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SAM DEAN | The Roanoke Times
Remini's owner an chef James Ferrone prepares a meal at his restaurant.
SAM DEAN | The Roanoke Times
Remini's chicken marsala
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Since opening its doors in late 2011, Remini’s has been serving tasty, uncomplicated Sicilian and Mediterranean dishes at eminently reasonable prices. Located on the Bent Mountain side of Brambleton Avenue, the restaurant anchors a small strip mall.
Chef/owner James Ferrone named his restaurant after Italy’s seaside resort, Rimini’s, although he spelled it differently. Ferrone, who is Sicilian, was born and raised in Queens, N.Y., and attended the Culinary Institute of America. He has been in Roanoke since 2003 and has worked at Hotel Roanoke, the Glebe, and the Village at Pheasant Ridge.
The narrow dining area seats 40 and the understated colors of the room punctuated with prints of rustic scenes add charm to this casual place. The open kitchen gives a friendly dimension to the atmosphere, providing the opportunity to watch Ferrone prepare your meal.
Sicilian preparations are unlike those of any other Italian province. Sicily, the largest Mediterranean island, is situated just off the toe of mainland Italy . Its cuisine has been influenced by many past inhabitants, including Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Saracens and Normans.
The menu at Remini’s is divided into seven sections and most of the preparations I ordered were very good. I adored the fun fondue appetizer ($6.50), a blend of nutty melted Swiss cheese served with an abundance of toasted baguette. Greek spanakopita ($5.75) gets a thumb up, while the meaty Nana’s rice balls ($5.25) paired well with marinara sauce.
Chicken Caesar salad ($6.65) with crunchy romaine lettuce is a tasty combination of thinly sliced grilled chicken breast topped with grated Asiago cheese. The “menza-menza,” a soup and salad combo ($6.50), offers traditional options. My friend ordered a bowl of minestrone containing pasta and plenty of vegetables accompanied by half of a bacon and spinach salad tossed with just enough warm dressing . This made for a great lunch.
My partner and I devoured the gooey grilled cheese with sliced tomato on Italian bread ($5.45) from the Corner Deli section of the menu. A Sicilian grilled chicken on Italian bread ($7.25) was difficult to eat as a sandwich because the tough tendon had not been removed from both halves of the chicken breast.
For dinner, most of the offerings are well prepared, tempting and typically Sicilian, such as the chicken Marsala ($11.95), which features sauteed chicken breasts and mushrooms with a sweet Marsala wine sauce .
Delicious steak “pizziolla” ($15.65) features thinly breaded and fried beef slices topped with onions and marinara sauce. Spaghetti with meatballs ($11.95) disappointed because its three components — the tomato sauce, meatballs and pasta — did not marry well.
Sycamore Lane red and white wines, just right for this cuisine, come by the bottle ($16), half carafe ($13) and generous glass ($5).
Not to be picky, but …
During my last visit, the server rushed us by staggering our appetizers 10 minutes apart and then bringing both entrees within moments. Before we knew it, she asked if we wanted dessert. This is unacceptable at any time, but especially when few tables are occupied.
The bottom line
Remini’s has the potential to become very popular for its casual, comfortable setting, and fresh, reasonably priced Sicilian food. Ferrone must focus on the details of ingredient prepping and completing dishes so components unite.
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