Everyone seems to know everyone else at this long-standing Italian restaurant. Scope out the two dining rooms; you'll see a mural of Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" and at least three generations of hearty eaters kicking back over well-priced pastas, Parmigianas and more.
Garlic knots have pungent charisma; a nice counterpoint is the refreshing cold calamari-scungilli salad.
Here, chicken scarpariello is made with boneless breast chunks rather than bone-in poultry (my preference); nevertheless, it's a winning rendition that includes sausage, peppers and onions.
If chicken Parm is your obsession, order the version here; it's tender enough to cut with a fork, blanketed with a knockout fresh tomato sauce (much better than the over-garlicky marinara) and capped with lush, melted mozzarella.
That same eye-opening tomato sauce may be had with paglia e fieno (hay and straw), a combination of al dente green (spinach) and white linguine. The restaurant makes a well-seasoned meatball, just bready enough. I find myself powerless to lay off a pal's orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sun-dried tomatoes; it's as bright on the palate as on the plate. An appealing linguine with white clam sauce features fresh baby clams and plenty of garlic.
Don't even consider skipping dessert. Chocolate mousse (enough to serve at least three) is deep, dark, delectable. And who can resist a crispy, creamy housemade Napoleon? Not I.
Twice, there's nobody on hand to greet and seat. Long stretches between courses define both a dinner and a lunch.
Instead of the antipasto salad with salami and anchovies I ordered, I'm served a cold antipasto appetizer (prosciutto, grilled vegetables, pickled mushrooms and roasted peppers). Not bad, just boring.
An individual Margherita pizzette tastes fine, but I can't help wishing for a crust less thick and chewy. Gnocchi Bolognese is undermined by mushy, overcooked dumplings.
Some fine-tuning would make this popular spot even more of a crowd-pleaser.