Neighborhood gems add sparkle to any part of town. Of course, I'm referring to the restaurants and bars that make anyplace in the metroplex special. Many of these places have gained fans outside their area, but denizens of the neighborhood cherish them as uniquely theirs, welcome havens of rest that seem to beckon diners after a most tiring day.
In the Oak Lawn area, for example, there are Zaguan, Mias, and Lumi. Deep Ellum residents can count on Pepe and Mito's while Lemon Bar is already drawing crowds in the short time it has been open in the West Village. Whether relaxing or invigorating, patrons know they can count on the food, drinks and atmosphere to revitalize them.
My wife and I have come to regard Fino's Italian Bistro as one of these neighborhood icons. Opened just a year ago by Italian expatriates from New Jersey, Fino's delivers solid comfort food in a homey atmosphere that has already given them a loyal following. I found myself in need of comfort recently: the weather change, as it is wont to do, had set off my vertigo, and I felt out of sorts. I didn't know whether Finos would provide the cure, but it certainly wouldn't hurt.
Outside, Finos just appears like any other strip mall store front, but inside the place is your Neapolitan grandmother's house, assuming of course she lived in a strip mall. The smallish patio out front is usually packed on Saturday nights, while inside the dozen or so tables will be crowded with diners. BYOB is de rigueur here, and most tables will be sporting bottles of wine.
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Bruschetta proved a very good starter on this occasion. The cheesy bread could have used more cheese, but the simple preparation of diced marinated tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, basil, and parmesan on Fino's fresh-baked bread had my wife and I feeling quite cosseted. Entrees contributed to the comfort factor, as my partner really was delighted with her shrimp scampi.
The garlic butter mondovi wine sauce was redolent of tomato with touches of sangiovese; I thought the sauce outshone the shrimp. For myself, I'm very fond of Bolognese preparations, and the sauté on the Veal Bolognese really brought out all the beef's tender young flavor quite nicely, with the prosciutto and fresh mozzarella very much in evidence. On this occasion, we felt we needed only the comfort a good dessert can bring, and we were really looking forward to the Neapolitan gelato. Alas, they had run out, but the cinnamony cannoli helped us end the evening on a high note.
Service was nicely paced, and our waiter was later assisted by a very charming young lady who proved at bit less tongue tied than him. Most welcoming of all was the sight of all the regulars greeting each other like treasured friends, with Italian besitos (little kisses) being exchanged in some cases. Truly a heartwarming sight on a much-needed evening of comfort at Fino's Italian Bistro.
Finos Italian Bistros
3501 Midway Road, #148