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Culinary comfort Homey and classic, Faso's is reliable, but unsurprising

Faso's, a small Italian-American spot, doesn't have much of a view to speak of -- unless you happen to like looking at all the cars passing along on the Niagara Section of the Thruway, which effectively shuts off any glimpses of the river that might exist.

Maybe that's why the restaurant's indoors are so enthusiastically decorated. There are enormous chandeliers and twinkling lights aplenty in the back dining room of this little place, not to mention my favorite neon-lit map of the Italian boot. Somehow, these things are not overwhelming. Instead, they impart a homey feel -- as does the menu.

There aren't a lot of surprises on this huge collection of dishes. Spaghetti and meatballs ($5.95), baked ziti ($7.95) and bracciole ($13.95) are all served with cute little garlic rolls that are baked right in the restaurant. They come to your table fresh, warm and aromatic (garlic and parmesan are the top notes here).

Appetizers include a savory Artichoke Dip with Pasta Chips ($7.95) and Jalapeno-stuffed Ravioli with hearty Sicilian sauce. There are also Veggie-Stuffed Mushrooms ($6.95), which were disappointing because there were too many bread crumbs in the filling, making them bland and lacking in texture.

Much better as an opening course, although certainly filing: the Pasta Fagioli (aka Pasta Fazool) for $2 a cup. It featured thick, beef-tasting stock, well filled with beans and macaroni. A bowl is also available for $2.95.

We also liked the Swiss Chard with Sausage served over ziti ($13.95), because, let's face it, we like Swiss chard with anything. And there was plenty of the vegetable in this dish -- and also plenty of mushrooms and onions. The sausage gave a little spike of zest to a dish that was already pretty zesty with garlic to begin with. It's not for the shy.

And then there was Chicken Cacciatore ($11.95), hugely served in a sauce, loaded with tomato flavor. The accompanying salad was nicely composed, the housemade creamy red wine dressing a plus.

You can also get sandwiches at Faso's, such as the Faso's Original ($3.95), which features hot ham with melted cheese, pepperoni and bacon on a hard roll. And, of course, there is that perky -- almost classic -- Italian sausage with peppers and onions. Pizza is served only as an appetizer here and ranges in price from $9.95 to $12.95 (for a veggie pizza seasoned with garlic and oil).

Desserts? Well, there's Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie and Death by Chocolate Torte. But we settled for Spumoni ($3.50), the multicolored ice cream with candied fruits that I haven't eaten since childhood. I discovered that I still love it.

Now, if they'd only put Biscuit Tortoni -- those little cups of ice cream in macaroon crumbs, which I also haven't seen in so many years -- on the menu, my meal would have been complete.




2 1/2 stars (Out of 4)

WHERE: 2126 Niagara St. (873-4147). Small but intensely decorated Italian restaurant that emphasizes traditional items. Credit Cards: American Express, Master Card, Visa.


NEEDS WORK: Veggie-Stuffed Mushrooms

PRICE RANGE: Pasta entrees from $5.95. Dinner entrees start around $12.

SERVICE: Excellent.

HOURS: From 11 a.m. Tuesday through Friday; from 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: A shallow stair or two.

PARKING: In the lot.

RATINGS: Stars reflect the overall dining experience at the time of The News' visit -- including service, ambience, innovation and cost -- with greatest weight given to quality of the food.

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