Monday, March 7, 2011

The Ladies of the Dukes in New Castle, PA

This review is very special to me.  As a child I was lucky to have a grandmother who was, and still is, an amazing Italian home cook.  I was also blessed to have a mother who was willing to learn my grandmother’s methods for cooking homemade sauce and pastas, and is an amazing cook in her own right.   When mom or grandma wanted a break from cooking on a Sunday my family went to an Italian restaurant just a stones throw away from my grandma’s house called The Ladies of the Dukes.    The Ladies of the Dukes is probably the most well-known restaurant in New Castle, PA.  It has been in business for over 40 years, and it is only open on Sundays.    It is not the fanciest restaurant, and it won’t wow you with décor or fancy service.  The Ladies of the Dukes will however provide you with some of the best homemade sauce, cavatelli, ravioli and pasta you will find anywhere.  The secret to their success is simple.  The cooks are all local Italian women who come together on Sunday’s and cook their hearts out like you are part of their family.    In fact, some of the women have worked there for over 25 years; I remember them from when I was a child!  While back home for my niece’s 6th birthday, my family stopped in at The Ladies of the Dukes on Sunday before my return home to Cleveland. 

Food---The menu is very simple.  As you can see in the picture the options are short and sweet.  The homemade options account for probably 99% of what people order: Homemade Cavatelli, Ravioli, and Spaghetti!

Salad and bread come with every meal.  The bread and the salad are store bought.  The salad is a bagged iceberg mix that has sliced olives and cherry tomatoes added to it.   The creamy Italian dressing is pretty good, but if you have never been here before this part of the meal might turn you off a bit because it is average at best.  
Everyone knows that you don’t go to The Ladies of the Dukes for salad or bread; you go for the amazing home cooked Italian pasta dishes.   My father and I ordered the ravioli, while my mother, sister, fiancée, and niece all got the cavatelli.

The ravioli are very large and are stuffed with an amazing ricotta cheese blend.  The perfectly prepared fresh pasta in combination with the generous amount of ricotta cheese make this dish one of the best ravioli dishes I have ever eaten anywhere. (My grandmothers are #1 in my book.) For most people a small order of three is plenty since each ravioli is larger than a hockey puck, but I have been known in my younger days to eat a large order of 5! 
The cavatelli are also amazing.  These inch long gems are hand rolled fresh.   When served, the freshness is apparent.  These cavatelli are good enough that my sister has ordered them over 50 times!  The only other cavatelli she will eat and leave this happy are my mother’s!   Personally, I agree that outside of my mom’s, these are one of the best homemade cavatelli I’ve come across.
We all know that great pasta under average sauce is just an average dish.   That is what makes The Ladies of the Dukes so special.  The sauce is homemade using the freshest ingredients every single week.   The fresh sauce that comes with every dish of pasta is as good as any sauce you will ever eat.  The consistency of the sauce is perfect, not to runny and not too thick.  The sauce also has zero chunks in it.  The flavor is mildly sweet, not spicy.  The sauce is so good in fact that you will see large numbers of people bringing in containers with them just so they can take some home for the week.  It is also so good that every time my mother eats at The Ladies of the Dukes the plate gets sent back as clean as it was before they served it.  This is because she scoops up every last drop of sauce with the Italian bread!

When it comes to fresh, homemade pasta and sauce you’ll be hard pressed to find a better place to eat!   If there is one thing that is keeping this from being a perfect Italian meal it would be the salads.   I’d really like to see The Ladies of the Dukes purchase mixed greens for their salads instead of the iceberg.    Food wise The Ladies of the Dukes gets a 4.75/5.
Drinks---It’s all about the food.  No alcohol is served.   na/5

Overall--- The service is quick, friendly and consistent each and every time we have dined at The Ladies of the Dukes.   If you are looking for a great pasta dinner on a Sunday and you are in the New Castle area don’t think twice about going to the Ladies of the Dukes.  This place is all about one thing…THE FOOD!  4.75/5
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1 comment:

Italian Centerpieces said...

This restaurant proves the maxim “do one thing and do it better than anybody else.” The sauce and homemade are outstanding, about as good as I have had anywhere, including my own kitchen.

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