You know how some restaurants bring your bread with ice-cold butter that is impossible to spread? Jay Cohen, the owner and executive chef of three-year-old Mia Carolina in Glyndon, gets really annoyed by that. So at his restaurant, he makes sure the butter is warm enough to spread easily.
But that's not all. The butter, piped into pretty rosette shapes, is served in a neat three-compartment porcelain serving dish along with olive oil seasoned with garlic and herbs and a flavorful bean spread—perfect accompaniments for the warm, dense rolls, crafted from made-in-house pizza dough.
Mia Carolina is all about attention to detail. As soon as we sat down, our water glasses were filled, and our waiter, Ian, introduced himself. Within minutes, we were learning about the night's specials and accepting recommendations for wines by the glass.
Bottles are available at the table, too. Or you can purchase one from the little wine shop at the restaurant entrance, bring it to the table, and pay a corking fee. Both the shop and restaurant serve mostly Italian and American wines, focusing on mid-priced and lesser-known selections.
Though Mia Carolina has a fairly standard Italian menu, with dishes like fettuccine Alfredo, chicken Marsala, and veal parmesan, this is not a restaurant of red-and-white-checked tablecloths, rivers of red sauce, and posters of Sicily on the walls. Cohen has created a soothing setting for his customers—walls painted in muted shades of green and quiet sounds of jazz in the air.
One special during our visit was a smoked salmon appetizer, with fat slices of the pink fish placed over rounds of crunchy bruschetta that had been slathered with a mild herbed cheese. This was beautifully presented around a mound of peppery arugula, but would have benefited from some editing—the assertive salmon didn't need the cheese or the extra drizzle of olive oil on top.
We preferred the Pavarotti salad, which combined stellar greens with sweet roasted onion, crumbles of goat cheese, black olives, and artichoke hearts. A light hand with the vinaigrette let the flavors shine.
We tried linguine Posillipo, which heaps shrimp, scallops, mussels, lobster, clams, and calamari over pasta and adds a simple tomato-basil sauce. It was yummy, but was a bit stingy with the lobster.
Pollo Florentine added depth of flavor by cooking the chicken in wine. A generous hand with the spinach and a sparing hand with the tomato-basil cream sauce were both just right.
For desserts, there really is no choice. You can order a cannoli or tiramisu for seven bucks each, or get a little of everything in the Mia Carolina sampler for just three dollars more.
The sampler provides more than enough dessert for a table of four and includes warm banana-chocolate-chip bread pudding, tiny carafes of vanilla crème brûlée and tiramisu, a miniature flourless chocolate cake, and a half-sized cannoli. All the desserts are made in house—and all are excellent.