The colossal (their word, but it's true) Housemade Meatball is served in a small cast iron skillet atop a crispy polenta cake and bathed in simmered-all-day marinara. It's colossally awesome.
The signature Veal Chop Piccata is art on a plate. A butterflied and sauteed 14-ounce bone-in veal chop towers over a bed of morel, cremini and shitake mushrooms with capers, lemon butter and risotto. We gasped when we saw it, and again when we tasted it. Phenomenal.
Mushroom, spinach and sundried tomato risotto tossed with chicken is ridiculously good.
The salumi platter of assorted cured meats, olives and cheeses? Very nice.
Peppers stuffed with housemade Italian sausage, marinara and shaved Parmesan? Outstanding.
The classic eggplant Parmesan with fried eggplant, meat sauce and cheeses is fantastic, and so is the baby spinach salad with pine nuts, dried cherries, gorgonzola cheese and citrus vinaigrette.
Sauteed shrimp with prosciutto, cremini mushrooms and spinach in light cream baked with a crust of asiago cheese is not something I would have ordered on my own, but I'm glad I took the waiter's advice.
And I'm usually not a big fan of either, but the Pana Cotta (sweet vanilla custard with strawberry sauce) and Tiramisu (espresso-dipped ladyfingers with sweetened mascarpone and cocoa) were both intensely satisfying. The flutes of limoncello passed around the table were, too.
Thank you, Paterno's — and friends Kristy, Adam, J.B. and Maryclaire — for a fantastic evening.
The success of that night has drawn me back a few times for lunch, where even the simplest of dishes are special. My friend Caryn raved about her "adult grilled cheese," actually the Panini Caprese with tomato, basil, mozzarella, provolone, asiago and herb oil. And the thick, housemade Parmesan-dusted chips that came with it are addictive!
I'm inclined to re-order these same great dishes when I go back but am also tempted by so many others.
Like the Spaghetti Carbonara with crispy pancetta, pecorino romano, eggs, cracked black pepper and parsley; Lobster Ravioli with squid ink-striped pasta, lobster and sherry cream; Fontina Filet, an Angus steak topped with creamy fontina and served with a mushroom medley and roasted garlic-basil mashed potatoes; or the Red Snapper, pan-seared and topped with a spicy kalamata olive, caper and tomato sauce.
Based on my experiences so far, I have a feeling all will be worth the wait.
A lunch menu features soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps and daily pasta specials, and the restaurant's menu will be even more casual on baseball game days next season.
Lunch prices range from $9-12. Dinner entrees run from $12-42, with most less than $20.
Not the cheapest place in town, but an absolute steal for the quality. Run, don't walk, to Paterno's at the Park. And tell 'em The Food Guy sent you!
Contact writer Steven Keith can be reached at dailymailfood...@aol.com or 304-348-1721. You can also follow him on Facebook and Pinterest as "DailyMail FoodGuy," on Twitter as "DMFoodGuy" or read his blog at http://blogs.