It's near the Ralph, and it's got sporting history behind it. It's also got every Italian-American dish you can name. Old time Western New Yorkers - you know what restaurant we're talking about. Ilio Di Paolo's, home of high backed booths, wrestling pictures - the present proprietor is the son of the late well-known wrestler - and friendly servers.
Also, combination platters like the Abruzzi (linguini marinara, chicken marsala and canneloni with alfredo sauce, $13.45). Or the Compari Combo (chicken cacciatore, lasagna with plain sauce and penne marinara for the same price).
Actually, just reading the menu here can take you an hour or so. There are all sorts of corners that promise enticing things. The Early Dining Special "Seniors Favorite" section (ID not required) is interesting in that it offers a dinner for two for $15.95 at certain times of day (see box). You have a choice of chicken, spaghetti, gnocchi, meat ravioli, manicotti, fettuccine alfredo, penne al forno and rigatoni plus salad and coffee.
Then there are other pasta combinations and health conscious suggestions and house specials and Italian feasts. I tell you, the list goes on and on.
We felt terribly straight-laced because we were so non-creative. We simply ordered two House Specials. One we liked very much - the Shrimp and Scallops with Ilio's Marinara ($13.95) was filling and spicy with plenty of seafood. And just in case we might be feeling a wee bit peckish, the entree also included some linguini topped with tomatoes and onions.
We weren't that crazy about the Steak Tuscano ($13.95), however, although it was certainly a mighty hunk of meat. A 10-ounce strip steak "marinated," the menu told us, "in Chianti and seasonings from the Tuscany region." Evidently the seasoning from the Tuscany area is salt. The steak was reasonably tender but saturated with the stuff.
Actually, it was impossible to taste any herbs.
Aside from the Minestrone, which was watery, the accompaniments to the beef were OK - spaghetti with tomato sauce was hearty. And the salad was fresh; the house vinaigrette exceptionally tasty.
There's real stick-to-the-ribs stuff here. this is not a place for the dainty eater. It's meat and tomatoes all the way.
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* indicates that restaurant is so new that this is a provisional rating.
ILIO DI PAOLO'S ***
WHERE: 3785 South Park Ave. (825-3675). A neighborhood restaurant near the stadium that seems to have been around forever. Specializing in veal, steak and seafood - all with an Italian touch. Credit cards: American Express, Visa, MasterCard
FAVORITE DISH: Shrimp and Scallops in Marinara Sauce
NEEDS WORK: Steak Tuscano
PRICE RANGE: Dinners from around $11 include salad and pasta. Early dining special dinner for two $15.95
HOURS: Lunch, Monday through Friday. Dinner Monday to Friday, 3:30 to 10:30; Friday 3:30 to 11; Saturday 2 to 12:30; Sunday 1 to 10:30. Early Dining Special applies Monday through Thursday, 3 to 5:30. Sunday, 1 to 5:30
HEALTHY CHOICES: Penne Aglio with Broccoli and Carrots, Chicken Cacciatore, Swordfish Pescara
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes
PARKING: In the lot
KID APPEAL: Children's menu from $3.95