Ames, unlike Paris or Capri, is a place one visits mainly for some purpose unrelated to its location, for instance family, school, or business. Add dining at +39 to the purposes that justify a visit to Ames.
We love Italian food, both in Italy and elsewhere, and so do the people at Plus 39. Our salad was a hint that this would be a superb meal; the greens were so fresh one might think they grew on the roof and were picked only after we had ordered. Mme. Rkatsiteli loves spaghetti carbonara, but loves it her way: not swimming in oil or awash in a sauce that belongs on pasta Alfredo. The carbonara at Plus 39 was perfect! Excellent pancetta, house-made pasta coated with blend of cheeses, so that the flavors were in proportion to each other. I opted for the pappardelle Bolognese, wide house-made noodles with a flavorful ragu not overwhelmed by tomatoes and not too sweet, and I was as pleased with mine as with Madame’s (we traded a little).
Our experience in Italian restaurants is that we evidently don’t eat as much as other diners, most of whom are larger circumferentially than we are. We prudently put some of each pasta dish aside to take back for breakfast. We had a side of sautéed kale which was delicious but in what appeared to be a vast quantity, and it too became part of breakfast.
Even more prudently, we chose the carpaccio di pesce for our secondi. This is thin slices of salmon, tuna, and swordfish in a light marinade of capers, lemon, and tomatoes. Raw fish! In the middle of Iowa! How is that prudent? We were amazed at how well the flavor and texture held up. It was delicious, not the same as sashimi but definitely an authentic Mediterranean preparation, and it was just the right amount for the two of us. Presumably the fish are flown in frozen and sliced to order, and we were very pleased at the quality.
We sat in a little sunny room where the regular wine is stored on racks (they sell retail food and wine). The wine selection was broad (all Italian) and the prices reasonable. We chose a Feudo Maccari Nero d’Avola from Sicily which went well with everything, even the carpaccio, because it’s acidic but not particularly tannic. At the next table sat a group of several couples two of whom had recently returned from Italy and had brought their own bottles of really good wine to share (that is, Plus 39 permits bringing you own, presumably charging only corkage).
Our service was attentive, friendly, and knowledgeable.
If we get close to Ames again, we are heading for +39 for supper.