DICK SCHAEFFER'S REVIEW
LaFamiglia A Very
Good Taste Of Italian Food
BY DICK SCHAEFFER
As I have previously mentioned, my mother's parents were Italian. They arrived at Ellis Island in 1907, bringing with them the true Italy.
My grandparents became American citizens and were very proud of it, but were more at ease with their Italian friends and coworkers and the Italian community they were a part of.
They retained many of the Italian customs and, particulary, the Italian cuisine.
I learned at an early age how good spaghetti sauce tasted on fresh Italian bread, how taste buds hungered for the slivers of salami, mortadello, provolone and even sometimes prosciutto that the owner of the horse-drawn delicatessen would hand us as we stood around our mother at the back of his cart, and how simple and delightfully tasteful a thick crusted pizza could be with
only crushed tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil and a little Parmesan cheese sprinkled on it.
La Famiglia brought back some of these memories with the simple sauces they use and food which makes you just want to sit back and enjoy it.
It was a Friday evening and my son and daughter-in-law were joining me this evening. The restaurant is very small and did fill completely by about 7:15, so arrive early if you don't want to wait.
The tables are covered with white table cloths protected by a glass top and are set
with cloth napkins, clean silver and clean glasses. The lighting is good and light music is playing at a tolerable level. The tables are quite close together, but space is adequate to be seated without disturbing other diners.
Our waiter arrived and we ordered a Peroni beer ($3.75), a glass of Chardonnay ($3.50) and a glass of Chianti ($5.50). The wine list was quite limited, but, an overly extensive list is not necessary for the courses offered.
There are about 12 different selections including Mondavi and Inglenook house wines available by the glass, half carafe and carafe, Merlot, Pinot Grigio, Cabernets and Chiantis. Bottle prices ranged from $15.95 to $29.95, and glass prices ranged form $4.25 to $5.50.
The menu showed only three appetizers and no soups, not even the sometimes seemingly inevitable minestrone. The dinner menu, in contrast to the wine list and appetizer menu, is extensive and provides something for almost any taste and price range.
There are pastas such as cheese ravioli at $7.95 and Buttons & Bows, chicken, pasta, sun dried tomatoes, scallions & mushrooms in a white asiago coating at $13.95; there are chicken dishes such as Pollo Carciofo, a chicken breast sauteed with garlic, herbs, artichoke hearts, and capers at $12.95, and Chicken Marsala at $12.95; veal dishes such as Veal Scallopine, fresh cutlets sauteed in a light sauce of white wine, fresh lemon juice artichoke hearts and capers at $13.95 and Veal Francese, fresh cutlets dipped in egg batter sauteed with garlic, white wine & fresh lemon juice at $12.95; baked pasta such as Baked Ziti at $8.95 and stuffed shells at $8.95; and seafood such as mussels marinara at $12.95, and calamari or scungilli at $12.95.
The waiter returned our drinks and we chose to sample the mussels marinara appetizer at $7.95 and the fried calamari at $6.95.
Our main course selections were the Pollo Carciofo, Veal Parmigiana at $12.95 and the seafood combo (shrimp, mussels, and scungilli or conch) at $15.95 (The waiter had explained we could have this dish in a wine and lemon sauce instead of marinara sauce which turned out to be an excellent tip). The waiter had also brought a hot loaf of crusty bread with sesame seeds and salted butter. Still no good Italian bread, but I was delighted not to have to go through the inane olive oil and parmesan cheese dipping routine again.
The appetizers were delivered promptly and were very good. The mussels were the largest I have ever been served in a restaurant and were plump and juicy and the sauce was delightful with just the right spiciness to it.
The bread was delicious when dipped into the sauce. The calamari were also very good. The marinara sauce was light and flavorful. Both sauces had garlic, but in the proper proportion, not in the massive doses encountered at some restaurants.
After a short wait, the salads were served. They did little to enhance the meal, lettuce already soggy covered with a weak, acetic dressing which had little taste.
Again after an appropriate wait, the main courses were served. These were very good. The seafood combo combined the tastes of the shrimp, conch and mussels in an enjoyable manner and provided an excellent taste combination.
This dish was a little pricey for the amount seafood in it. The Pollo Carciofo was delectable and served with a side of linguini and marinara sauce, and the Veal Parmigiana was admirable. The meat had been tenderized, but retained a firm texture which provided the fullest enjoyment of the flavor of the meat.
The coating was crisp and the sauces covering the veal and the linguini served with it were excellent. The only drawback was that the dish was served in a skillet. Veal Parmigiana is not a skillet dish, it
belongs on a platter or in the dish in which it was placed in the oven in.
In addition, the skillet had been cold when the meal was placed in it and the food was already cool when it arrived at the table. Warming the skillet would have made up to some extent for the poor presentation and made the dish formidable.
For dessert, we chose cannoli over a chocolate selection.The cannoli was commendable and provided a nice ending to an overall good dining experience. We also had coffee and one espresso which were
also very good.
The bill for three beers, a glass of Chardonnay, a glass of Chianti, two appetizers, three main courses, one dessert, two coffees and an espresso was $92.58 including tax is high, but not felt to be excessive.
Once again, I experienced very good service. Our waiter did an admirable job throughout the evening to ensure we enjoyed our meal.
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