressed…although that’s kind of typical of Ben (unless I’m cooking, of course).
I think if I went back, I’d really like to try the shepherd’s salad (Mixed Greens, Ubriaco Cheese, Genoa Salami, Sopressata, Grapes and Walnuts with Citrus Vinaigrette), or the Steamed Mussels in a Tomato and Fennel Broth as appetizers and the Ricotta & Mascarpone Gnocchi with Shrimp, Grape Tomatoes and Basil as my entree, as those were other things I was debating (I’ll just have to make sure I’m going with someone other than Ben, so I don’t inadvertently murder him by ordering shellfish). So be on the look out for Al Di La Revisited…. hopefully it’ll be up someday not too far in the future (anybody want to buy me dinner??). All in all, it was one of the best nights I’ve had in a while. Not even the terrifying thunderstorm and torrential downpour could dampen my spirits that night (although it probably helped that I made Ben get the car while I stood, dry, waiting under an awning).
Bottom line- Order pasta. Or Meat. Eat as much free bread as possible. Skip dessert.
Al Di La
25 Magnolia Road
Charleston, SC 29407