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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.

Second Helpings
Little White House ** 1/2 (Sept. 22)

5877 Main St., Williamsville (633-7755). Large and comfortable restaurant with a large menu of popular favorites.

Villa Fortunata ***(Sept. 15)

490 Center St., Lewiston (754-4904). This old house in the middle of the village has known many restaurants in its day. The latest incarnation features an upscale Italian menu.

Chardonnays ***(Sept. 8)

427 E. Main St., Batavia (344-3000). Sprawling mansion attractively fitted up for comfortable eating. The menu features old time American favorites.

Asa Ransom House *** 1/2 (Sept. 1)

10529 Main St., Clarence (759-2315). Flowers, gazebos, herb gardens - it all adds up to old-fashioned charm. The food, too, is typical Americana. Your choice of formal or informal dining rooms.

Tim's Rendezvous *** 1/2 (Aug. 25)

520 Niagara St. (849-1349). An offbeat bar/restaurant that concentrates on Cajun food done with great flair.

Bevan's **(Aug. 18)

3298 Genesee St., Cheektowaga (895-2939). This informal dining place offers a big broad menu and a soup and salad bar. Everything from full course meals to sandwiches served here.

Ulrich's Tavern ***(Aug. 11)

674 Ellicott St. (855-8409). The place is over 100 years old and has managed to preserve its charm. The specialty is German-American food, although sandwiches and salads are also available.

Sue's N.Y. Deli and the Juicery ***(Aug. 4)

622 Main St. (Theatre Place) (855-1216). A very casual restaurant that offers freshly prepared food, served up by friendly folk. Big selection of vegetarian items.

Orazio's ** 1/2 * (July 28)

9415 Main St., Clarence (759-8888). Newly opened restaurant that offers a little of everything - veal, chicken, seafood, Italian.

Steel Drums *** * (July 21)

572 Hertel Ave. (876-5009). "Authentic West Indies Eats" is what this restaurant purports to offer, and that's exactly what the customer gets. It's also small and comfortable with a bright Jamaican mural on one wall.

Marie's Seafood Dining Room ***(July 14)

1 Lock St., St. Catharines, Ontario (905-934-1677). Lobster headquarters on the Niagara Frontier for years. Now all spiffed up and shiny.

The Dog Bar ***(July 7)

Route 240, West Falls (652-5550). Located in an old stagecoach transfer station by the side of the busy road and charming. No new culinary frontiers crossed here but there's a big menu of popular favorites.

Mississippi Mudd's ** 1/2 (June 30)

313 Niagara St., Tonawanda (694-0787). Summertime eating taken to the max. Extensive menu, view of the river, kiddie's playground, upper deck and oh yes - hot dogs and burgers, too.

Mother's ***(June 23)

33 Virginia Place (882-2989). Tiny, sophisticated, with nice city backyard space, too. The menu is extensive and the food combinations are interesting.

Orsini's Ristorante **(June 16)

11275 Springville/Boston Road, East Concord (592-5666). A big restaurant in a country setting with a varied menu selection. Pizza and Pub menu in the lounge.

* indicates that restaurant is so new that this is a provisional rating.


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

SERVICE: Excellent

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


PARKING: In the lot

KID APPEAL: Children's menu from $3.95

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