LATHAM Mom and I dined at Fabio’s recently, where some things were very good and some things were not as much so, and we enjoyed our experience.
Fabio’s is in an architecturally regrettable stretch of Route 9 near Route 155. The brick-and-stucco building is in a strip mall, and you’ll find the entrance on the north side of the building, through tinted-glass, metal-framed doors.
Why do restaurants seat patrons in clumps? The genial host led us to a two-person table across from a group of at least 10 and immediately next to another couple. The rest of the large room was empty. When I asked for another table, we were invited to choose. Thank you.
Fabio’s Italian Restaurant
WHERE: 728 New Loudon Road (Route 9), Latham. 220-9620, www.fabiositalianrestaurantandpizza.com
WHEN: 5 to 11 p.m Monday to Saturday; 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $60.54
MORE INFO: Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover, Diners Club. Children’s menu. Wheelchair-accessible. Reservations accepted.
The dining room is basically a big square, broken up with low walls and a bar along the south side, a difficult space to make cozy. The walls are painted a warm butternut-squash gold, contrasting with paprika on the wall by the bar.
The wood tables are covered in plastic table cloths, there’s dark-colored industrial carpet and plastic plants. It probably looks better at night, because in the summer evening light you could see the numerous places where the paint needs touching up.
Our server came right along and took drink orders and filled us in on the specials. We got our wines promptly and didn’t have to wait long for salads. My Caprese salad was delivered first, by a runner. The server brought my mom’s salad a few minutes later, apologizing that they weren’t delivered together. He did a good job, checking on us occasionally but not too often.
The Caprese salad’s beefsteak tomato was more pink than red, and I ate around the thinly sliced garlic, but the thick slices of mozzarella cheese were fresh and snowy white and mild, and the basil had a good, strong flavor. It was a special, so until I got the check I didn’t know it was $11.95, which I thought was expensive even though it could serve two.
“I think salads are so much better when they’re cold,” said Mom, contentedly. I touched the thick white plate and it was icy. The house dinner salad was a bright mix of red Romaine and mixed greens, with orange and yellow carrot matchsticks, rings of white onion, and a thick wedge of tomato. She said the bleu cheese dressing was good, and finished everything except the pink tomato.
The warm Italian bread was the surprise hit of the evening. It was thick-crusted, soft inside, and tasted delicious. The plastic butter packets were difficult to open, but the butter softened onto the bread agreeably. It is excellent bread.
Parmesan and pasta
The chicken Parmesan is $16.95 and comes with lots of penne pasta topped with a red, red tomato sauce that we both liked very much. The chevron-shaped double breast was golden brown and topped with sauce, and cheese that melted and browned in spots. It looked delicious, but didn’t quite measure up in flavor. The breading was a bit damp and bland and where the sauce met the plate it had started to dry up a bit, as if it had been kept warm for a while. One of the pleasures of eating chicken Parm is taking that first crisp bite, when the sauce hasn’t had time to soften the crust.
Mom gave Fabio’s points for cooking the pasta to her liking, not underdone. Her dinner, the braciola special ($22.95) was terrific, with homemade cavatelli pasta. The beef was stuffed with cheese and garlic and was presented attractively, the beef roll sliced into manageable pieces and turned on their sides to their best advantage. The pasta was chewy, with some substance, I thought. “Really good home cooking,” said Mom, who had made braciola the week before.
Bread to go
We both had leftovers wrapped up. When Mom asked the server if she could take home the leftover bread, I asked if it came from the bakery nearby. “See that guy?” the server said, indicating in the direction of the bartender. “He comes in early every day and makes it.” Then he asked me, “Would you like to take some home, too?” As he headed off into the kitchen, I scribbled in my notebook: points, points, points.
We passed up on dessert, since there wasn’t anything house-made, according to the server.
The tab for two salads and two entrees with tax and tip, but not including the wine, came to $60.54. I made the mistake of showing the homemade bread off to husband Eric, who came home from work hungry later that evening. “Doesn’t that look good?” I asked. He answered by heading to the refrigerator to get some butter and then proceeded to eat it all. “It was delicious,” he said.