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Review – Vero Cucino Rustico

Review – Vero Cucino Rustico

Up in the Man Cave bruschetta appetizerNot just another pizza place in a strip mall, Vero Cucino Rustico features a full service menu, with full cred food. “Life is too short not to eat well” is painted on the wall of their restaurant (in Italian), and ingrained on the mind of the owners. Take a recent bruschetta special – ricotta spread, caramelized onion, candied fennel threads, prosciutto, lemon and shaved grape tomatoes. Lots of players here, but this app shows the care and commitment Vero practices to serve food with fresh and local ingredients.

Chicken Parmesan, so plebian, so provincial, but a good indicator of what’Up in the Man Cave chicken parmesans going on in the kitchen. At $18.95 Vero’s version includes 2 generous slabs of chicken, cooked golden brown and delicious, crisp yet with good fork sinkability. No gummy glob of cheese here, but a skim coat layer of mozzarella all served on a bed of thick spaghetti. Sauce was a little bland, but not a deal breaker in this dish.

Made with Vero’s outstanding dough, the meatball sub is another blue collar hero (see what I did there?!)  The roll is promoted to a starring role here, not just a bit player.  Nice crunch on the outside, full bodied texture on the inside. Loaded with meatballs, firm and tasty, not drowned in sauce, and topped with lightly melted provolone.  A huge sandwich Up in the Man Cave meatball ginderyou’ll most likely share or get 2 meals out of.  Then again, at $13.95, top of the mark around here and then some, it better be big and tasty.  When the owner was asked why this item jumped so hard in price from $9.50, he was very gracious and honest, citing a need to switch purveyors to bring in the best local ingredients he could.  A 68% increase, though, wow.  At the time of this writing, one of the vendors Vero was using was Meadow Meat, a favorite local butcher shop, offering top notch meats, poultry and service.

A large pizza here starts at $16.00. While not a militantly thin pie, it closely resembles an offering from Modern. The crust at Vero is superior to anything in Middletown. The mozzerella pie arrived with lightly charred areas akin to the New Haven trinity, seemed to be the perfect combo of cheese and sauce, cooked properly so the layers hold together, and not some sliding schism. Vero also offers a true apizza, (traditional in their words) sauce and grated pecorino romano. Not something you see very often outside the New Haven area.

A favorite lunch companion, the ceasar salad with grilled chicken, priced strongly at $15.95, is nicely done. Crisp romaine tossed with romano bits, their own croutons and dressing, and on one occasion olives. Partnered with a good sized portion of chicken that was not dried out or overcooked. Vero’s croutons are a treat, however on one visit, they were very chewy, like the humidity got to them or something. There was news however, that they were having trouble with their hvac system, which could have been responsible for the crouton issue.

Overall Vero Cucino Rustico puts out some damn fine food. Pricing here is ambitious, at or near some of the fine Main Street establishments, so be aware. vcThen again, this is not just another pizza joint slinging the occasional entree. To address the price thing, they are now offering the “Vero Lunch” – specials from 11 to 4, with a few nice selections. Also watch their facebook page for some pretty creative weekly apps and specials, always mindful of using fresh, seasonal ingredients. Located at 749 Saybrook Road (Tradewinds Plaza), Vero Cucino Rustico is definitely worth a try.

Disclosure Statement – There is no disclosure! Up in the Man Cave will never accept free meals, drinks or merchandise in exchange for favorable reviews. Up in the Man Cave will never pre- announce a visit, they just walk in, order, and eat…just like you would. You can trust Up in the Man Cave to tell it like it is

Review – Wood and Smoke Barbecue

Review – Wood & Smoke Barbecue

If you commute in or out of Middletown through Middlefield, or cruise your bike in the summertime on this stretch of route 66, you’ve been driving past the derelict miniature golf course for years.  The windmill is gone now thankfully, replaced by Wood and Smoke Barbecue.  Essentially a couple of care-free style storage sheds, and a carnival trailer, Wood & Smoke Barbecue is putting out some bona-fide bbq.The Trailer

Unlike Taino Smokehouse, the king of bbq in central and northern Connecticut, there is no table service, heck, there isn’t even a dining room…Also no glacial wait or attitude, so that’s something.  You place your order at the trailer, the folks assemble your meal, and you sit at one of the umbrella shaded picnic tables, or sit in your car, or drive and home and sit in your kitchen, whatever. Just make sure you sit, because the bbq here is legit.  The menu for now is short and to the point. menuYou’ll find no trendy folderol here, just a couple of the lynchpins of bbq – brisket, and pulled pork, either as sandwiches or as a platter, with  a few token sides.  The pulled pork sandwich ($6.00) was nothing but shreddy, smoky deliciousness, served on a “kaiser” roll. Smoked correctly, without any fat or grizzle that is typical of a pork butt that was rushed out of the pit too soon.  Herr Kaiser marches out once again for the brisket sandwich ($9.00, ouch).  Brisket, a far more difficult cut to get right, gets nailed by Wood & Smoke Barbecue. The sandwich had a mixture of point and flat, a tell no lies smoke ring, and an honest bark.  mmm brisketThe meat was properly perfumed with smoke, and so tender and juicy, one might suspect a braise was part of the act.  Proprietor and pitmaster John, confirmed the brisket is smoked on the pit, and only the pit for a full 14 or so hours.  Two sauces are offered, a sweet and mildly vinegary version, and a “hot” version.   The hot brings a bright, fresh and spicy jalapeno dance to the party, and a nice change.  Unless you’re a sauce hound, neither is really necessary.

Located at Lorraine Terrace and Route 66 in Middlefield Connecticut (about a mile east of the Red Dog, or about a mile west of the Athenian Diner), Wood & Smoke Barbecue could become the new king of bbq (albeit no frills) in central and northern Connecticut.

Disclosure Statement – There is no disclosure! Up in the Man Cave will never accept free meals, drinks or merchandise in exchange for favorable reviews. Up in the Man Cave will never pre- announce a visit, they just walk in, order, and eat…just like you would. You can trust Up in the Man Cave to tell it like it is