From the outside, you would have no idea the size or decor that awaited inside. A very nice surprise with it's shabby sheek bucca's-type atmosphere...lots of family and patron photos, some gawdy pieces in a low lit setting. There were several different rooms and sadly, FLO must have gotten the worst seat in the house--a wobbly fast food type booth directly across from the kitchen with a huge anvil-like tv hovering above Fred's head. This is surprising considering there were very few customers on this monday night.
The hostess was very nice and the waitress that followed very helpful and patient. The menu had the usual Italian standby's including more upscale offerings than you would expect when you walk in the door. As Libby was dealing with a most unhappy Stella, Fred did the ordering. Ozzy had to ask the waitress himself if they had spaghetti. This was a serious question for the 5 year old. So serious that he felt the need to repeat the question a few more times when he only received a bemused grin from the waitress. ;) Fred ordered the chicken picata for himself with a side of angel hair pasta and for Libby, the veal marsala with garlic mashed potatoes.
Fresh bread and a dipping sauce were provided with the meal. Very good bread and a tasty dipping sauce that had a spice/herb puree that FLO could not identify. The garlic butter on the side was also quite strong and yummy. The salads, on the other hand, were the old iceburg lettuce stand-by. Unfortunately, someone did not go through the lettuce very well and there were several brown/slimy pieces, so Libby forewent it altogether.
The meals arrived fairly quickly and Ozzy immediately began devouring his spaghetti with meat sauce. (Hey, any way to sneak protein into him!) Fred's angel hair came with a red sauce, much to his dismay. This seems to be a common problem at Italian restaurants. When you serve pasta alongside a heavily sauced dish, why add an extra sauce to the pasta, especially when it does not meld well with the main dish?! Shaking his head, Fred's mood lightened as he took the first bite. The sauce was thick and hearty and had a wonderful flavor. Perhaps his new favorite marinara in the city. The picata was very heavy on the garlic but also tasty. The portions of both were large enough to share, which, after Libby tasted her meal, we did...
Libby's veal began well enough. It was cooked well and had generous portions of meat, mushrooms and sauce. After the first bite, Libby noticed an off flavor. With Fred's help we recognized the harsh alcoholic essence of too much cooking wine. Had real marsala wine been used, this off flavor would not be present. It is a real shame to take the sacrifice of a baby cow and cover it with cooking marsala. Please Papa Joe, add a couple dollars to the price of the entree and use the real deal. The mushrooms were cooked perfectly, the garlic mashed potatoes were fine. But overall the dish was hard to eat and impossible to enjoy.
As this was an off night for Stella, it was difficult to get through the meal. We opted not to send the marsala back, but just push it aside, share Fred's dish, settle up and get back in the car. On a less hectic night, Libby would have sent her dish back and we would have had a third entree to critique. Ozzy on the other hand, seemed unaffected by the screaming and happily finished his meal after repeated doses of parmesan.
Sadly, we were unable to sample any of the wonderful looking deserts in the front display case. If we were to return, those tasty looking cannolis would certainly be high on our list!
Price- $$, Very good value and large portions.
Atmosphere-***, We would give it a 4, but we had just a view of the kitchen with a leaky faucet. Other tables would be a different story.
Service-****, Most accommodating and friendly!
Fred - B, I would definitely return for that red sauce and there were many other tantilizing items on the menu.
Libby -C-, Good points: bread & dipping sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, Fred's dish. Bad points: poor attention to detail, corner cutting on the salad and sauce! There's never an excuse for cooking wine.
Ozzy - A, Kid friendly. Bread. Pasta. Happy kid.