Marcello's Ristorante Italiano
375 N. Main St., Bountiful ; 801-298-7670
Quirks and a bit of charm abound at this family restaurant where the red sauce and faux foliage are abundant.
Cuisine: Italian, Mediterranean
Hours: T-F, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-9 p.m.; S, 3-10 p.m.
Recommended Dishes: Homemade gnocchi, beef Milanesa, pepperoni calzone.
April 9, 2008
Beneath the Italian kitsch lies a restaurant of substance
By Vanessa Chang
BOUNTIFUL -- All institutions, especially of the culinary sort, have their loyal and long-standing fans. At Marcello's you can see who these folks are as their photos are displayed prominently beneath the glass tabletops. Sometimes there are business cards, too. And maybe a "thank you" note. Such an institution is part of a community and Marcello's has been feeding Bountiful fans for more than a decade.
It's a much needed presence on a very quiet northern stretch of Main Street. The front dining room houses a buffet where weekenders sample various pasta dishes, chicken Parmesan, polenta, and everything else of the red-sauce Italian variety. The rear dining room is a narrow space, dense with color, murals and faux foliage. The effect is comforting and kitschy, a pared-down local riff on Buca di Beppo, complete with the classic Italian soundtrack that Dean Martin could sing in a heartbeat.
Marcello's has personality, complete with its family-run charm and peculiar quirks. It's an alternative to the chain restaurants that dominate this stretch of the valley but its options are limited. The menu is a linguistic mix of Spanish (the family has some Argentine roots) and Italian that lists dinner entrees, pastas, kids' selections and desserts in two pages. Pizzas and calzones are on another page.
We were surprised one visit to encounter a bowlful of frisée for our starter salads (free with entree) and a little disappointed that our favorite greens came with bottled Italian dressing. On another visit, chopped romaine graced our salads.
There's no beer or wine to accompany the dry chicken Milanesa ($10.99). But a squeeze of lemon is all you really need to enjoy an excellently seasoned traditional beef version ($13), pounded thin and fried to a lovely crunch. Each entree comes with a side of pasta, usually topped with homemade tomato sauce that's light and actually tastes homemade. It also tops, along with Parmesan cheese, a lovely mound of golden polenta ($5.99, lunch). And by the way, if you want dessert, you'll have to call ahead for tiramisu and cannoli.
We didn't opt for the buffet on another visit (how does one judge lasagna that's been sitting in a pan throughout an entire dinner service, even if the white sauce is made from scratch?) and opted instead for a generous calzone ($8.79). We were warned by our server that it would take 20 minutes and we weren't disappointed. What arrived was a lovely pouch of golden brown crust and a huge helping of thinly sliced industrial pepperoni and mozzarella cheese. We liked the salty bite and the nostalgic bent to the dish.
For every helping of bottled Italian dressing, there's homemade tomato sauce and a béchamel that replaces a cream-drenched Alfredo. The result is a velvety and light homemade alternative that could use a touch of nutmeg.
What is fine is the homemade gnocchi ($9.79). It's one of the better versions I've encountered in Utah Italian establishments. Little ovaline mounds of potato and flour, individually formed and cook into a nicely balanced texture of light and dense that on one visit came out perfectly seasoned and on another were a bit salty to enjoy on their own.
Service is friendly and earnest, if a bit green. We enjoyed our waiter's honesty and humor, but diners don't need to be asked how their dinner is three times in five minutes. We enjoyed the gnocchi just fine, thank you, especially when we substituted the starchy mounds for the regular spaghetti that accompanied the beef Milanesa. Meat and potatoes, Bountiful-Italian style.
And at Marcello's you can have your own quirks.
Tribune's rating system
1 star Good
2 stars Very good
3 stars Excellent
4 stars Extraordinary
$ Entree under $10
$$$$ Above $25
1 bell Quiet (under 65 decibles)
2 bells Can talk easily (65-70)
3 bells Talking somewhat difficult (70-75)
4 bells Raised voices (75-80)
A bomb Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
The Tribune covers the cost of all meals at reviewed restaurants. Star ratings are based on a minimum of two visits. Ratings are updated continually based on at least one revisit. There is no connection between reviews and advertising.