90 N. Island Ave., Batavia
Prices: Antipasto, $7-$15; pasta, $11-$17; entrees, $15-$36; dessert, $4-$8.
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday-Wednesday; 11 a.m.-midnight, Thursday; 11 a.m.-1 a.m., Friday-Saturday.
Try: Veal Marsala, house-made cannoli.
Tips: Reservations accepted. Full bar service. Children’s menu. Carry-out. Limited outdoor seating. Live music nightly.
In a bite: Aliano’s Ristorante brings its take on classic Italian fare to Batavia, where the standards are well-represented on its menu. The restaurant has a high-energy vibe that during peak hours can make normal conversation a challenge.
KEY: ★★★★ Extraordinary; ★★★ Excellent; ★★ Very Good; ★ Good; Zero stars: Poor
Updated: August 28, 2012 2:12PM
Signs tell motorists nearing Batavia that they are about to enter the “City of Energy.”
It’s a nickname this western suburb owes to the proximity of high-profile neighbor Fermilab, whose landmark energy particle accelerator has broadened physicists’ understanding of the universe’s most basic building blocks.
Some of that energy seems to have overflowed and created a buzz in the town’s restaurant scene.
Since brothers Mario and Philip Aliano opened the business in early 2012, Aliano’s Ristorante has drawn a steady flow of local diners looking for their homemade gnocchi, eggplant parmigiana, chicken saltimbocca or zuppa de pesce fix.
Pizza and assorted veal and steak dishes also are on the menu, where main courses generally run from $15-$36 and include soup or salad. Stick with the house dressing over the watery blue cheese.
The universal appeal of traditional Italian fare can’t be denied. By 6 p.m. on a recent Friday night, the casual place, which seats about 120, was filling up. An hour later it was packed.
Fortunately, the servers and the kitchen kept up with the lively pace.
But the escalating decibel level can be annoying — unless you happen to have a bullhorn handy. Intimate conversations? All but impossible during peak hours.
Italian bread accompanied by a flavorful tomato-garlic topping, olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese and a glass of Due Torri Pinot Grigio, a fragrant, fruity dry white wine, got the meal off to a promising start.
Grilled calamari ($12 for a shareable order) featured baby squid marinated in a balsamic vinaigrette. Though it was tender, any smokiness from the grill was lost and our generous serving cried out for more than a squirt of lemon to make it interesting.
Scallops Mia Fiore, one of several chef’s specials, brought together several large, perfectly cooked sea scallops, shrimp, artichoke hearts and spaghetti. However, the serving broth was nondescript and the overall dish lacked a “wow” factor.
My dining partner fared better with her order of Veal Marsala. The thin, tender cutlets were sauteed with mushrooms and served with a rich marsala wine sauce along with a side dish of pasta with marinara.
A number of other diners, especially families with young children, opted for the appetizer pizzas available in 10- to 18-inch diameter sizes with a wide selection of customizable toppings. Many also gravitated towards the spaghetti bolognese and meat lasagna.
For desserts, Aliano’s doesn’t go out on a limb but sticks with the old standards: tiramisu, coppa caffe (gelato with a coffee-cocoa swirl), peach sorbet, spumoni and Italian ice. The house-made cannoli are decent, its shells crisp and sweetened ricotta filling smooth and appealing.
Located in a quiet strip mall (the River Square Shopping Center), Aliano’s occupies remodeled space that previously housed a Mexican restaurant. In the main dining room, cherubs in a colorful ceiling fresco keep an eye on seated customers.
Thomas Witom is a local free-lance writer.