It is a rare occurrence that a newly-opened restaurant is able to set the standard for what a restaurant’s hospitality should be. Two members of the dine-around bunch and I experienced just such a standard-setting, when the Retiree, my dining partner and I found relief from the heat along with our mid-day meal at Casa Nostra Mediterranean restaurant in Gray.

Casa Nostra Mediterranean is located in storefront grouping in the Food City Supermarket complex. Restaurant patrons should have no trouble finding a parking space out front and the overflow spaces are located at the side of the building. As you enter you’ll find Casa Nostra’s two spacious dining areas on your left, with a combined seating capacity for 80 or so. The décor is a light and airy “restrained Moroccan.” Walls are tastefully tiled with patterned ceramics and colorful stretched fabric looking down on comfortable banquettes and chairs, each spaced just so around tables sporting green and white napery, heavy silverware and attractive stemware. Background music is contemporary and unobtrusive. Restrooms are accessible at the rear of the larger dining area.

After our hostess, Amethyst, seated us in the main dining area, the Retiree, my dining partner and I each settled down with a glass of our favorite beverage and began our discussion of the menu selections. Our capable and unobtrusive server Reagan was nearby to patiently explain some of the more unfamiliar menu terms we’d found. To my dining partner’s question about a particular dish’s composition, Reagan checked with the kitchen to be sure of her facts. How nice it is to find a server wanting to be sure her answer would be correct, rather than trying to “wing it.” And there is this: Casa Nostra’s wait staff has mastered the all-but-lost art of presentation. Rather than appearing tableside laden with plates that are then dealt round the table like a poker hand, at Casa Nostra your entree is correctly served from the right side and cleared from the left. Additionally, your server will also see that your plate is rotated for its best visual effect and your enjoyment.

Starter: Mediterranean clam chowder

Our friend the Retiree started her mid-day meal with a bowl of Casa Nostra’s Mediterranean clam chowder ($5). After tasting her first spoonful, she announced that everything in the chowder’s creation could be tasted in that spoon. My dining partner and I each had a taste and agreed.

Chicken Primavera

After consulting with Reagan, the Retiree ordered the superb Chicken Primavera ($15) as her entrée. The entrée’s primavera portion was a summertime vegetable medley that deliciously complemented the fileted strips of marinated chicken breast, lightly-dusted with a snowfall of Asiago cheese. The meal’s accompanying garden salad received positive comments from the Retiree, as did the basket of Nadia’s sesame bread.

Salade Nicoise

Spotting Salade Nicoise ($12) on the menu, my dining partner asked Reagan to bring one straightaway. My partner was pleased with her plate’s abundance of fresh vegetables, arranged in such an appetizing manner that we all had to share in its goodness. I wondered how ingredients as simple as carrots and corn kernels, combined with a proprietary selection of spices, could be so remarkably delicious. Each separate element of the entrée was combined with such culinary precision as to make my dining partner’s Salade Nicoise blend together as a whole.

Daily Special Entrée: Seafood Paella

Having heard from Reagan that the daily special seafood paella ($24) was Nadia’s creation, I ordered mine without hesitation. While waiting, I munched on a bowl of Moroccan-style vegetables: chopped fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, fresh parsley and mint. Casa Nostra’s seafood paella is a savory mélange of cooked chicken, tiny shrimp, chunks of pancetta sausage, finely-chopped red and green bell pepper, parsley, mint and an array of spices in which I spotted honest-to-goodness saffron threads, crowned with stir-fried mussels and pink-tinged cooked shrimp, all of it served on a sizzling iron skillet. Seeing the interest my tablemates were showing in my entrée, I made each lady her own tasting plate of my seafood paella to enjoy. The Retiree was quite taken with the rice and vegetables, while my dining partner was quite impressed with not only the chicken’s preparation, but her first-ever taste of mussel.

More Hospitality

As we were finishing our incredibly special dining experience, proprietor Driss Yousfi brought Casa Nostra hospitality to our table once more by serving each of us some Moroccan green tea with honey and mint, poured from a Moroccan silver teapot into beautiful crystal and silver filigree tea cups. Our cups of hot green tea, lightly touched with honey and cooling fresh mint leaves and served so graciously by our host was the capstone of Casa Nostra’s hospitality and our dining experience.

The Bottom Line

Casa Nostra is a superb restaurant in all respects. The restaurant’s décor and atmosphere makes for a serene and pleasant dining experience. The service gets high marks for being delightfully professional and unobtrusive towards each Casa Nostra customer. The food served is appetizing, delicious, prepared with attentive care and presented at table to best effect.

You, as a discerning dining customer in the Tri-Cities should find a way to experience what true dining excellence and hospitality is at Casa Nostra in Gray. You will not be disappointed.

Recommended by the Mystery Diner.