Monday, November 06, 2006


Dave smoothly turned the car into a parking space and shut down the engine. We were in the Festival Marketplace parking lot, just off Route 60 in Williamsburg, and Maurizio's Ristorante Italiano lay just ahead.

As we strode in, the hostess jumped up and grabbed a couple of menus. The dining room was brimming with activity and energy. Most notably, from the singer standing at the edge of the room, belting out some serious torch-songs. It was a nice touch, but in need of a little quiet time, we requested to sit outside on the patio.

The intimate patio held only a couple of full tables; we opted to sit at the far end. Our waitress quickly came by with water, taking our drink requests as we perused the menus. When she returned with our wine, we'd finally decided upon our appetizer.

The Peppers Delight ($6.99) was a colorful foursome of stuffed cherry peppers. Two came with prosciutto and provolone, the other two with sopressata salami and feta cheese. It was beautifully presented in a small pool of olive oil, strewn generously with fresh basil. The salty meats paired well with their respective cheeses, while the peppers provided a nicely piquant background. Left facing a bowl of basil-tinged olive oil, I grabbed a hunk of their house-made bread and took a dip-- wonderful stuff.

Our waitress had morphed into a waiter by the time we'd finished up. Deftly moving around the rapidly-filling tables, he cleared away plates, refreshed waters and took a few random drink requests. Even with all the hubbub, he was soon back with our salads and entrees. The salads were fresh and simple, with an adequate if unexceptional house vinaigrette.

Dave had ordered the veal saltimbocca ($16.99), a tender fillet of veal sauteed in a white wine sauce, topped with prosciutto and fresh mozzarella. Partnered with a hefty bowl of spaghetti, this looked to be serious food, not for the weak-willed or small-stomached. I snuck in a taste before he made too much headway, and was rewarded with a deeply-rich broth, resplendent with veal and sage. The cutlets were befittingly pale and tender, infused with that deep, rich flavor. When Dave slapped away my hovering fork, I finally turned my attention to my own plate.

The Penne alla Capri ($14.99) was showcased on a stark white plate, making the dish look especially fresh and vibrant. Bucatini (bow-shaped pasta), my requested substitute for the penne, was mounded with fat slices of sauteed tomato and butterflied tiger shrimp. A coral-colored liquid, the buttery white wine sauce, paid promise to the delightful scents rising from the dish. Garlic and basil never had it so good. The shrimp were a touch overcooked, but that sauce made them more than palatable. Again, I found myself grabbing for a hunk of bread to sop up every last remaining drop.

Stuffed, but still curious, we ordered a pizza to take home for further investigation. I requested the Maurizio's Combo ($11.99), but what came to the table seemed to be more like a meat-feast: pepperoni, sausage and prosciutto were layered generously over the cheese, nary a vegetable in sight. As they say in the old country, "va benne", that is fine. It made for an enjoyable dinner the next evening, with a nice, crunchy crust and zippy, somewhat spicy sauce. While both the pepperoni and prosciutto were quite tasty, the sausage was one, big glaring exception: mealy, greasy and almost unpalatable. We quickly disposed of the sausage, and enjoyed the rest of our slices. Dave reported to me the next day that, even cold, it was still quite delicious-- truly the hallmark of good pie.

The Fiorello family has been dispensing happiness in a classic style since 1985, and I'm only sorry that I hadn't discovered it sooner. Bravissimo!

See additional photos here.


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