Anna-Maria’s, Aruba

Anna-Maria’s Restaurant in Aruba is a different concept of dining for me. When I say different, I mean it is not your typical commercial establishment with a large kitchen capable of turning out dozens of meals to order. In the first place, the location is a private residence, the chef’s house. You arrive at an iron gate, press the doorbell, and are escorted through landscaped grounds to the rear porch area, where meals are served. The back wall of the home is painted with scenes of a cafe as well as a sea view, a portion of which can be seen in the photo below.

This is a charming setting. Upon seeing the long table set for a large group I was reminiscing of backyard family gatherings (although those events were less formal). My party of four took a table under an open arbor on the patio. The waiter arrived, presented us with menus and departed. Some minutes later he returned for a drink order. One of my companions asked for a Manhattan. The waiter said the drink couldn’t be had. The only whiskey available was Scotch. Okay. Next request was Gin. Sorry no Gin. Okay. Vodka? Yes, Grey Goose and something else. That settled, glasses of wine were ordered by the two ladies in the group. I stuck with water. (If I’m going to drink whiskey, it will be Tennessee, Kentucky, or mother nature’s H2O). The reality of the drink situation points to the concept of this place. It is someone’s home where you come to have a meal. So, if your friend has a huge bar with all sorts of beverages, you’re in luck. If your pal has a limited selection, well, that’s all there is.

Having taken our order for meals, the waiter retreated then returned with the drinks. We chatted happily for a while, a bit longer than usual for a regular restaurant, when out came the appetizers. The ladies very much enjoyed the spinach-ricotta crepe. Here’s a photo.

Both ladies described it as tasty with fresh spinach flavor. (I did not taste it myself.) Another of my party had the caprese salad as seen here:

And I enjoyed a mixed salad with vinaigrette that was crunchy fresh. The dressing was definitely original and to my liking. (Please note, the salad was salted the way I’ve experienced in Spain and other parts of Europe.)

After the appetizer plates were cleared, the chef himself came to our table. He is a personable fellow with plenty of enthusiasm. I liked the personal touch, the bit of background about himself and his wife. A bit more time passed and our entrees arrived sequentially. My spaghetti bolognese came first. Take a look.

Then came a pasta with pesto seen here:

Then there was a linguine with meatballs in the next photo.

Finally, there was a lasagna as you can see here.

Okay, so how about the taste? Let me start with the lasagna. It was a bit exotic as among the layers were slices of hard-boiled egg. My companion enjoyed the dish even as it was a bit messy, which tends to happen as lasagna disintegrates under the fork. Next, the pesto, which was also reported to be fine but not exceptional. The linguine with meatballs was average, the meatballs themselves a bit dry and petit. Finally, my spaghetti bolognese… again, average. The sauce itself was quite sweet and thin, lacking a substantial amount of meat that is typical in my experience with this dish. So, we moved on to desert, having the cream-puffs you see here:

These cream puffs were stuffed with ice-cream, which was startling because the waiter did not specify that. I like ice cream, and I like cream, but my preference is not to have ice-cream inside of pasty. Just my choice; yours my be different. And there was a cannoli as well.

Overall, I enjoyed myself at Anna-Maria’s. It is very much like eating at someone’s home as opposed to a restaurant. The entrees did not all come out together, which led to a bit of awkwardness while I sat with my plate cooling as a courtesy to the rest at the table. I’m old-school in this department, showing respect for my female companions, not beginning until their meals arrive. It wasn’t too long, perhaps a couple of minutes, and this is a sign you are at home, not dining out. Also, the waiter did a good job, but he needs to speak more loudly and clearly, an easy fix. Thus, if you’re considering a visit to Anna-Maria’s, be prepared for a leisurely meal, served with some touches of a commercial restaurant, but more like the way you might have supper at your friend’s house.

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