For years, I can safely say that there was not a good authentic Italian restaurant in the Quad City area. Oh, Lundardi's was good - and continues to be very good - but there was an Irish-American-ized flair to their Italian food. The Olive Garden continued to be the high point of Italian food around the area. However, in the late 90's, the Cepeda family from the Keokuk area moved into a downtown space and opened Trattoria Tiramisu. That's right - it took a Hispanic family to bring authentic Italian food to the Quad Cities. And compared to other places around the area, it was outstanding. Not the best Italian I'd ever had, but very good for what was offered in the area.
Trattoria Tiramisu moved from that downtown location (now housing Antonella's Italian restaurant) to the old R.J. Boar's site in Bettendorf about six years ago (see map). It gave the restaurant about triple the space and their own parking lot out back. There were also ventilation issues at the old location, especially in the summertime. We'd been in there when it was almost as warm inside as it was outside. The new location had a much better HVAC system.
But since they've moved, we had only been there one or two times - considering it's a lot closer to our house now than when they were downtown. We've sort of took a shine to the people at Antonella's and when we think of good Italian food, we usually think of Antonella's first. (Although Lunardi's comes in a close second with their wonderful lasagna.) However, just before Christmas, we decided to run down to Trattoria Tiramisu for a quick bite one evening.
The parking lot was full and we were wondering if we'd have any problems getting in on a weekday night. But Trattoria Tiramisu was hosting a holiday party in the bar area. There was plenty of tables open in the dining room. In fact, one side of the dining area was closed off. Green and white checked table cloths cover the tables at Trattoria Tiramisu. They did their best to make it look like an authentic Italian trattoria, but there's still some cheesy-ness to the decor. But if you're more worried about what they're going to serve you than your surroundings, you can easily get past that.
We sat in a booth and looked over the menu. And I forgot that one of the traditions at Trattoria Tiramisu was a complementary plate of bruschetta our waiter brought to the table as we looked over the menu. The food at Trattoria Tiramisu is like a road map of Italy - they feature Southern Italian red sauce dishes, Northern Italian white sauce entrees, Napoli-style homemade sausage and Mediterranean-style seafood dishes. And while the wine list isn't extensive, there are some good buys on the menu. I ordered up a bottle of the Pedroncelli Merlot which was priced at $23.00. I thought it was a pretty good bargain.
Since it had been quite sometime since we'd been into Trattoria Tiramisu, I didn't really have any "favorite" on the menu that I knew that I'd get. Pasta sort of sounded good that evening, but the Chicken Parmesan did sound appealing. But I had made Chicken Parmesan the weekend before, so I didn't get that. Their Fettuccine al Funghi Porcini - fettuccine in a cream sauce topped with dried porcini mushrooms and chunks of chicken breast - sounded very appealing, as well. The Linguine Alla Bolognese - linguine pasta with ground Italian sausage and topped with parmigiano cheese - also caught my eye. But I ended up ordering the Tortellini Al Timballo - cheese filled tortellini in a red sauce with Italian sausage and topped with a four cheese sauce.
The special that evening was a rib-eye steak, topped with a peppercorn/cream sauce and served with broasted potato wedges and sauteed spinach. Cindy wasn't really certain what she wanted, so she ended up ordering the special. She said, "I was all set to get pasta, but for some reason a steak sounded good."
Being that it wasn't all that busy in the dining room, we sort of figured we'd get our meal pretty quickly. But the large party in the bar area had ordered their food about the same time we ordered ours, so it was a good 25 minutes before our food was brought to our table. Our waiter came out to apologize to us about 10 minutes before the food came out. "We suddenly got swamped in the kitchen," he said. "It should be here shortly."
When it did come out, it was worth the wait. And quite actually, the portions were huge. Cindy's steak (top left picture) wasn't swimming in the peppercorn/cream sauce like I've seen at some places. Part of her steak was void of any sauce allowing her to get a taste of the steak without the sauce if she so desired. She ordered her steak medium and it was cooked to a slight pick center - a perfect medium in my book. She offered me a bite and it was good. It was tender enough for a $14.95 steak and had some good flavor to it. I really did like the peppercorn/cream sauce that went with it.
My tortellini was a great value at $11.95. And there was a lot of it. I knew that I wouldn't be able to eat the whole thing, so I concentrated on getting the chunks of homemade Napoli-style Italian sausage out of the dish first. I'm not overly big on cheese-filled tortellini - I prefer a meat filled tortellini - but it was still very flavorful and filling. After devouring the sausage chunks and a few of the tortellini rings, I'd had enough.
Cindy did have some of her steak left over and she had the waiter bring her a box to take home so she could eat the rest at lunch in a day or two. Our waiter wanted to know if I wanted to take what was left of the tortellini home with me and I told him, "No, it's never as good re-heated as it was in the restaurant."
He said, "Yeah, I know what you mean. I'll get some pasta dish to go when I leave work, then try to heat it up in the microwave when I get home. It's not as good, is it?"
I guess I forgot how good of a value Trattoria Tiramisu really is. We got a lot of food for under $30 bucks. For people like us who treat ourselves once or twice a week to a nice meal out when I'm home, that's a pretty good bargain. If you're looking for good - and authentic - Italian food at a great value in the Quad Cities, skip Olive Garden and head straight to Trattoia Tiramisu.