When owner Michael Berger described Fiero, Williamsville's new Mediterranean restaurant, he emphasized a mission to offer more than more Italian food.
A recent dinner at the restaurant, 408 Evans St., shows that his efforts are bearing fruit. Two dishes in particular, a chicken tagine with Moroccan spices, and a chicken bastilla in phyllo, served in a green tomato sauce (above), are evidence that this restaurant has surprises in store. Leading the kitchen is Sergio Aquino, who was the original chef at Epic on Elmwood Avenue.
First, I should note that Fiero is among the leaders in pizzeria transformations that I have witnessed. The former Riva's Pizza has been redone floor to ceiling with Turkish and Egyptian touches, and a full bar.
Bastilla is a Moroccan dish of poultry in pastry. Its most famous form is pigeon in hand-thrown phyllo-like dough, but this ain't Morocco. What we did get in our $10 appetizer was tender chicken in phyllo. It was remarkably flaky, earning favorable comparisons to the phyllo work of certain Greek grandmothers of my acquaintance. But this was lighter.
In a town with a dearth of excellent phyllo work, I'll be trying more of Fiero's phyllo offerings.
That goes even without the intriguing green tomato sauce it arrived in. Tangy, smooth, subtly seasoned with cumin and other things I couldn't name, it supported the chicken and phyllo well.
The other dish that made my eyes go wide was the chicken tagine ($20). It was a special, but I hope it sticks, because it offered a pair of surpassingly tender skin-on chicken thighs perched on a heap of vegetables with a sauce that made me eat them all, then left me wanting bread, so I could leave no drop behind.
The sauce was faded green, with herbs, unfamiliar fragrant spices, and more. Perhaps it was chermoula, which I've read so much about. Whatever it was, it soaked into and enlivened the potato spheres, coated the Brussels sprouts and firm chickpeas, and left me polishing the bottom of the earthenware vessel.
Pizza is typically Italian, but the Fiero version I tried, the Joanne, with chicken, feta, tomatoes, and za'atar ($11), was hardly typical.
The toppings were tender and plentiful. Its sourdough-like crust ended up crunchy and moderately charred at the edges. No thrown-away pizza rinds here. When the crust is right, the foundations are secure, and you can feel free to branch out. It'd make a fine lunch.
Other dishes worth mentioning included a five-grain salad ($7) that combined bulgur, quinoa, lentils, farro and rice in a fetching coriander cumin dressing that highlighted the nutty, chewy grains.
Then there was a dessert of coiled dough dipped in syrup and fired in the pizza oven, adorned with pistachios and a dollop of slightly sweetened ricotta ($8). It was called baklava, for reasons that escape me, since it didn't resemble any I've met, outside the pistachios, but it was a subdued sweet I enjoyed eating.
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