Restaurant Review: Elizabeth’s

Based on an enthusiastic reference, this week we visited Elizabeth’s. We got our reservations in early at this dinner-only restaurant, because this is both one of the most popular eateries in the Berkshires and one of the smallest, nestled somewhere in Pittsfield (Would you like to know exactly where? Call for directions, 448-8244. We would also recommend bringing a mapquest printout and a cell phone). We arrived to a lively Friday night crowd, which filled the renovated two-story house. Elizabeth’s quirky decor consists of old-fashioned diner chairs, mismatched plates and contemporary art prints covering the walls.

We consulted our menus and chose our appetizers from a range of adventurous Mediterranean choices. The starters included a soup of the day, several spreads, and other regional dishes. We selected the hummus platter (Midnight at the Oasis, $7.95) and a goat cheese plate (Chevre Deux, $5.95). Both appetizers were accompanied by a generous full-bodied olive oil and served with a crusty warm house bread. The goat cheese was delicately smooth and had a faintly sharp edge. The light hummus had a distinct traditional tahini flavor and was well-complimented by onions, olives, and sharp cheddar.

All dinner entrées involve pasta, and, although the selection is limited, they include a variety of sauces and noodles. However, the regularly rotating special sometimes deviates from the pasta pattern.

Each entrée selection comes with a house salad, the “Ensalata Mista.” a non-traditional but well-balanced combination of sweet and tangy tastes. Keeping with the family-style theme of the restaurant the Insalata Mista is served in large bowl to be shared by the entire table. It is dressed in an oil-based vinaigrette, and brings together mixed greens, feta, golden raisins, green apple slices and kiwi chunks (and “anything that is lying around in the kitchen,” according to the menu).

Casey started with the tomato corn soup de jour ($3.95). This creamy zesty soup was chock-full of corn kernels. This dish reflected an attempt to capture seasonal flavors. For her meal, Susan ordered the entrée special ($15.50), which was described as a “multi-bean vegetable fat-free chili,” to be baked with mozzarella or sour cream. Opting for the chili without either topping, this fresh autumn medley was mildly spiced and comfortingly warm. It was served with a slightly sweet and delicious home-baked green pepper corn bread.

After struggling with an undesirable menu substitution (spinach to arugula on pasta), Casey settled for the penne with asiago ($14.75). The dish was light and virtually oil-free. The combination of fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, and a complimentary sprinkling of asiago was a welcome variation upon a Mediterranean staple.

Olga chose the regularly changing meat sauce to accompany her penne. During our visit the sauce included generously portioned tender roasted pieces of chicken in a light tomato sauce which avoided overwhelming the other flavors.

Throughout the meal we continued diving into the unending supply of bread and Insalata Mista remaining on the table. Although at the end of the meal the consensus was that there was no possible room for dessert, we just couldn’t resist the allure of New York cheesecake, which purported to be baked by Catholic nuns. We chose a pumpkin cheesecake ($3.95) over the Key Lime and Chocolate options. This insanely light melt-in-your-mouth perfectly spiced slice of decadence put us all on cloud nine.

The staff at Elizabeth’s was friendly and well-informed, but clearly had too much on their plate. We had to ask several times for refills of water and bread. This would not have been a large distraction except for the fact that parties of four or more are automatically charged an 18 percent gratuity.

As we flashed our plastic to cover a pretty hefty bill, we were informed that Elizabeth’s only accepts cash, check or I.O.U.’s (yes, seriously, you can send the money later).

The atmosphere was reminiscent of a Mediterranean household, and the limited but innovative menu managed to please us all. Once again, we rolled out of a restaurant extremely content.