Neighborhood bistro. Two of the loveliest words in the English language. Every neighborhood should have at least one joint to call its own. Cozy, intimate settings. Neighborly welcome. Excellent unpretentious, homey food that would be cheap at twice the price. The type of establishment you should visit at least once a week. In parts of our fair city, such as Oak Lawn or Uptown, there may be several joints on every block. Wherever you happen to dwell, if you are a food lover like myself, you see it as your mission to patronize such an establishment as often as possible, as small places are more dependant on local patronage than their larger counterparts. My lovely wife the Rock Star and myself have taken note of one such establishment that has recently opened in a strip mall near our casa, and determined as always to ferret out the best in food, we made plans accordingly, and so motored over to Fino's Italian Bistro one gentle Sunday eve.
Chef-owner and New York transplant Alfredo Sechi (it's always good to hear that an Italian place is being run by New Yorkers because Italian food is a religion in the Big Apple much as barbecue is in Texas) has indeed created a welcoming environment in his family-run establishment. Wood and marble tables, only about a dozen of them in the entire place, which gives you some idea of its size and capacity. Small prep area in the rear. Tuscan paintings and wall decorations. In short, Finos atmosphere speaks fluent Italian, so if you're from Tuscany or Jersey, you'll feel right at home. We were welcomed effusively, and led to a table near the prep area, where we watched the rest of the tables quickly fill up. Trust me, whenever a restaurant is full at 6:30 PM on a Sunday evening, and has been open only a month with virtually no publicity, it's a sign of good things to come.
First off, let me state that Fino's is BYOB, and that you should definitely take advantage, as it keeps costs down. Plus, you can be sure that you will get just the wine you need to pair with your repast. Scanning the tables, we noted that every one had a bottle on it, save for one family party right next to us. Also, the bottles appeared well-chosen for the cuisine, not a two-buck-chuck in sight. Clearly, we were dealing with serious diners. If you're wise, you'll order salad. Fino's basic tossed salad is only $1.99 and their smart tomato-basil dressing is not to be missed. In many places, you'll pay twice as much for a salad half as good. First success. My bride loves any dish that reminds her of her beloved chicken cordon bleu, so she selected the Chicken Bolognese. Sauteed with prosciuto ham, fresh mozzarella cheese and wine wine with fresh Roma tomatoes, this dish was as light and airy as a spring morning and twice as good. For me, I simply love Italian sausage, and the Orecchietta proved a deft combination of spicy sausage, ear-shaped pasta, broccoli, and zucchini in a tomato sauce with parmesan cheese. The menu advertises this dish as a boss favorite, and I say, Bravo, Boss! Substantial without a trace of heaviness, our entress paired well with the Homestead Syrah we brought, a nice bottle from a Texas winery that deserves attention. Our only quibble for the evening was that no olive oil or butter was provided with the excellent bread, so I would suggest using it to sop up your juices, which was most likely the chef's intention anyway. We polished off our repast with excellent spumoni, and the chocolate, strawberry, and pistachio ice creams lent richness to our finish. We departed as happy as clams in linguini sauce.
Service throughout was personal and caring, never missing a beat. The website is http://www.finositalianbistro.com/, but it's still a work in progress. Instead, merely ask your waiter for a takeout menu. We did and took note that Fino's offers free delivery of orders over $10. Since we had also taken note of the fabulously thin New York style pizzas leaving the kitchen in a steady stream, we most likely will not wait long to take advantage.
If you want first-rate Italian cuisine from genuine New Yorkers without busting your budget, then I would enjoin you to consider Fino's Italian Bistro. Discover your own neighborhood delights soon, and remember:
LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!