Short Orders: Andiamo

4151 Belt Line

Andiamo is the dining equivalent of television's Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes--an unexpected and momentarily confusing step back in time. The decor probably hasn't changed at all since the place opened in 1990. The menu includes staid, old-school dishes like minestrone, lemon sole, chicken Parmegiana and veal piccata. In fact, they list five veal options, having apparently missed a few decades of public outcry over the treatment of animals. They even proudly display a framed Observer review...from 1993.

It's hard to believe the venerable restaurant takes credit cards. Hell, it's hard to believe they even have a website.

But this steadfast loyalty to scampi and garlic bread and the straightforward dishes that once made up the Italian-American repertoire is refreshing. Andiamo reeks of tried and true: waitstaff in white, dim lighting and lots of butter.

Indeed, items on their antipasto platter wallow in what seems like an inch of melted butter and herbs, the rich broth's pale amber color perhaps tinged green by all those torn leaves...though it's hard to tell by candlelight. Despite this, grilled portobello mushrooms still sound enough acrid and meaty notes to show through. The clams, shrimp and crab claws, however, succumb to the heavy puddle.

There's no subtlety here. The lemon sole rides on the sharp taste of citrus. Veal piccata balances lemon and capers over a nicely crusted piece of meat. A bit on the chewy side, but still mellow and incredibly rich. The kitchen simply refuses to hold back.

Dallas and its environs need a place like this--something that feels traditional in a 'for real' or 'grandmother's living room' sense (rather than antiquated atmosphere created by a team of designers and lighting specialists), with a chef that looks to the heartier, heavier standards of yore (rather than tweaking, fancifing and doing the 'personal stamp' thing) and a crowd that doesn't crave the latest fad.

Andiamo is snapshot of the pre-fusion past. One that you get to step into and experience for an hour or so.

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