The Sistine Chapel image of God's and Adam's almost-touching hands is framed in the dining room at Verde Wine Bar and Ristorante.
This sprawling place opposite Tanger Outlets at the Arches definitely extols creation in all forms. What started as a Papa Joe's pizzeria is reborn as a wine bar, modern restaurant and catering establishment.
There are updates on Italian-American classics and a few New American forays, adventures in mixology and plenty of vino, plus a lush chocolate torte and pot-de-crème. It appeals to a broad audience with dependable food and no pretense.
Those mass-market fresco fragments provide the color in a spot otherwise devoted to neutral hues, dark-wood- topped tables and bentwood chairs. It could become a party space in an instant.
Owner Anthony Carcaterra, whose parents founded Papa Joe's, has kept reminders of the original, from the free house salad to the eggplant Parmigiana. And you could contentedly begin by sharing a pizzette, especially the one capped with ricotta, arugula, herbs and cured meats from Manhattan's Salumeria Biellese.
The house's meat-and-cheese board also is an appetizing opener, with choices that take in finocchiona sausage and speck, and artisanal American cheeses. A polenta board, however, is bland, even with shredded short rib and mushrooms atop the cornmeal. And grilled octopus arrives overcharred.
You're better off with the pulled-chicken arancini, rice balls with a different accent, boosted by tomato pesto. The Arborio-rice crusted sea scallops also are very good, with a hint of yuzu.
Baseball-size meatballs with house-made ricotta are a husky opener, but well-made and worth ordering with a pasta. One already anchors the homey cavatelli "Sunday style," which adds braciola, sausage and ricotta.
The cavatelli trio Bolognese, with beef, veal and sausage, heartily continues the theme in a serious tomato sauce. Paccheri, a pasta that looks like rigatoni on steroids, is fine, tossed with generous amounts of sausage, broccoli raab and oven-dried tomatoes.
There's excellent shrimp scampi-style, with linguine and a zesty invention, cod alla puttanesca, the fish boosted by olives, capers, anchovies, tomato and fingerling potatoes. The zuppa di pesce outdoes versions at many pricier restaurants, emphasizing the carefully cooked seafood in tomato broth.
The kitchen offers a tender, roasted chicken stuffed with pancetta and ricotta, alongside fennel and potatoes; and an ample riff on chicken piccata. Chicken alla Parmigiana: solid. So's the short rib. And tripe with potatoes, peas and carrots has the nostalgic appeal of a true family recipe.
Michelangelo would have loved it.