Restaurant Review: A Ca Mia Italian Restaurant in Walnutport, PA
A new restaurant called A Ca Mia just opened in Walnutport, owned by a well-regarded chef with decades of experience. Between that and the fact that the only other restaurants in the area are fast food, we were anxious to check it out.
I was very happy with my meal. There was the traditional bread with dipping oil, then a salad with vidalia onion dressing, and Meat Sauce Bolognese for my entree: "Our traditional combination of veal, beef and pork meat slowly braised and cooked in a red wine tomato sauce." For dessert I had the cannoli, which used puff pastry instead of the usual thin shell, and it was delicious.
You choose whichever kind of pasta you’d like in the Bolognese, and I chose penne. The portion size was gigantic: I ate about a third of it, and took the rest home, where I weighed it to find it was nearly two pounds left over.
My only complaints are minor: the salad was served in a bowl that was just barely big enough to hold it, which means that it’s virtually impossible to mix after pouring on the dressing (which they serve on the side); the "dipping oil" for the bread was actually a mountain of minced garlic covered in a small amount of oil, which was so spicy from all the garlic that it was slightly painful to eat; and they don’t offer sweet iced tea, nor raspberry iced tea, to drink -- just soda and unsweetened tea (and of course water, milk, and hot drinks).
Kim’s meal, however, was disappointing. She called ahead to ask whether they have any gluten-free meals, and they said yes. But when we got there, our waitress told us that they could make pretty much any regular meal gluten-free upon request. That might sound good at first, but in reality what it means is they haven’t actually put any time or effort into making good gluten-free meals. Technically it’s true that they can make most of their meals gluten-free by serving them without the pasta, but that doesn’t mean the resulting meals are going to be any good (e.g. lasagna without noodles would be pretty pathetic, and not at all the same as lasagna with gluten-free noodles).
The chicken and broccoli that Kim got is a prime example of this. I’m not sure exactly what it would have looked like in the regular version, but the gluten-free version was 3 large chicken breasts surrounded by some broccoli on a plate with a very watery white sauce. The chicken did not seem to be seasoned nor seared at all, and the sauce was not creamy, not cheesy, just watery.
A Ca Mia probably didn’t have many good options for where to site the restaurant in the Walnutport area, through no fault of its own, of course. But the location is quite small, and the tables are packed into it pretty tightly. It’s a single room, and I believe it’s all tables, with no booths. It feels crowded. There was a waitress or busboy hustling past us pretty much the whole time.
The restaurant is also noisy. Partly this was because of a large, rowdy group seated near our table, and partly it’s because it was a Saturday night (though it was 9:30 PM, nearly closing time) -- but it’s also partly because of the single-room layout and the lack of sound-dampening design features (particularly carpet) in the space. It feels more like a cafeteria than a restaurant.
I would gladly eat at A Ca Mia again, despite its flaws. The menu is expansive, with about 60 entrees (including a large seafood section) and over a dozen appetizers. And as I mentioned, there are few if any other decent restaurants in the area, so it’s almost the only game in town. They had a 45-60 minute wait around 6:30 PM so they seem to be doing well.
On the other hand, Bravo is only 20 minutes down the road. And as much as I did like the food at A Ca Mia, it is just not in the same league as Bravo. If it were considerably cheaper, that’d be one thing, but our meal (two entrees, two sodas, and two desserts -- no appetizers and no alcohol) was $50 before tip, which is the same price or more expensive than a meal at Bravo, or Outback Steakhouse, or P.F. Chang’s, etc.
And A Ca Mia just doesn’t have much to offer people with a gluten intolerance, which is a significant portion of the population, even if many of them haven’t discovered it yet. The restaurant could certainly stand to take 5 of those 60 entrees and replace them with a few well-designed dishes that are truly gluten-free.