BIG MENU -- small restaurant. And interesting decor consisting mostly of toy cars, stashed in clear glass cases. With only those few clues to work from, many Western New Yorkers will immediately identify Sinatra's Trilogy. After all, it's a very popular restaurant and one that has been a fixture on Kenmore Avenue for many years.
The food is mostly Sicilian -- not fancy food, necessarily, but home-style. It's freshly prepared and done with style. The menu features traditional favorites like Fava Beans sauteed with garlic and olive oil ($6.95), Pasta Fagioli ($4.95) and Pasta con Sarde (with sardines, raisins and fennel, $12.95).
There are lots of pastas, as well as lots of veal dishes and steaks, of course. Not to mention a Cassata slathered with chocolate icing that reaches to the sky.
While we waited to order, we nibbled at the small bowl of Caponata that was brought to our table with fresh sliced bread -- both excellent. We also enjoyed glasses of the house Montepulciano wine.
Only then did we get serious. The Minestrone was full-flavored with an almost smoky quality; the salad was really delicious -- and just loaded with romaine, deep red tomatoes and even a couple of slices of hard-boiled egg.
And then, for some reason, we seemed to go in heavily for veal on this particular visit. My own Osso Buco, an evening special, was served -- hugely -- over creamy risotto. It was a humble but rich dish.
The veal shanks came complete with well-filled marrow bones (oh, for a tiny spoon!) They had been cooked for a long, long time. The meat was tender, velvety and well-flavored.
Cutlets Milanese ($17.95), of course, are cooked quickly. These had been removed from the heat when the coating had turned crisp and golden. The meat was juicy and tender within. The grilled Veal Chop, accompanied by gently spicy Spaghetti Marinara, was at least an inch high.
Also spicy was the Pasta Puttanesca ($12.95), and because it was so piquant, it was especially filling. But what else would you expect from a sauce that contains anchovies, capers and oodles of olives? It was interesting to sort all those flavors out.
That mile-high creamy Cassata studded with glazed fruit ($4.50) was shared among the four of us. And the complimentary Biscotti that came out with the coffee were a very nice touch.
Did I mention the sound system? The tapes are very romantic and relaxing.
Frank Sinatra must have gone through his whole repertoire by the time we had finished a very relaxed meal.
(Addresses and telephone numbers of restaurants reviewed in the past two months may be obtained by calling 849-4070.)
Teta's *** * (Sept. 10)
Teta's, 9370 Transit Road, East Amherst (636-5944). Home-style Middle Eastern cuisine is served in this small, simply decorated restaurant in Casey Plaza.
* indicates that restaurant is so new that this is a provisional rating.
SINATRA'S TRILOGY ***
838 Kenmore Ave. (877-9419). An attractive restaurant -- and not a large one -- that specializes in home-style Italian food. Guess who sings in the background? Credit cards: American Express, Visa, MasterCard.
BEST DISH: The pastas.
NEEDS WORK: All food is of good quality.
PRICE RANGE: Dinners from $11.95 include soup or salad.
HOURS: Dinner, seven days until 10 p.m.
HEALTH-CONSCIOUS CHOICES: Seafood Pasta, Broiled Veal Chop, Chicken Diavolo.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes.
PARKING: In the lot.
KID APPEAL: No separate children's menu, but they'll like the little cars. Addresses and telephone numbers of restaurants reviewed during the past two months may be obtained by calling 849-4070.
KEY: * FAIR, ** GOOD, ***VERY GOOD, ****EXCELLENT, *****EXTRAORDINARY. Stars are awarded for the quality of the food only.