Written by Josh Spencer
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Price: $20-$25 and less
So as promised, this column is moving on to a review that does not have to do with Mexican food. This week we’re switching geographies to the Mediterranean as found at Tony & Luigi’s Italian Mediterranean Restaurant.
Located at 1201 S. Church St., left off University Ave and just before Dos Salsas if you’re heading west on 29, Tony and Luigi’s (T&L) had its grand opening on Sept. 17. I was there and was impressed with its appearance and operation, considering it was the restaurant’s first day.
The interior is spacious and well-lit with high ceilings, and the environment is what you would expect from an Italian restaurant with soothing music, usually of jazz and classical varieties, playing in the background. Taking a page out of other Mediterranean eateries, all the tables have white paper and crayons for anyone who wishes to indulge his or her creative flair.
Once seated, the complimentary bread was brought out and found to be delicious and perfectly complemented by the Greek goat cheese dip provided alongside (for those lacking a passion for goat cheese, they also have a sour cream dip).
It was at this point that I asked for the beer and wine list and some of the kinks associated with a grand opening were revealed. The wine list was promptly brought out, but I was informed that a beer list had not yet been printed. No matter, since the executive manager came out to give me a list of all the beers available, while also exhibiting a decent knowledge of their wines. T&L carries on draft Bud Light, Shiner Bock, and Fat Tire, while offering in bottles Budweiser, Coors Light, Michelob Ultra, Trippel New Belgium, Corona, Heineken, and Guinness.
As far as wine is concerned, there are a respectable number of options between the house wine, reds, and whites with familiar names such as Yellow Tail being included. The executive manager recommended vinos from the J. Lohr vineyards of California, and based on this I ordered a J. Lohr merlot. Since I’m guessing there aren’t that many wine connoisseurs among my readership (and also because I really don’t know that much myself), suffice it to say that the merlot had a sweet bouquet (aroma), excellent aftertaste, and was quite satisfying.
Moving on to appetizers, the menu includes selections like crab claws, stuffed mushrooms, calamari, hummus, and (get this!) Italian quesadillas. We chose to go with the crab claws and this decision was confirmed as a smart one as the crab meat was found to be moist and tender and only improved by the addition of the butter sauce accompaniment.
T&L also offers two soups: Mediterranean Sun-Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese, and Italian Sausage and Peppers as well as an extensive list of salads that ranges from the traditional Caesar to selections such as Caprese and Mediterranean Beef. We opted to skip the lighter fare and head straight to entrees.
For main course items, the diner has a choice between pizza, pasta, risotto, and dishes of various meats. The pizzas include classics such as Margherita and 4 Cheese while also throwing in somewhat more exotic alternatives like Alfredo and chicken pesto. The pasta is what you would anticipate with the traditional spaghetti, fettuccini alfredo, linguine with pesto, and vegetarian lasagna, among others. The meat entrees run the gamut and consist of selections such as Mediterranean goulash, rack of lamb, stuffed chicken, and Bosnian Cevapcici (beef sausages – don’t ask me how that got on the menu). All of the meat dishes come with a choice of two sides selected from wilted spinach, rosemary potatoes, potato and carrot puree, Basmati rice, steamed green beans, and sautéed veggies.
I personally went with the Chicken Madrid, a pasta dish, which is a fried chicken breast served on top of fettuccini alfredo. The chicken was excellently prepared with a moist, delectable flavor inside, and a tasty, golden-brown crust on the outside. The fettuccine beneath it was just as good with the mushrooms serving as an appropriate accessory. Other meals ordered by my dining partners were the pesto linguine with chicken, which was found to be very good with a fresh sauce and good seasoning, and the traditional chunky marina spaghetti, which was good but was said to have lacked a bit in seasoning.
To round off our meal, we, as always, threw a glance towards the dessert list. On offer are vanilla gelato, tiramisu, crème brulee, and chocolate amaretto torte. We tried the tiramisu and crème brulee and found both to be excellent. The tiramisu exhibited no faults and the crème brulee, despite being a little burnt in the middle, had a good, creamy consistency.
Overall, I walked away from T&L incredibly impressed with the expectation that things will only get better as the restaurant gains a little more time and experience.
Thanks to Winston Pool, Stephanie Seaman & Shannon Ploeger for their assistance.