Fiore's IV Italian Restaurant
17 Whiting St., Plainville
860-747-1700 and http://www.fioresplainville.com
THE VIBE: Set among shops and restaurants in the heart of bustling Plainville — OK, just teasing — Fiore's IV is, as the name implies, one of four Italian eateries in the Fiore's group, which includes sites in Middletown, Old Saybrook and Westbrook. The Plainville spot is a narrow room of booths and tables with a more private space off to the side. Walls, done in shades of pumpkin and terra cotta, have a Tuscan glow. The woodwork is dark, tables are dressed with red cloths overlaid with glass and the walls bear paintings with scenes of Italy (interspersed with Santa hats and Christmas stockings). Waiters are dressed in black with red ties, and the whole place has a pleasant atmosphere of friendly warmth. Christmas music of the instrumental variety added just the right note to the casual classiness of the place.
THE FOOD: We knew we were in for a good meal when the basket of fresh-baked hot garlic knots arrived. Gleaming with garlic oil and dusted with parmesan, these rolls were irresistible. The three of us shared (and could not quite finish) an appetizer meant for two: the Hot Antipasto of fried calamari, fried mozzarella, stuffed mushrooms and clams casino. The calamari rings and tentacles were fresh and made even better by their crunchy coating. The two large triangles of crumb-coated fried mozz were substantial, and the mushrooms were piled with their own well-seasoned crumb stuffing. The clams were topped by squares of roasted red peppers, which added a lovely smoky flavor.
All entrees come with salads of romaine lettuce, tomatoes and sliced black olives, and the parmesan peppercorn dressing we chose had a vivid, cheesy punch. Veal and chicken entrees come with a side of pasta, and most of the seafood dishes have pasta as an ingredient.
My Spinach Manicotti was two tender pasta envelopes enclosing a creamy ricotta and spinach leaf filling, with a brightly flavored tomato sauce. My husband chose the Veal Fiore, sautéed with roasted peppers and black olives in a lemon butter sauce. Our friend picked the Veal Montebianco, which topped the meat with artichoke hearts, fresh tomatoes and red peppers in a creamy white sauce.
There are many choices: Ten pastas in various sauces -- Penne Putanesca with garlic, anchovies, onions and capers in marinara is one example -- as well as three eggplant dishes, eight chicken entrees and nine that feature veal. The 11 seafood dishes are built around calamari, clams, lobster, mussels, scallops, shrimp and sole, in sauces that include garlic and oil, pink vodka, red, white and spicy marinara.
THE BILL: Fiore's IV has a quite reasonably priced menu. Appetizers are $3.95 for a cup of soup to $11.95 for the Hot Antipasto. Pasta entrees are $12.95 to $14.95. Chicken dishes are $14.95 to $16.95; veal preparations are $16.95 to $18.95 and seafood dishes are $15.95 to $19.95. The $22.95 Zupa di Pesce of shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels and calamari with linguine in red marinara sauce is the only entrée that tops $20.
THE PARTICULARS: Fiore's IV is closed Monday and open Tuesday through Thursday from 4 to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 4 to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m.
THE VERDICT: Fiore's IV serves high-end food at low-impact prices. It made us want to visit the other three Fiore's as well.