Sunday, March 9, 2008

listings: Southside Cafe

Don’t be fooled by the name, Southside Café boasts a menu heavy with traditional Italian fare and a strong preference for reliability over innovation. A long, low main dining room maximizes the potential of a space suited for no more than 60 or so diners at a time and the décor is a mildly successful gander at pastoral Italian countryside, with exposed brick facades, an upstairs fireplace, and a series of ambiguously bucolic paintings. The food options never deviate from the expected, with moderately priced dishes unafraid to dabble in stereotype: pasta in vodka sauce, lasagna,spaghetti and meatballs, etc. No creative leaps of faith, to be sure, but the kind of standards that will attract a regular crowd savoring routine and consistency (think the 70 and up set). Most dishes strive to impress with hit and miss success; an eagerness revealed in the abundance of oil and butter lavished on what should be delicately flavored side-dishes, namely the bruschetta. The Portobello Alla Griglia, an arugula salad that doesn’t skimp on the mushrooms, is an easy stand-out. Wedges of portobello are charred to crispy perfection, a satisfying accent to the more muted combination of shaved Parmesan and sticky vinaigrette. The main courses are proportioned appropriately for what they lack in creativity: huge, heaping shares of pasta and sauce, mixed fish and vegetables, and towering stacks of lasagna oozing layers of cheese. They make for hearty, well intentioned meals that are favorable in context of some well-selected wine. Dessert is more of the same, but with a surprising success in the form of a cinnamon-infused homemade flan. (

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