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The Food Guy: Three new restaurants getting great early buzz

Remember last week when I went all gaga about DiTrapano artisanal olive oil, an Italian-made treasure now available locally because of the family’s roots here in Charleston?

Right after that, reader Eric Showalter gave me a heads-up that he saw a gelato made with DiTrapano Oil at Caffé Romeo, a new Italian coffee and gelato shop on Bridge Road in South Hills.

That popular new spot is on my restaurant review list already, so I’ll be on the lookout for it when I go.

I’ve been hearing such great things about Caffé Romeo that I’ve already tried stopping by twice so far, but the line has been out the door both times. I’m not complaining, though — that’s so nice to see.

Another place getting great public reviews is Sumthin’ Good Soul Food on MacCorkle Avenue in the Spring Hill section of South Charleston.

Open just a little over two months, Sumthin’ Good serves up food that owner Denise Jones promises “comes from the heart and soul of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers.”

The menu makes that pretty clear right from the start, boasting items like Mama Neisy’s Fried Chicken, Grandma Shirley’s Cabbage, Auntie Monica’s Baked Beans, Mama Fran’s Candied Yams, Mama Fran’s Mac N’ Cheese, Lo & Smella’s Peach Cobbler and Christina’s Sweet Potato Pie.

Ribs, barbecue, pulled pork and beef brisket also are offered, along with sides like collard greens, pinto beans and potato salad.

“Just a quick note that we had dinner there recently and it was delicious!” reported Craig Casto. As former longtime chairman of the Taste of Charleston, he’s a man who knows good food.

Reader Joe Kerner added: “It’s super friendly and family operated, just like I like. I had the fried white fish with baked beans, cornbread and fried green tomatoes. Fabulous!”

But no restaurant buzz in recent memory has been as passionate as what I’m hearing about the new Bistro at The Barge, a fine-dining restaurant now open on the boat’s upper level.

I’ve spoken to a whole bunch of friends and fans who have raved about the food, service, atmosphere — the whole dining experience there, really — using words like “phenomenal,” “fantastic” and “even better than I expected.”

“Best meal I’ve had in Charleston in five years!” Steve Connolly said. “We loved everything and will certainly be back!”

Carrie and David Fenwick recently celebrated their wedding anniversary there with an experience that impressed as well.

“Our dinner at Bistro on The Barge was excellent,” Carrie said. “The food was really good and the service was great. I highly recommend it and, for fine-dining, it is up there or passes other places we’ve eaten at recently.”

Of course, I had to know exactly what she ordered.

“I had the petit filet and lobster mashed potatoes. It was as good as the Chop House and Bridge Road Bistro. The mashed potatoes were better. We shared the lobster risotto appetizer and inhaled it. It was awesome,” she said.

“David had the trout and said he hadn’t had anything better at either of the other fine-dining establishments in town. We shared a blueberry cheesecake that was amazing. Clearly homemade and great. The maître d’ made an Old Fashioned that was as good as The Greenbrier. An all-around positive experience.”

It’s “build up” like this that makes me so excited to check out a new restaurant, but will these places really live up to that hype?

Time will tell, so please stay tuned.

Steven Keith writes a weekly food column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and an occasional food blog at blogs.wvgazettemail.com/foodguy. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or by email at wvfoodguy@aol.com. You can also follow him on Facebook as “WV Food Guy” and on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as “WVFoodGuy.”

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