Pasta is a favorite at Fazzini's

May 02, 2002|By Robin Tunnicliff Reid | Robin Tunnicliff Reid,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THE importance of truly good fried calamari, like they serve at Fazzini's Italian Kitchen in Cockeysville, never should be underestimated.

Here's a classic example of why. A friend once was up for a very big job at New York's Daily News. The interview rolled over into lunch in an Italian restaurant, and calamari was ordered. The friend had never had calamari before but did not want to advertise this for fear of appearing too unworldly to work in New York. So, he plunged in and managed to retrieve the rubberiest example of fried squid ever prepared. No matter how long he gnawed, it refused to die, like Rasputin with tentacles.

He did not get the job, in part perhaps because of the fact that he could barely speak during most of lunch.

Had Fazzini's made that crucial appetizer, who knows what heights my friend might have scaled at the News? Each crisp, little piece of squid was as tender as could be. And, for $5.99, three of us had more than enough to start a meal. Granted, Fazzini's stripped-down dining room did not have the ambience of a business-account restaurant in Midtown Manhattan (no liquor license either.) But, the servers were warmly efficient and the room sparkling clean.

Since opening in 1995, Fazzini's has become a neighborhood favorite because of its homemade pasta, which is sold by the pound. If the noodles in the fettuccine alfredo are indicative of the chefs' pasta-making abilities, then Fazzini's reputation is deserved. They had more texture and taste than anything out of a box. The sauce was pleasantly tangy, thanks to just the right amount of Parmesan cheese.

Meatballs work well, too. Ours were large, mixed with a little parsley and other herbs and served hot with a fruity marinara sauce.

The other things we ate were not as impressive. We liked the idea of getting salad in bowls made of seasoned bread; however, the bowl tasted slightly stale.

Neither the chicken marsala nor veal Giovanni came together well. Only three or four mushrooms surfaced in the marsala sauce, which was poured over the top like an afterthought. In the second dish, the white wine and rosemary sauce was excellent on its own but did not blend with a grainy slice of veal. The spinach-potato ravioli lacked much flavor.

All desserts except for the cannoli came from outside vendors, and it was the best, creamy and not overly sweet. Dolce Europa's tiramisu was solid, yet not spectacular. Sweet Indugence's Heath bar cheesecake bore only a passing resemblance to the candy bar.

Fazzini's Italian Kitchen

Where: 578 Cranbrook Road, Cockeysville

Open: For lunch and dinner daily

Prices: Appetizers, $1.99 to $5.99; entrees $5.60 to $12.99

Credit cards: AE, D, DC, MC, V

Call: 410-667-6104

Food: ** 1/2

Service: ***

Atmosphere: **

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