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DINING OUT: Great home cooking at this ‘Casa’

Don’t let the name Casa Calamari fool you – more than justseafood, the menu is full of both creative and classic takes onItalian-American cuisine that would satisfy even the heartiest ofappetites.

The airy space and simple décor in this Bay Ridge restaurantprovide the perfect atmosphere for anything from a lunch date to afamily dinner.

With staff welcoming you at the door, letting you sit whereveryou are most comfortable, and getting your drinks and ordersswiftly and with a smile, you immediately know you’re eatingsomewhere where food and fun come together in one spot.

During a recent lunch visit, my colleague and I extensivelyperused the list of daily deals and lunch specials, creating twoappetizer-entrée combos: the baked-clams lunch special with Rocco’sspecial grilled antipasto ($10.50). My colleague had the stuffedartichoke ($6.50) paired with the eggplant parmigiana and pasta($4.99 for the lunch special), washed down with two glasses ofsweetened iced tea ($1.25 each).

As I began my lunch, I quickly realized the baked clams were adelight. If you’re going for the lunch special, they serve youfour; dinner-sized appetizers include six ($6.50). The clams areserved in a light sauce with lightly toasted breading on top andtwo lemon wedges on the side.

The clams themselves are just right: not too tough, not too soft- just the right amount of chew with the right amount of flavor.The sauce, made with a base of herbs and olive oil, was light anddelightful.

The antipasto salad was what can only be described as anadventure on a plate. The salad was filled with color and sass: amountain of eggplant, mushrooms, asparagus, peppers, baby carrots,kidney beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, babymozzarella balls and spinach filled tortellini, all atop a bed oficeberg lettuce to cleanse your palate from the tangy lemon-herbdressing that’s lightly mixed in with the tasty veggies. Thedressing brings out the savory nature of the vegetables withoutdulling their natural flavor.

I also highly enjoyed the iced tea with lemon, which had justenough sugar and tasted homemade.

As a lover of stuffed foods and finger foods alike, my colleaguehad to get her hands on Casa Calamari’s stuffed artichoke plate,and was not disappointed.

The artichoke was so well stuffed that it looked like a giantmeatball with an X-marks-the-spot decoration of roasted red pepperstrips. The peppers were soft and sweet, and, after pulling apartthe outer leaves, I discovered that so was the artichoke.

Eggplant is a classic element of Italian cuisine, and CasaCalamari’s eggplant parmigiana was delicious and cooked toperfection. The pasta was also perfectly cooked, with a greatmarinara sauce.

Casa Calamari is perfect for a bite with your friends, or ifyou’re out on a casual date with your sweetie. Servings are heartyand will fill you up with the comfort of home-cooking and thethrill of adventure, without emptying your wallet in theprocess.

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