Prices diminish charm of Dalesio's

MATTERS of Taste

May 02, 1991|By Mary Maushard

When you come in from the rain and the cold, it's nice to come in to a place like Dalesio's -- small, warmly attractive and inviting with the promise of good food.

It was one of those raw, damp nights we've had so many of lately when my husband and I went to Dalesio's, which has enjoyed a fine reputation, especially for some of Little Italy's lightest fare.

I was charmed by the small dining room with just seven tables amid a rich green and salmon decor -- nothing red or checkered here. We were seated in a corner, almost a nook, that allowed us a view of the rest of the dining room and the bar at the other end.

The initial charm of Dalesio's faded somewhat, however, as the evening progressed. The service, provided by a friendly waitress and two not-as-accommodating busboys, diminished as the crowd grew, and we were, near the end, subjected to long waits for coffee and our check.

The food, which was nicely presented and generally good, though not spectacular, was just enough over-priced to give us pause. No one item was out of sight, but the cumulative effect takes Dalesio's off the list of restaurants most people can go to on the spur of the moment.

Dalesio's is obviously not a big, bustling pasta palace. But for a small place, it isn't exactly quiet either. The background music was anything but when we arrived, although the waitress did turn it down when we asked. The cozy dining room became crowded for a rainy week night and the conversations of other diners carried easily in this small room.

We began with a spectacular-looking appetizer, Shrimp Miguel ($9.75), which caught the attention of several other tables when ours was served. It was a disappointment.

Four large shrimp hung from the top of an upturned chunk of Italian bread; a sauce of wine, cream, mushrooms, red pepper and scallions was served over and around the bread. The shrimp were delicious and the mushroom sauce, reminiscent of stroganoff, was great, especially when it soaked into the bread. But the bulk of the dish was bread; more shrimp would have made the price acceptable.

Our Garden Salads ($3.75) were crisp and dressed with a tangy house mixture. For the money, however, they were small.

For entrees, we chose Scallops Mediterranean ($17.50) and Gnocchiwith pesto sauce ($9.75).

The scallops, sauteed with pimento and green and yellow peppers, were served with a very good linguine on the side. Unfortunately, the scallop and peppers looked better than they tasted. Mixing them with the linguini improved both.

The gnocchi pleased this pasta lover; the dumplings were small, tasty and swathed in a rich pesto sauce. (Diners can choose the more traditional marinara.) The taste was delightful and the portion large -- this is true comfort food -- but the presentation was lacking. The off-white pasta with its greenish-brownish pesto sauce did not look nearly as appetizing as the other dishes.

We chose two homemade desserts: cheesecake ($4.75) and cannoli ($4). The cheesecake was superb, rich and creamy. The cannoli was also considerably beyond average -- as was the price.

What we most noticed as the meal wound down, however, was not dessert but the growing slowness of the service. Not only did we have to wait ever longer for our waitress, who was the only one on duty and by now was serving people in dining rooms on two floors; we also had to ask the busboys repeatedly for coffee and contend with one's obvious displeasure at being asked to wrap the leftovers from our entrees.

When the bill finally came, our meal -- with two drinks and two glasses of wine that added up to $21 -- came to just more than $81.

Thinking about the meal later, my husband and I both decided that most items -- from drinks to dessert -- had been $1 to $2 too much. For what we spent, we should have had better service, better food, quieter surroundings. Or, for what we received, we should have been charged less.

** 1/2

Dalesio's

829 Eastern Ave., Little Italy

539-1965

Hours: Lunch served Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner served Monday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 5-11 p.m., Sunday, 4-9 p.m.

Reservations: necessary on weekends.

Credit cards: major credit cards accepted.

Handicapped access: accessible.

Smoking: separate areas.

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