Café Canole is one of the nicest places in this part of upstate New York in which to dine.  The name is not pronounced like the pastry (cuh-NOLE-ey), but rather like the last name of the Nole brothers who own it (cuh-NOLE).  The Brothers Nole are both well trained and well traveled, including time in Italy.  This is not American Italian food with cheap pasta smothered in marinara sauce.  This is Italian American artistry.

The portion sizes are quite large for a modern bistro like this one, but they are not over the top, and they are unfailingly beautifully presented.  Something as simple as a cup of Shrimp Bisque looks so beautiful you hardly want to disturb it by eating it.  Until the first bite.  Then, suddenly, before you even realize that it’s a little spicy, it’s gone.  And you want more.

This is a small place where you will be close to your neighbors, which is a part of the dining experience that we’ve missed out on a lot in the United States.  That makes eating a social event, which is part of what makes it so important.  If you have a party of four or larger, call ahead and make a reservation, or expect to wait.  If you do wait, it’ll be worth it.

You can always sit at the bar, with full dinner service, and lively conversation.  There you will find a full cocktail list, a nice selection of wine and a few good beers in bottles.  And if you’re at the correct end of it, you can see right into the attached pastry shop and drool over the handmade cannoli, almond pastry and tiramisu.  If those don’t get your mouth watering enough, try the crepes!

If the chef is offering a special, give it a whirl.  He picked it for a reason.  Café CaNole uses lots of local and statewide farmers and butchers so the special is likely to be something close to farm – to -table.

The must-haves are:  Shrimp Bisque, Scallops with lentils, Parmesan Risotto, Utica Greens and the meatballs.

The staff will take great care of you, even when they’re crazy busy.  And the Chef will always appreciate your feedback.  If you sit at the bar with Paul, ask him for a Manhattan-Robin Style.  And enjoy the evening.

Robin Behl, La Cuentista

See all my reviews on TripAdvisor:  search for La Cuentista

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