Monday, January 29, 2007

Dining critic candidate No. 48

Paravicini’s Palmer Lake

Northside diners, rejoice! Paravicini’s, the quaint little Italian place on the Westside with big flavor, has opened a second restaurant in Palmer Lake, in the pink stucco building that formerly housed the Villa. I decide to give it a taste test with friends who live near Baptist Road, where the dining choices are sadly limited, considering all the area’s new neighborhoods.

We enter the foyer next to a cozy bar area, and are greeted by a photo of Frank Sinatra and a friendly host. I’m a bit put off by the foyer’s neon green paint, but the big stone fireplace in the corner makes up for it. We can see the other dining area at the back of the restaurant, which has another, more formal fireplace. We’re seated next to a vintage poster of a monkey tilting back a bottle of Italian liquor. The décor in the front of the restaurant looks like it’s still underway, with the fake vines and un-ironed curtains feeling a bit out of place.

The place is hopping for a Wednesday night, and the dining room is a bit loud due to the crowd and echoing wood floors. We’re immediately greeted by our server, who is bearing ice water and rosemary bread. She offers helpful suggestions on wine, house specialties and the evening’s featured dish.

The menu is extensive, going beyond the clichéd Italian restaurant fare of spaghetti with meatballs. (But fear not, pasta loyalists, you can get your fill of the classics, too.) Chef Franco Pisani also cooks up everything from salads and sandwiches to steaks, chicken, veal and seafood.

We begin our meal with the bruschetta, which is almost as pretty to look at as it is tasty to eat. The juicy red tomatoes (where do they find these in January?), tangy red onions, pungent garlic and gooey mozzarella on crunchy bread taste like they’re fresh from a summer garden. We all agree that we could be happy stuffing ourselves with this tasty appetizer and skipping further courses.

After so much flavor, we are disappointed with the tasteless house salad. The limp iceberg lettuce, grocery-store caliber croutons and bland dressing do not live up to the rest of our meal. Skip this unimaginative course altogether and fill up on other dishes – the generous portions ensure you’ll go home with leftovers.

Our entrees are served so promptly that my friend’s baked chicken tetrazzini, the nightly special, is still bubbling. Our server offers us freshly-grated parmesan from a large bowl.

My husband’s herb-crusted salmon is the perfect combination of contrasts and complements, featuring chewy sun-dried tomatoes, delicate angel-hair pasta and a nice light cream sauce. The fish itself was fork-tender and moist. My friend’s gnocchi achieves that delicate potato-dumpling balance of soft and firm. The chef is kind enough to substitute marinara sauce instead of the veal, beef, sausage and vegetable ragout listed on the menu. The marinara, which I consider to be the litmus test of Italian cuisine, passes with flying colors: rich and thick, with lots of herbs.

Although I am pleased with the chunky sautéed onions, peppers, olives and capers in my chicken cacciatore’s tomato sauce, as well as the juicy, tender breast pieces, I am forced to break out the Kleenex due to the excessive spiciness of the dish.

Because we’re so stuffed from our previous three courses, we can’t find room for anything on the tempting dessert menu, not even the cannoli. But we do finish things off with coffee – decaf for my friend, cappuccinos for my husband and I. The coffee is fine, but the cappuccinos are a bit on the watery side.

All things considered, we enjoy the friendly atmosphere and well-cooked food. The service is impeccable, prompt and solicitous without intruding on our conversation. This is a great place to linger over a meal with friends or to take a casual date. You can show up here in anything from jeans to a tuxedo and fit right in. When you stop in, ask for the Wise Guys’ Room, which seats four to six in an intimate room featuring wine racks, and toast the photos of the Godfather.

Paravicini’s vital stats

Palmer Lake location

75 S. Highway 105


Open at 4:30 nightly

Accepts Mastercard, Visa and Discover

Entrees: $8 to $18

Vegetarian and children’s dishes

Reservations accepted


Anonymous Anonymous said...


9:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like this. It's to the point and manages to include some color. I guess for my busy schedule, this review works because I don't have to take an hour to read it. It's not obnoxiuos and overdone. I'd eat there after reading this one.

2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mentioned 'we' a lot, just tell me about YOUR dining experience and then I can decide if I want to try it out

9:02 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home