Caci North Fork quietly slipped into Southold in late summer. It's making a lot of noise now.
The rustic spot already has a niche on Main Road for expertly prepared food, served in a dining room that often acts as a frame for it. Credit owners Anthony and Daniele Cacioppo and especially chef Marco Pellegrini.
Caci, a contraction of Cacioppo, is at the address that once housed EON, a cafe and spa. Exposed beams play against the white-and-gray walls for a look free of interruptions. But those hard surfaces rapidly raise the decibels, even if only two or three tables are occupied.
You can be sure, however, that some of the conversation is about Pellegrini's frequently excellent, always seasonal cooking.
The airy, delicious potato gnocchi arrive finished with Gorgonzola cheese, radicchio, walnuts and a balsamic vinegar sauce -- a superb pasta, as was its predecessor, gnocchi all'Amatriciana. Likewise, pappardelle Bolognese, with an outstanding meat sauce. And the richest pasta of 2014 must be Caci's tagliolini with quarter- and nickel-sized shavings of white truffle, a luxurious and wonderful dish, The kitchen lags with risotti, which are a bit pasty.
Enjoy the mellow, satisfying polenta topped with crumbled, housemade sausage, chanterelle mushrooms and tomato sauce. Try the tasty seafood guazzetto, a light, simmered, soupy production with monkfish, calamari, clams and mussels.
Pellegrini's big main course is a 32-ounce version of bistecca alla Fiorentina, with North Fork sea salt and Umbrian extra-virgin olive oil. Order yours medium-rare or rare. The tender, grilled New York strip steak comes with Parmesan cheese, arugula and balsamic vinegar. The pot-roasted pork shank with chestnuts is an understandably popular and hefty cool-weather selection. But the rack of venison, while well seasoned with juniper berry, bay leaf and Marsala wine, becomes a tough, chewy affair. Meaty grilled striped bass is enlivened with cacciatore sauce. Nutty farro accompanies almost every main course.
Caci's wine list, while pricey, features many first-class choices by the glass.
And the finales star a terrific red wine-poached Bartlett pear, served with warm chocolate sauce and vanilla gelato. The Umbrian rocciata, similar to strudel, with apples, cinnamon sauce and gelato made with Macari Vineyards' dessert wine, could be crisper. The sweet chocolate-and-apricot cake, while quite good, trails late-summer's sensational, warm chocolate cake with raspberry sauce and vanilla gelato.
All diners sound very satisfied.