Dying for Tony D’s

For more than 10 years, Tony D’s in downtown New London has consistently served the community delicious food. This Valentine’s Day, I ventured onto the love-stricken streets of New London for a sane and delicious dining experience. Anticipating a busy night, I had made a reservation one week in advance. I chose Tony’s for its atmosphere: vivacious, bustling with people and boasting Motown music, brick walls and Renaissance murals illuminated by warm ambient lighting.

The service was diligent and polite. My server was never far but didn’t hover, plied me with refills of water and knew when I was ready to order. For dinner, I selected the rigatoni with homemade meatballs and sauce paired with a glass of Estancia moscato. While waiting for my main course, I received a plate of tapenade and a basket of warm bread, which, being light, fluffy and already shiny with butter, immediately piqued my appetite. Even the olives, which I usually consider a lowly and cursed fruit, must be praised for their inclusion in this tapenade. Next came the salad, for which I opted in on grated cheese and pepper ground by my server himself. Though it consisted only of spinach, lettuce, and arugula, this salad was topped with the most delicious dressing I’ve ever tasted and the flavors of its few ingredients blended so exquisitely I was left wanting more salad, a most unusual phenomenon.

By the time the rigatoni came, I was ready for the orally orgiastic experience of my life. The pasta with which I was met was certainly favorable, if not able to meet my high expectations. The rigatoni was cooked al dente and the complexities of the D’Angelo family sauce, heavy in basil, sweet and slightly dry, improved on the giant meatballs, which were tender yet not particularly savory.

Full of carbs, already on my fourth glass of water and nearly done with the delectably sweet moscato, I began to doubt my stomach’s ability to take my constant blows. Yet I knew this was only weakness talking; I had to strong through dessert, for my roaming eye had spotted “Chocolate Chilli Pepper Creme Brûlée” on the dessert menu. When the creme brûlée came, it was love at first bite. Usually a light tan, the brittle crust was dark with chocolate and interspersed with crimson flecks of pepper. “I’d die for this,” I said upon my first taste, and it wasn’t just the moscato talking. Everything about the creme brûlée, from the deep richness of chili pepper and bittersweet cacao in the caramelized top, to the creamy, faintly gingery custard, to the cannoli cream peeping out from under the dish, made dessert the highlight of my evening.

For dining in or take-out, I recommend Tony D’s to lovers of reasonably priced Italian cuisine. Buckle in for the salad; don’t skimp on the cheese and pepper, and say yes to dessert. •