ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
There are times when one must have this kind of Italian food. The smooth, sweet red sauces on pastas in many configurations are comforting. The rest of the menu is even better, such that you can start with the idea of eating like a child, but upgrade once your brain re-engages with your palate.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Here is the finest current example of the Sicilian-inspired, New Orleans-style Italian menu, executed by a pair of brothers who, with other members of their family, have run such restaurants around town for decades. If there’s a dish you recall from an Italian restaurant a long time ago, Fausto’s probably still prepares it at least as well as the version in your head. Casual, unpretentious, inexpensive, Fausto’s outperforms expectations.
WHAT’S GOOD Everything here rings the bell of familiarity. Lots of pasta, veal and chicken, abetted with generous flows of smooth, herbal red sauces, garlic, olive oil, and mozzarella cheese. The prices belie the portions, most of which bring more food than you really ought to be eating. The seafood side of the menu is unusually strong, and makes the most of shrimp in particular.
Brothers Fausto and Roland di Pietro and their family have run many Creole-Italian restaurants over the years, going back to Renata’s in the 1970s. This one opened in 1990, and collected a big following with its early-evening dinners and very ample portions. They have a family connection with Irene’s.
The look is that of the neighborhood Italian cafe, with an striking mural depicting scenes from all over Italy. A loyal clientele keeps the small, crowded dining rooms busy at lunch and in the early evening. Later, things tone down, and the little bar may be busier than the dining room.
BEST DISHES, DESCRIBED
Eggplant carrozza (mozzarella, marinara)
Calamari fritti (fried, garlic butter, marinara)
Arancini (rice balls stuffed with beef, peas, mozzarella) minestrone
Mozzarella and tomato caprese salad
Sicilian salad (with olives)
Frutti di mare (shrimp, crab claws, mussels, calamari, oysters and fish with garlic and seafood stock reduction)
Veal scaloppine Rolando (artichokes and mushrooms)
Panneed chicken breast, lemon caper sauce
Vitello Vittorio (crabmeat, garlic, olive oil)
Fresh Gulf fish Vittorio
Manicotti (pasta tubes stuffed with ricotta, marinara)
Veal saltimbocca (mushrooms, prosciutto, mozzarella)
Chicken or veal Sorrentino (eggplant and mozzarella)
Fettuccine carciofo (shrimp, artichoke, olives)
Grilled shrimp Luigi
Shrimp Calabrese (broccoli, garlic, olive oil)
Rigatoni Nocerina (scallops, shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes)
Pesce Siciliana (lemon herb sauce, shrimp, capers)
Italian ice creams
FOR BEST RESULTS
Avoid the early evening hours, when the inexpensive specials draw a big crowd and the cooking is a shade less careful.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The tables are a shade to close to one another. Entree portions are unfinishable. The wine list could be more varied.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment
- Consistency +2
- Value +2
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar
- Local Color +1
- Early-evening specials
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted