It's the first birthday for Marinaccio's, a large restaurant in Williamsville. The place occupies a lot that's almost as big as the state of Delaware, and the interior comes complete with banquet rooms and dining rooms and a separate bar.
It also comes complete with a celebrity chef (for Western New York, anyway), Brian Mietus, a creative guy who likes to play with contemporary ingredients. And, as at many other restaurants, the creative stuff turns up for the most part in the appetizer column. (Which is why a lot of people nowadays simply chose two or three starters to make up their meal.)
The Marinaccio's entrees tend to center around more standard ingredients, although the accompaniments can be interesting. And, just to keep everybody happy, there's an assortment of Italian comfort dishes such as Spaghetti Parmesan, Carbonara and Manicotti. So patrons can go in any direction they wish.
On the appetizer list Tuesday evening, one item immediately beckoned: Gorgonzola Stuffed Figs Wrapped in Prosciutto with Greens ($8). Happily, figs are the new darling of the local upscale dining scene.
Too much of a darling, maybe. Figs may be getting overly popular. Anyway, the kitchen didn't have any, so I switched to Duck Confit with a Spinach, Sweet Potato Salad, Warm Chorizo Vinaigrette and Goat Cheese.
And very nice, I thought. To tell the truth there wasn't a heck of a lot of duck in there, though there was plenty of salad with interesting taste combinations. I was especially drawn to the barely cooked sweet potatoes that had been shredded over everything. Nice crunch. They made the plate look good, too.
Still in the appetizer column, the Companion was attracted by the Accadia Roll ($9), the pastry enclosing a dusky combination of wild mushrooms, green onions and prosciutto. This turned up over a fennel and carrot salad. Really piquant and really filling, too.
I was not as happy with my entree, an almost obscenely plump Wild Mushroom-Crusted Veal Chop ($31 and one of the higher entree prices I've seen in Western New York). The meat had a steamed flavor, which the mushroom crust didn't seem to alleviate. The crust also fell off in one big piece as soon as I touched the meat with my fork.
The veal was generously served with cooked onions and some crisp potato herb cannoli. Put it this way: I had enough to eat.
The Free Range Chicken ($19), on the other hand, was more than respectable. Full flavor -- forget all that limp cardboard taste some restaurants offer. And, of course the caramelized onion-topped mashed potatoes were a joy.
It seems to me, though, that there are some details at Marinaccio's that need attention. The bread for example, standard Italian white, is, to put it politely, uninspired. It's not the kind of bread you would dip in olive oil, but the server brought out some dip anyway, emptying a little cup of it into a saucer. Too much vinegar here.
Also, the desserts were woeful. Out came a wrinkled little list that offered nothing particularly exciting. We shared a Cranberry Nut Torte that came out on a messy plate. It was OK.
We also ordered coffee (cold), which was accompanied by chocolate chip biscotti that were, as a matter of fact, excellent.
But the biscotti were literally thrown on a tiny little saucer -- it even looked as if someone had already nibbled at them.
The food may be good here, but the kitchen has got to tighten up.
MARINACCIO'S ** 1/2
WHERE: 5877 Main St., Williamsville (633-7755). This large restaurant, now open about a year, features many Italian dishes, comfort food as well as some contemporary items. Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.
FAVORITE DISH: Accadia Roll appetizer
NEEDS WORK: Wild Mushroom-Crusted Veal Chop
PRICE RANGE: Dinner entrees from around $16.
SERVICE: Very good
NOISE LEVEL: Moderate
HOURS: Lunch, Monday through Friday. Dinner, until 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
HEALTHY CHOICES: Fettucine Margarita; Free Range Chicken; Pan-Roasted Halibut
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes
PARKING: In the lot
KID APPEAL: An adult restaurant