This is the Place
Italian with Some Nice, New Twists
Restaurant: Maurilio's Italian
I had been to Maurilio's several times before, with groups of months between visits, because it seemed the Maurilio's Italian Cuisine was still trying to decide what it was going to be. The restaurant now seems to have established an identity, that being a higher end Italian restaurant.
Inside, the décor was simple, but elegant, with walls of earth tones that reminded me of a café in the Italian countryside. Paintings on the walls complimented this, without seeming at odds with the white table cloths and simple, but elegant tables and chairs. The one thing that seemed not to quite fit in was the flatscreen TV mounted on the wall, which was playing with the sound muted. The other thing was that the napkins were folded nicely, but were paper. The two just didn't seem to jive. Nonetheless, it had come a long way from when the building had been home to Que Pasa? With a giant Aztec snakehead carved in pseudoconcrete and other step-pyramid décor. The music playing was in Italian, although, if I am not mistaken, it was all Italian covers of Laura Branagan. I guess that everything's better in it's original Italian.
The waitress came out and was very high energy and chatty. She took my drink order, then came back wanting to know if I was ready to order. I said I wasn't, and would have asked some questions, but she was off again. So I looked at the only other table occupied, where a couple received their "appetizer." It was a full-sized pizza. I thought about ordering that, but there was a dish that I thought looked interesting, called Capicola. It's a pesto cream sauce with chunks of Capicola ham, red, yellow and green peppers, and rigatoni pasta. I wondered about the peppers and pesto sauce, but I love Capicola on sandwiches, and I had never had a pasta dish featuring it, so I went with it. I had my choice of soup or salad, and went with the salad, taking the House dressing (a creamy vinaigrette) over the only other choice for salad dressing: ranch.
She came out a few minutes later with two rolls on a beautifully simple plate. The rolls were so fresh out of the oven that they were painful to touch, with whole pieces of rosemary. The only problem was that the rolls needed salt. Might sound strange, but it was the truth. I think that, maybe, that ingredient was forgotten in the baking.
Shortly after, my salad arrived, and it was a mound of mixed greens, all very well coated with the House dressing and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. This was a meal in itself, and the House dressing had something about it that said Caesar, rather than Italian, but was very good. And there was plenty of it. The main course came out about the time I was on my last bite.
First words out of my mouth: "Wow. That's just beautiful."
Plating was very nice. Again, the plain white China, but in a large bowl with a wide rim, and a piece of garlic toast. The first smell, though, was green peppers, and was worried. I was concerned that my apprehension over them was going to play out true, and it did. I liked the bit of a bite the mix of peppers gave the dish (I love spicy food), but the flavor of the green bell peppers just didn't seem to fit, in addition to it overpowering the flavor of the Capicola. (No easy feat, that.) In addition to the red, yellow and green peppers listed on the menu were some orange peppers. I think that, had the green peppers been left out altogether, it would have been a much better dish. One of the nicest things about it, though, were the slivers of garlic, like almond slivers, mixed throughout the sauce for a wonderful dash of fresh garlic in those bites.
I usually don't have to take leftovers home, because I can hold my own at the dinner table. But I ended up taking home about half of the pasta. Between that and the salad, I had plenty of food to achieve that life-is-good feeling. I only hoped that the flavor of the green bell pepper would blend more when it came time to reheat.
During the meal, the waitress returned several times. She was very attentive, although the place was not busy at lunch time. (I've been there are dinner, where it was much busier.) The problem with her attentiveness was her chattiness. She told me that she doesn't like pesto; that they have football nights with all-you-can-eat pizza and cheap beer on Monday nights — and that she doesn't like football, although her parents have season tickets at the U; she told me that they give plenty of food there, so it was hard for her to diet, eating there every day; and so on. I understand being friendly, but I can't eat when I'm trying to politely nod and smile at anecdotes about college tailgate parties.
Most negative thing about the experience was the green bell pepper. I think it ruined what would have been an excellent dish. I can live with being chatted up, as long as the person's well intentioned. Which I think she was.
On the second visit, there were not any new decorations or paint, like the last time. But I had the same waitress. She was chatty, although not quite so much as last time, despite me being the only person in the restaurant. At one point, she was busy folding the paper napkins, so that must have been the difference.
The flatscreen was on, sound muted, and the brighter sunlight outside really highlighted how much the remodeling had opened up the place over its previous restaurant incarnations. It really did feel like it was bigger with the color changes. I hadn't noticed that the previous visit, but it had been a little overcast.
This time, I went with the pizza off the appetizer menu. I would have ordered my usual when evaluating a restaurant's pizza (ham, pepperoni and mushroom), but the menu listed it as pepperoni, Mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce and basil, so I didn't want to throw a wrench into things. All I asked to add to it was mushrooms, and was told without a second thought that it would be fine.
The pizza came out rather quickly, and was on a white plate similar to those I had admired on the first visit. And, again, I was stricken at the size of it when it was listed on the appetizer menu. The waitress then told me that she can't eat one herself, because there's so much cheese. I smiled and nodded, then waited till she left so I could take my first bite.
First words out of my mouth when I took that first bite: "Wow. That is good."
Although the sauce itself was not altogether different from other pizza places, the flavor was very good. It wasn't fruity, like Mr. C's, or smoky like Salt Lake Pizza & Pasta. But there was a lot of cheese. (Not cheese like The Pie, but certainly more than Mountain Mike's.) There was a nice flavor to the crust from it being brick-oven baked, and the mushrooms were fresh. And, again, I was not able to eat it all. I think I might be taking that personally, being fed more than I can get down on two separate occasions. But I can't deny the power of quantity in my mind when evaluating a restaurant. And I certainly had that life-is-good feeling.
Last words when finishing the meal: "I think I like Maurilio's new identity. I hope they keep it."
Most negative thing about the experience — that I was the only one there. If people are having trouble getting in for dinner, then they need to go for lunch. It's still a well kept secret.
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noun. Slang. A person who has an ardent or refined interest in food; a gourmet.