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When in Rome's; Sample of variety of foods on menu brings mixed reaction

Tony Rome's Globe Hotel says it's been doing business in the same building longer than anyone else in East Aurora. When you walk in for the first time, that's easy to believe.

It seems familiar at first glance, as you walk through the foyer with a glimpse of bar customers settling into their stools. We were ushered away from the bustling barroom into a dining room lined with dark wood, shelves of crockery and strings of rope lights. When it's crowded, a table of laughing diners can blot out your conversation.

We asked for crab dip ($5.99) and clams casino ($7.99) from the appetizers menu, and a crock of French onion soup ($4.99).

A bread basket arrived, bearing small dinner rolls and lemon poppy seed mini-muffins. I'm enough of a penny-pincher that I generally appreciate free food without reservation. But the muffins' artificial flavor reminded me why they are usually the last ones picked off the break room snack tray.

The crab dip, served warm, was thick, rich and pleasantly spicy, adhering well to its accompanying tortilla chips. It tasted more like cheese dip than crab, although it delivered some sweet seafood flavor.

The French onion soup's main flavor was toasted bread, perhaps reflecting its crouton topping that was hidden underneath a cap of plentiful browned cheese. There were lots of soft onions inside, but it didn't taste of beef.

The clams casino were a tasty nibble, six fresh clams on the half shell broiled with a fresh-tasting minced green topping -- scallion relish? -- and smoky bacon. Two of the clams were sandy, but we would have eaten another half-dozen.

I asked our server what was in the green stuff. "Our chef has a lot of secret things," she said cheerfully. "Things he doesn't tell anyone." Service was otherwise timely and helpful.

Tony Rome's says it's "The place for ribs," so I ordered a full rack of honey barbecue ribs ($19.99). It was offered, as all dinners are, with potato, vegetable and soup or salad.

My wife, Cat, had the Filet Nicolette ($26.49), which the menu noted was recommended by the chef, topped with Gorgonzola, pesto and aged balsamic reduction. Our partners asked for Haddock Neptune ($13.99), fish baked under crabmeat stuffing, and another marquee dish, Chicken Aurora ($13.99), described as chicken breast topped with artichoke hearts, almonds, white wine, lemon and demi-glace.

As a rule, I prefer my pork ribs smoked over hardwood (I have a barbecue bias). So while Tony Rome's may be a place for ribs, I have been happier elsewhere.

The rack was roasted and swiped with sticky-sweet sauce, the meat so soft it crumbled easily. To me, meat literally falling off the bone is overdone; a tug from my teeth should be necessary. Also (donning my barbecue pedant hat) smokiness came from the sauce, not the pork.

Everyone else thought they were fine.

The haddock was cooked perfectly, moist and flaky under its quilt of crabby stuffing. It felt luxurious at a reasonable price.

The filet also was delightful, the hit of the night. Tender beef accurately medium rare, with tangy, dark balsamic and pungent Gorgonzola got cleaned off Cat's plate quickly. (She did surrender a bite.)

Whatever delicacy the Chicken Aurora might have had was overwhelmed by garlic. Though I enjoy garlic, from smearing whole roasted cloves on bruschetta, to the breathtaking dose of raw garlic pulp in my Macedonian brother-in-law's tzatziki, this was too much, and it had the harsh flavor of garlic chopped long before cooking.

Of the sides, the seasoned fries, crispy outside and tender within, and macaroni salad, crunchy with onion, were winners. Rice pilaf was decent. The green beans on our plates were crunchy -- underdone. The house salad sported radish, but also oil-soaked, deep-fried croutons. The minestrone soup had reduced to stew consistency, which didn't help the texture of its beans or stringy beef.

Dessert was fudgy, decadent chocolate fondant and tangy, "fun" limoncello truffle ($4.99 each). The limoncello overcame the garlic, ending the evening on a pleasant note.



Tony Rome's Globe Hotel and Restaurant

Historic restaurant serves casual family dining with a few misses.

RATING: 6 of 10
WHERE: 711 Main St., East Aurora (652-4221,
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Sunday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and
PRICE RANGE: Sandwiches, wings $7.99-$14.29; dinners $11.79-$28.79
PARKING: Street parking.

Editor's note: The News is changing to a numerical scale to weigh restaurants. Instead of one to four stars, restaurants will be rated from 1 ("stay home") to 10 ("among the best"), with 5 being "worth a try." The number grade reflects the quality of food, service, ambience and value, with the food given most emphasis.