Sunday, August 10, 2014


Crusco's - A Golden Nugget of a Ristorante

When entering a new decade in life, it's time for a little adventure, so when my brother Bob suggested we (he, his wife Nguyen, Richard and I) all go to Mark Twain country, I thought we were going to fly somewhere, rent a raft and float down the Mississippi.  Full disclosure: I had just reread "Huck Finn" for the third time and was visualizing myself in a red plaid shirt, cut off jeans and a strand of straw dangling from my mouth. Wrong!  No plane ride, no Mississippi River, no plaid shirt and cut-offs.  Not even a strand of straw.  We were going to California gold rush country, specifically Angels Camp. 

OK, I'll bite.  Which is it - Mark Twain country or gold rush country?  Both, I soon learned.  Obviously, I have never read "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" the famous short story Twain wrote while he lived in Angels Camp, hanging out and drinking with those miners panning for gold, but more about Twain in another blog.
Much of the town of Angels Camp is as it was in the 1800's.


But, one perk we enjoyed that old Mark never experienced in that tiny town was a dinner at Crusco's, a family owned Italian restaurant that reminded me of some of the great Neopolitan restaurants I loved in Manhattan's Little Italy even down to the decor - murals and all.

Mud & Sheet Rock Sculpture by local artist Mike Darby
Mom and Pop (Celeste and Gill) are ever-present. 

Celeste greeted us with a warm smile and showed us to our table and Gill, a fun curmudgeon who's dry humor seeped out more and more as the evening progressed, waited on us with an assist from their daughter, when he claimed his senility kept him too long from our table.

We decided not to overdo on appetizers so shared the calamaretti fritti (deep fried calamari w/ a cocktail sauce), which was a perfect way to start the evening.  Then, after the salad course, our serious eating began and, of course, I had a bite of everything.

Richard had the Lasagne Bolognese, beautifully prepared with mozzarella, provolone and parmigiano cheese and tomato-meat sauce between layers of perfectly cooked pasta.  The cheese, all melted and warm in the pasta mixed w/ the sauce made my heart skip a culinary beat.

Bob ordered the Filetto alla Griglia con Granchio, translation: grilled beef tenderloin over fresh spinach and soft polenta, topped with dungeness crab meat.  Sort of Crusco's version of surf & turf.  As advertised, the beef was tender, the polenta was soft and the crab was dungeness.  Absolutely delicious.

Nguyen's entree was Salmone all'Arancia, a sauteed wild Alaskan salmon fillet served with the house's blend of mixed grains, finished with a creamy orange madeira sauce.  I usually don't kvell over salmon, but this dish definitely called for kvelling.

My choice was the Fettuccini col Prosciutto, the first bite of which practically made me stand up and cheer.  This dish is sort of Crusco's take of spaghetti carbonara, one of my favorite pastas of all time.  Substitute the spaghetti with fettuccini, add the peas and proscuitto and toss in the cream sauce, top with parmigiano cheese and voila.  Well, more than voila.  The cream sauce was a delicate delight made with Madeira wine. The subtle flavor of the wine took this cream sauce to a new be still my heart level.

To end our sumptuous dinner in the middle of this old mining town, we shared my birthday dessert, a delicate panna cotta with strawberries. 

The perfect ending to a perfect meal.

1240 S. Main Street
Angels Camp, Calif. 95222

1 comment:

Sandra Lewin said...

Sounds absolutely delicious! A belated Happy Birthday! Sandra