The scent of oak wafts from the wood-burning oven out over the parking lot of Dilettos, the sprawling Italian restaurant formerly known as Papa Razzi. Former manager Michael Barbosa recently bought the handsome spot; his brother, Paul, is now its chef. The menu shows only a few small changes.
Excellent house-baked focaccia and hand-rolled breadsticks are irresistible, but you'll want to save your appetite for the pizza. The simple Margherita pie has a lovely blistered crust that tastes faintly, alluringly of wood smoke. Its crushed tomato, mozzarella and basil topping is exactly what you want -- and superior to the meatball topping on the polpetta pie. Whether ordered with a pie or not, the insalata di Charles -- romaine, arugula, radicchio and fennel with lemon, olive oil and shaved Parmesan -- is a winner.
At lunch, the cavatappi affumicati -- hollow spirals with roasted eggplant, Roma tomatoes, smoked mozzarella and Romano cheese -- comes off as richly smoky despite pale, bland tomatoes. Tomatoes reappear in a dinner special of risotto that includes arugula and mozzarella. The dish seems to be little more than soupy rice.
A far better bet is the hearty bucatini all'Amatriciana, hollow spaghetti in a tomato sauce with pancetta, onions and chili oil. Or get the forthright orecchiette salsiccia, ear-shaped pasta with sausage and tender, nonbitter broccoli rabe.
Wood-roasted salmon emerges from the oven moist, lightly perfumed with oak. A shame the "crispy" potatoes on the side are limp. The same potatoes are paired with the well-burnished gallo al forno, lemon-garlic chicken slow-roasted and finished under the wood oven's open flame.
Best to bypass the almost flavorless panna cotta in favor of frutta al forno, wood-oven baked fruit with cinnamon, brown sugar and topped with vanilla gelato. It's a fine finale.
While laconic service can be a problem, Dilettos has much to recommend it. For large groups, there's a party room. The regular dining room also boasts several big round tables -- ideal for sharing pizza, pasta and salad with friends or family.