Comfort Food, European-Style!
Cannella International Creperie & More opened three years ago as a dessert-only place ("cannella" is Italian for "cinnamon") but customers kept asking for, well, more than crepes and ice cream.
Owners Toni and Roberto Zito obliged over time and now offer a menu of Italian and German dishes, some not found in our seafood- and New Orleans-style restaurant landscape.
Appetizers like Bavarian pretzel or wieners served with German mustard and entrees like Schweinebauch (cured stuffed pork belly), and Wienerschnitzel (thin-cut breaded pork loin) make the menu unique on the coast. The encompassing "Taste of the Alps" platter contains sausages, Wienerschnitzel and German Potato Salad. Representing Italy are the squash or beef versions of Ravioli, Cheese Manicotti and Chicken Parmigiana, among other entrees.
Toni prepares all the dishes in the same way they have been made for generations. “Certain dishes you don’t touch,” said Roberto, who does the food prepping. “You don’t reinvent your grandmother’s cooking.”
Cannella’s food is rooted in the Zitos’ connections with Sicily, Bavaria and the Friuli Venzia Giulia region of Italy. Roberto, born to Italian parents, grew up in Germany and Italy. Toni grew up in Germany where her father was stationed and where she met Roberto.
“It’s what people here call comfort food, just different,” Roberto said. I recently took comfort in a lunch portion of Jagerschnitzel, breaded pork loin in rich mushroom sauce with mashed potatoes. From the taste of just one squash ravioli, I could tell there was plenty of comfort to be had in that entree as well.
Cannella has succeeded in part by making converts of those who had never ventured into the hard-to-pronounce world of German cooking and by keeping regulars returning for their favorite dishes. Fans of the hard-to-find pork shank call ahead to be sure it’s available. The apple strudel alone brings people back again and again. Like everything else on the menu, it's made from fresh, never frozen ingredients.
The sausages at Cannella are imported, however the cannoli shells and cream filling are freshly made in the kitchen. Roberto also creates giant crepes to order, filled with fresh fruit and dressed with chocolate drizzles and a side of whipped cream.
The restaurant has built a clientele strictly on word-of-mouth buzz. The 10-table dining room is cozy and the decor includes a quirky touch - a collection of model cars lining a couple of walls. The beer menu is nicely varied, the wine comes in red or white - or you can bring your own bottle.