In the spirit of Christmas gluttony and repentance, I should confess that Brad’s Swingside Cafe doesn’t quite fall into the Dining Deal requirements of a meal $25 or less. But, hey, it’s the season for holly and folly, and only the grinch within us wants to be counting calories and cash right now. What happens in December stays in December, and we deal with the — let’s call it “excess” — in January.
This small Italian trattoria, in Fremont for a couple decades now, has built up surprisingly strong attachments from diners because of its quirky style and homegrown Italian fare.
What Swingside knows best is that, on a cold winter night, there aren’t many meals more comforting than a plate piled high with garlicky seafood pasta and a glass (or two) of red wine.
The menu: One of the Swingside’s signature dishes is its aglio olio ($18), a linguine dish tossed in a sauce of garlic, chili peppers, capers, anchovies and spices. Add the fresh Dungeness crab, if available. Other pasta dishes include hazelnut pesto linguine ($16); Sicilian-style red and white clam sauces ($16); and pollo alla brindisi ($19), which chef/owner Brad Inserra describes as a “Southern Italian mole.” Non-pasta options include the Carlton salad with marinated vegetables ($16.50, $19.50 with prawns) and wild game and seafood specials, such as the Sicilian-style calamari ($15). Gluten-free pasta is available.
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What to write home about: The wild boar and venison Bolognese ($19), served over farfalle pasta, was rich but not gamy, and as good as leftovers the next day as it was hot out of the kitchen.
What to skip: Overordering. The portions are large (as reflected in the cost), and you’ll be taking food home if you order multiple courses.
The setting: Feels like you’re eating in someone’s living room — cozy and comfortable if a bit rough around the edges.
Summing up: The boar and venison Bolognese ($19), pasta con sarde ($19.50) and a Carlton salad ($16.50) came to $55 before tax and tip, and fed two.
Katrina Barlow: firstname.lastname@example.org