Attilio’s opened March 9 at 700 N. Salina St. (218-5085), the
spot vacated by Antonio’s. That mainstay had been a favorite hangout
for North Siders since 1983, and regulars were concerned about its
replacement. Not to worry!
Lou Santaro, owner of Santaro Construction, always wanted to
own an Italian restaurant, but he was waiting for the right spot to
open up. This space was a perfect fit, and Santaro dubbed the new venue
Attilio’s after his grandfather. But a restaurant isn’t worth its salt
unless the food is tasty, so Santaro coaxed well-known chef Tommy Gottuso out of semi-retirement.
Gottuso’s culinary roots come from the school of Freddie Grimaldi,
the noted culinary maestro who spawned many chefs who ultimately became
famous in their own right. “I started washing dishes in Grimaldi’s
restaurant in Utica when I was 8 years old,” Gottuso reminisces,
followed by stints in the legendary Grimaldi’s on Erie Boulevard East
as well as spots like the now-defunct Giarmartino’s, which was across
the street from Grimaldi’s.
Now at Attilio’s, the chef brought along the team that has worked
with him for at least 12 years at other local restaurants, most
recently Avicolli’s in Liverpool. “Matt Balamont is my executive chef
and Angelo Coppola is my sous chef,” says Gottuso. With his skilled
staff in place, Gottuso oversees the entire operation, and puts his
stamp on every dish that goes out of the kitchen. “All the sauces are
mine,” he notes.
Classic Italian: Marcella’s, recently opened inside the
Clarion Inn on Farrell Road, specializes in family fare with a
straightforward presentation, courtesy of chef Tony Critella. MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTOS
Gottuso and his staff have fashioned a dinner menu, served Mondays
through Saturdays, 5 to 10 p.m., and Sundays, 3 to 9 p.m., featuring
familiar Italian dishes incorporating his signature versions, plus
other items that today are culinary favorites. He calls the menu
“eclectic Italian.”An extensive dinner menu begins with 12 hot
appetizers (antipasti caldo), ranging from six sauteed Italian long hot
peppers for $7, to shrimp or scallops alla marinara or fra diavolo for
$11; seven cold appetizers (antipasti freddo), from marinated baby
artichokes for $6 to antipasto DiLusso, a melange of cheeses, peppers,
olives, prosciutto and soppresata salami served with crostini for $15;
three soups at $3 per cup, $5 per bowl; and 14 pasta specialities.
The least expensive pasta entree is eggplant rollini for $15, or you
can go for broke with shrimp and scallops Venezianna, a combination of
linguine, gulf shrimp, sea scallops, pancetta, mushrooms, baby peas and
capers sauteed in a Venetian pear tomato sauce, for $27. There are five
chicken dishes, veal, beef, pork and lamb, ranging in price from $17 to
$32. Pesce lists haddock, “Syracuse’s favorite fish,” in five versions,
for $17 or $18 along with several other seafood delights.
Eight sides to embellish your entree range from $3 for oven-roasted
red potatoes in Italian seasonings or french fries. Others are $4 each,
for two meatballs, sausage, sauteed greens or long hot peppers. A side
of fettucine Alfredo is $6. All entrees are served with a side salad
(blue cheese dressing $1 extra) and a choice of vegetable, potato or
pasta. An extensive wine list has been carefully chosen to complement
Attilio’s also serves lunch Mondays through Fridays, 11:30 a.m. to
2:30 p.m. A trattoria menu is available to bar patrons. Desserts are
not currently made on site, but will be in the near future.
The square footage of Attilio’s remains the same as before, but
there has been considerable refurbishing, including a new floor and
granite counter in the bar area and a new ceiling in the dining room,
according to co-manager Jolene Ellithorpe. She adds that there is
seating for 76. The city of Syracuse installed new sidewalks along the
perimeter of the restaurant to ensure safe walking, and there is
on-street parking on North Salina Street, plus a parking area at the
rear of the property.
New kid on the block: Attilio’s opened March 9 in the spot once occupied by Antonio’s; chef Tommy Gottuso shows off a few of the dishes served there.MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTOS
Comfort and Joy
Critella is another familiar name associated with local Italian
restaurants. Anyone who remembers Tony and Laura Critella’s wonderful
little place in North Syracuse (remember Laura’s famous ricotta pie?),
followed by the huge Critella’s across the street, as well as son
Freddie’s upscale trattoria in Manlius, will be happy to learn that
younger son Tony Critella is carrying on the tradition at Marcella’s Italian Restaurant in the Clarion Inn, 100 Farrell Road (457-8700).
“The menu is classic Italian,” says Critella, quickly adding that it
is family fare at reasonable prices, served daily from 4 to 9 p.m. The
Clarion’s proximity to the New York State Fairgrounds attracts those
attending or participating in the many events there. People who are
looking for familiar Italian dishes will be happy to learn that there
is not one item or ingredient you will not recognize. Add to that the
long Critella family history of preparing and serving good food, and
you’ve got a winner.
Marcella’s straightforward two-sided menu starts with eight
appetizers such as Sicilian cheese fries, tossed with Italian herbs and
topped with melted mozzarella for $5.99, and a Tuscan sampler, a
combination of items for $9.99, with a side of homemade tomato sauce.
Italian wedding or minestrone soups are priced at $2.99 for a cup or
$4.95 for a bowl.
A modest list of seven entrees, all served with house salad and
Italian bread, range from extra-large cheese-filled ravioli topped with
homemade tomato sauce for $8.99, to veal Marsala sauteed with
mushrooms, garlic and Marsala wine cream sauce with a side of
Turn to the other side of the menu for other choices, like two
different combination platters, for $14.99. Two haddock dishes include
one baked Italian style, served over pasta and tomato sauce, for
$10.99, or topped with mozzarella and a side of pasta for $11.99. The
best deal is the bottomless pasta. Order a bowl of cappellini, rigatoni
or penne, served with Tony’s homemade tomato sauce, and fill it up as
many times as you want for $7.99. Add two meatballs or sausage for a
$9.99 tariff. Side orders of meatballs or sausage are $1.75 each,
crumbly blue cheese on your house salad is $1, and an order of garlic
toast costs $1.50.
Kids get their own menu with a selection of cheese pizza, chicken
tenders with french fries, white pizza or grilled cheese with french
fries for $2.99 each. For dessert, lemon torte or chocolate raspberry
cake cost $5.99 each, while cannoli are $2.99.
To the Moon!
Over in East Syracuse you’ll find Grimaldi’s Luna Park owner Rita Grimaldi,
who has been feeding many travelers staying at the nearby Thruway
off-ramp hotels and inns since 1995. Many make return trips to the
charming Tuscan-style trattoria tucked between surrounding imposing
buildings. It is an oasis for weary businessmen and tourists to sit,
relax and dine on beautifully executed food in a welcoming atmosphere.
But Grimaldi’s Luna Park, 6430 Yorktown Circle, East Syracuse
(432-4614), is not only for the itinerant population. Central New
Yorkers have become regulars here since it opened five years ago,
warmly welcomed each time by Grimaldi, who has maintained the pride and
excellence for food which began with her grandfather Fred Grimaldi. The
eatery serves lunch Tuesdays through Fridays, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Dinner takes place Mondays through Saturdays, 5 to 10 p.m., and
Sundays, 4 to 9 p.m.
Bob Thomson has just come on as chef, and has quickly been
incorporated into the Grimaldi operation. “We are like family here,”
says Rita. “I even witnessed the birth of two of our servers’ Amy and
Josh Gaul’s three children, and tried to accommodate the family’s
schedule with the restaurant’s.”
Grimaldi also believes it is important to ensure that customers are
satisfied with their meal and service. Rita recalls that her
grandfather felt it was so important to interact with his clientele
that he set up a lounge chair in the back room so he could take a short
nap only to be back on the floor to greet his customers. While she
admits that she doesn’t go that far, she still tries to connect with
everyone at the restaurant.
Luna Park’s menu remains true to her family’s roots, while
incorporating dishes that have been created through the years. What has
really been successful is portion size options. As an example, under
the “secondi” listing, each item is served with soup or tossed house
salad. But one may opt to order either a full-sized portion or a
“primi.” For instance, a full order of rigatoni ragu with Bolognese
sauce is $16.95, but the “primi” costs $8.95.
The menu begins with seven antipasti, each more tempting than the
other. Four salads are on the menu including the expected antipasto for
$12.95. The signature Grimaldi salad mixes romaine lettuce with roasted
red peppers, olives, artichokes, tomato, gorgonzola, parmigiano cheeses
topped with house dressing for $9.95.
Nine pasta dishes begin with penne, rigatoni, cappellini or wheat
spaghetti marinara with meatball for $12.95 ($9.95 without meatball).
Gnocchi verde tops potato dumplings with fresh basil pesto, parmigiana
and toasted pine nuts. A full order is $15.95, while primi costs $8.95.
Pasta and peas, a traditional dish, is not often seen on local menus.
Here cavatelli get tossed with pancetta and a light marinara sauce;
$14.95 gets you the full monty, while a primi is priced at $8.95.
Soups are not listed on the menu but you may find soups like chicken
vegetable, potato and leek lentil, or cold soups, now that the weather
Chicken scamardo is a highlight of the six “pollo” listing, all
served with a side of pasta. The dish begins with a chicken breast,
layered with eggplant, prosciutto and fontina cheese, laced in a light
vodka sauce for $22.95. The seven “pesce” entrees are tempting but the
salmon Oscar florentine is especially worth a try. Fresh Norwegian
salmon is topped with lump crabmeat, sauteed spinach with an herb
bearnaise crust over risotto Milanese for $24.95.
There are four choices—two each of beef and pork—under the “bisteca”
heading, which are served with potato and vegetable of the day. “I used
to serve veal osso buco, but the veal became so expensive that I
switched to pork,” Grimaldi says. “My customers seem to like it just as
well.” The dish begins with fork-tender, slow-roasted pork shank with a
pork demi glace and saffron risotto for $24.95. If you still want veal,
there are six choices, served with a side of pasta.
“We don’t smother everything with sauce,” she notes, “and our
eggplant Parmesan is prepared fresh to order. It doesn’t come soggy to
the table.” Grimaldi’s also does not use a steam table, so while things
may take a little longer to make it to your table, you know your dish
is prepared to order.
Desserts are made by Grimaldi’s mother Regina. You’ll find coconut
cream, chocolate, Key lime or apple pies, cassata, biscotti or cannoli