Each year near Christmas, my two best friends and I have dinner and exchange gifts. Christy and I love all kinds of food, but Traci only partakes of two cuisines: home cookin’ and Italian. Since we all know I am not going to agree to spend a holiday dinner eating country fried steak and overcooked green beans boiled in bacon fat, we go to Fazio’s every year.
Fazio’s is one of my go-to special occasion restaurants. We celebrated my Grandpa’s 80th birthday there, Ron took his mom and I on a special date there, and it has become a Christmas tradition for me and many others.
A true Charleston icon, Fazio’s stands proud on Bullitt Street in downtown Charleston. I consistently recommend this jewel to out-of-towners so they can experience the charm of one of our most beloved local eateries. Linen tablecloths and napkins are accented by the printed paper placemats. Unpretentious stoneware dishes and plastic bread baskets present the food to the expectant patron. I imagine the interior (and the menu) haven’t changed much during the restaurant’s tenure. The picture of a young girl on a bike hanging on the ladies’ room door amuses me every time. Some people might call it “dated” and slightly “tacky”, but I find it charming in this instance.
Choose from traditional dishes like spaghetti, manicotti, lasagna, eggplant parmesan and steaks to name a few. Most entree prices fall into the $15-$20 range. On previous visits I have enjoyed the broiled seafood platter (fish, scallops and shrimp with a side of spaghetti), linguine with clam sauce, and The Patty Ann. An example of truly bad timing, I had just begun my low-carb diet when our Christmas dinner fell last year. Much to my delight, Fazio’s accomodated my strange order of Chicken Marsala, no pasta, extra veggies… with a smile.
The chicken marsala has my top vote of all the dishes I have tried. With or without the pasta, it is absolutely delicious. I might like just about anything if it is smothered in marsala. Yummerific.
But on this night, I decided to try something new: pasta primavera. The cream sauce was the real hook – I love cream sauces. An intended vegetarian dish, I asked to add chicken to satisfy my paleolithic roots.
Before we get to the entree, though, let’s talk about the “appetizer”.
I do like it when a restaurant serves a little nibbly item to ward off the hunger pangs while perusing the menu and wine list. Fazio’s serves a little plate of canteloupe, pimento cheese spread, and Captains Wafers. I hear this cheese spread is a family recipe that has been served here for decades.
As for the results of the wine list perusal: Chianti. The Reserve is my preference, but I haven’t met a Chianti I didn’t like. My friends enjoyed iced tea and water. Apparently I was the only lush at the table.
The waitstaff at Fazio’s are professionally attired, polite and courteous. I have never received poor service at this establishment. Our waiter tonight took a few minutes to figure us out, but when Christy changed her order upon arrival of the bread and we were ribbing her, he gladly joined in the cajoling.
The bread! Fazio’s garlic bread is crisp around the edges and garlic permeates the tender, butter-soaked flesh of each slice. I could eat my weight in that bread.
Tangy Italian dressing arrives in a cup alongside an adequate salad serving of fresh, crispy lettuce, dotted with veggies and crunchy croutons. Christy’s sampler (she changed from her usual eggplant parmesan to the sampler mid-stream) came with the antipasto salad. Caesar salad is also an option and is appealing to me, but the Italian dressing wins my favor every time.
And finally we will discuss my entree.
I make pasta primavera at home quite often. I love to load it up with all kinds of vegetables – whatever is in the fridge, ends up in the pan. Completing the dish with a cream sauce and a sprinkling of fresh parsley and lemon zest, it is a true comfort food for me.
Fazio’s pasta primavera consists of bow tie pasta and a disppointingly scarce amount of veg. You can barely even see any vegetables in the photo. Sort of reminds me of the “Where’s Waldo” game – do you see any? I see a speck of carrot at 5:00. Something that might be squash at 6:00.
Wait….what is that circular slice right in the center of the plate? It looks like….no…..can’t be…..(I begin picking at it with my fork)….omg….it is…..a……WATER CHESTNUT!?!
Eeeeeeewwww. I don’t care for water chestnuts to begin with, but I certainly didn’t expect to come fork to face with the offensive tubular veggie at an Italian restaurant. I would really like to know what the kitchen could have been thinking when they threw those into the mix.
Thankfully I added the chicken, or I wouldn’t have had any discernable components beyond bow ties. For the small add-on charge, I received five tender breast tenderloin strips. The cream sauce was wonderful. After extracting the water chestnuts I had an enjoyable plate, but I do wish they would pump up the volume on the veggies. Pasta is always cooked to a perfect al dente here.
Fighting the temptation of the amazing tiramisu during the entire meal, I was relieved when a suggestion was made to order one and share. Again with the sampler bonuses, Christy received her own spumoni. She offered a taste and I passed, having tried it previously and been unimpressed, especially in comparison to one of my all-time favorite desserts. We all had a forkful of the creamy, light, “pick me up” of the traditional Italian finish line- the tiramisu.
Even though tonight’s entree left me a bit disappointed, the taste, consistency and service at Fazio’s earns it FOUR FORKS from this satisfied diner who is anxious to return.Fazio’s 1008 Bullitt Street Charleston, WV 25301 304-344-3071