The signage announcing Spiro's subs a martini glass for the "i," complete with an olive for a dot. This kind of precision automatically gets your attention. So does the restaurant, which turns a mostly drive-through stretch of Route 25A into a brake-light destination.
Locals know the namesake of Spiro Karachopan. He's also the force behind Sea Basin, situated three-plus miles east. That eatery is in its fourth decade serving Italian-continental fare, emphasis marine.
At this address, Karachopan goes upscale, starting with the sand-hued, stucco-style, arch-window building that rose on an empty lot.
Inside, polished wood, etched glass, shades of green and gold in the dining area. The busy bar it faces is anchored by two TVs and the prospect of at least 20 types of martini.
Wherever you are, at some point during your meal, expect a visit from Karachopan, asking how it's going.
It's going very well.
Traditionalists veer toward the well-seasoned crabcakes and the dewy shrimp cocktail; modernists, the seared tuna with wasabi and ginger; gamblers, overweight baked clams and overdone bacon-wrapped scallops. The kitchen does, however, prepare a tasty spin on oysters Rockefeller and sends out satisfying shrimp Athenian with tomato -- two dishes that usually merit a warning label.
Fried calamari gets some energy from a pan toss with cherry peppers and garlic. Plump steamed mussels turn Euro with lemon, white wine and garlic. The so-so sea-land union of grilled shrimp on eggplant is held together by a mortar of feta and blue cheeses.
Spiro's stands out with a big slab of juicy, roasted prime rib; braised short ribs with horseradish sauce, and the garlic-mashed potatoes that support both. The grilled pork chop is thick and flavorful; likewise, the rack of lamb, a tiny bucket of mint jelly in tow.
The promised blue cheese cap melts to a trace sometime before your fibrous strip steak materializes. And the porterhouse for one, ordered medium-rare, shows up overcooked. Try the ample rib-eye instead. Grilled chicken perks up with what must be the last basil from the garden.
Befitting a Sea Basin offspring, the steamed lobster is excellent. Have yours unadorned rather than stuffed with crabmeat and scallops. Slices of rosy ahi tuna are ignited modestly with an "everything" crust that's more like a brush stroke than the usual concrete.
Sweets: crème brûlée to carrot cake, bananas Foster to peach Melba, cannoli to pumpkin cheesecake, all pleasant enough in a time-capsule way.
And, just in case, there's that mint-chocolate-chip martini.