Avant is a handsome building and Della Terra is a handsome room. The restaurant section of the Embassy Suites Hotel, which occupies the lower floors of Avant, boasts high, high ceilings and great big windows overlooking Delaware Avenue. Tables are set in formal fashion; the lighting is perfect. All in all, a glamorous place to enjoy a meal.
The menu describes itself as "Northern Italian," a term that's pretty much gone out of the culinary vocabulary in recent years but is meant to distinguish itself from red sauce concentration. In other words, the menu serves notice: You will not find spaghetti and meatballs, candles stuck in Chianti bottles or slabs of garlic bread here.
You will find pasta, however. Scampi di Palermo $26 is a combination of fettuccine with shrimp, pancetta and roasted tomato sauce; Pappardelle di Parma $20 features pancetta, ham and leeks with garlic Parmesan sauce. There are various risottos and gnocchi, too.
But basically the dinner menu concerns itself with more hearty dishes. Like a grilled beef filet $34 with roasted onions, risotto cake and mushrooms; Chicken Marsala $22 ; or Cioppino $24 , a blend of seafood in a tomato broth.
The listing may not be particularly imaginative or even contemporary, but there is something for everyone to enjoy here.
We began our meal on a high note with Calamari Fritti $9 , baBy squid served in a slightly spicy marinara sauce, and Frittatine di Granchio $14 , a puffy crab cake, served on good corn relish and tomato remoulade.
I moved on to a fine pork chop, encrusted with Parmesan and Dijon mustard $25 , a good thick center cut of meat with orzo and broccoloni on the side.
The Companion opted for Piccatine di Vitello al Carciofi $26 , the veal scaloppine in the traditional white wine, lemon and caper sauce with a few artichokes thrown in for good measure. For dessert: a Double and they aren't kidding Chocolate Torte $7 .
At lunch, the Della Terra menu is more informal and you still get the great urban sophisticated ambience. More pasta dishes, for one thing Linguini with Clam Sauce, $12 ; sandwiches eight-ounce steak sandwich with mushroom, onions and cheese, $10 or pizzas Margherita, $10 .
Review: 3 stars (out of 4)
WHERE: 200 Delaware Ave. in the Embassy Suites 842-6100 . A handsome high-ceilinged restaurant offers a basically conventional "Northern Italian" menu. Credit Cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.
FAVORITE DISH: Calamari Fritti
NEEDS WORK: Food is of good quality.
PRICE RANGE: Dinners with sides from $20 up.
SERVICE: Very good.
HOURS: Lunch served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. seven days.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Valet parking available complimentary at dinner .
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.