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Monday, September 15, 2014

Mia Gioia

What’s for Dinner? Dept.: This week’s restaurant review took us to Altamont, NY, where a three-year-old Italian restaurant has evolved into a community fixture.


THE COUPLE DINING BESIDE US clearly were enjoying their entrées, so when Tim Turano stopped by their table (he stops by everyone’s table) to ask if they needed anything, the woman insisted there was nothing they lacked. “Except that I could use a Tide pen,” she added ruefully, noting evidence of trajectory misdirection.

Photo by B. A. Nilsson
Turano reappeared moments later with a Tide pen.

He’s a partner in Mio Vino, a restaurant that opened three years ago to offer traditional Italian fare to a town with very few eateries. He has helped guide it to an identity that takes into account Altamont’s wishes. “Conversation between the community and the restaurant has to work two ways,” he says. “There are 1,700 people in this area, so it was important to hear their opinions. These are the Tuesday through Thursday people, and they want to be able to dine here without being asked to spend too much money. That’s possible now.”

Michael and Emilia Giorgio opened Mi Vino in the former Hungerford Market building—Hungerford moved just around the corner—after a renovation that gave it an appealing bar area with tables nearby, a couple of dining rooms where the natural wood of the tables carries to the earth tones of the walls, and even a small-party table in its own corner. In warm weather, a dozen tables are scattered outside.

Turano joined the partnership nine months after the restaurant opened, bringing experience not only from such renowned places as Spago but also local establishments like Blu Stone Bistro. Unusually for this area, he puts a strong emphasis on service, and it shows.

My family of three was seated at a comfortable table in one of the rooms and given menus—and, thankfully, were guided through the choices.

Starters, known these days as small plates, include spinach and artichoke dip with homemade focaccia ($10); mussels sautéed in garlic and Pinot Grigio ($12); melanzana, a compote of thin-sliced eggplant with mozzarella and roasted red peppers ($10); ribeye crostini ($12); and two sizes of an artisan cheese and meat plate ($14/$20).

We figured it would make the most sense to go straight to the entrées, a resolve that weakened to nothing when I spotted the small-plate offering of pulled osso buco ($15), served over taleggio-flavored risotto with mushrooms and caramelized onions joining the incredibly tender meat. Although bad pot roast has given a bad name to braised meats, it’s never tastier than when it’s done like this. And the braised meat-risotto combo is unbeatable, a topic we’ll revisit shortly.

My starter started a starter fest, and Susan uncharacteristically chose the mango salsa shrimp ($14), which paired grilled shrimp with a peppery compote of mango, peppers, onions and avocado. “Mio Greens” is a slightly deceptive moniker, as the item so-named is a hot dish with cannellini beans and slices of homemade sausage, a delicious enhancement of the beans-and-greens concept ($11).

In the spirit of the small plates are lists of specialty sandwiches and pizzas. The former includes a burger of ribeye and tenderloin ($12), a braised short rib sandwich ($12), sausage and peppers on a homemade baguette ($10)—even a spaghetti-and-meatballs sandwich with melted mozzarella ($10), each served with a small salad.

The pizzas, baked in a handsome stone oven, range from a basic cheese ($10) for which you can choose toppings (most are $1.50 apiece) to the tomato-basil Margherita ($13), Buffalo chicken ($14), broccoli-ricotta ($13) and many more.

Pasta dishes include a primavera ($9/$17), spaghetti and meatballs ($9/$17), osso buco-stuffed ravioli ($17/$6) and even good old lasagna ($18).

Pan-seared scallops ($32) lead the menu’s fish section, which includes cioppino (market-priced), Alaskan salmon over a tomato-cucumber salad ($24), and blackened tilapia ($19). Lily opted for red snapper ($26), which honored the easygoing flavor of the fish with a light pan-searing and a finish of thyme and parsley and a white wine-based Monte Carlo sauce developed by our server, Chris.

What I take to be the osso buco mothership is the entrée listing ($36), where the meat again is served with mushrooms and caramelized onions. Other meat dishes include a pair of pork chops brushed with barbecue sauce ($22), a ten-ounce Angus ribeye ($26) and an eight-ounce short rib ($26).

Susan opted for prosciutto chicken ($22), a well-balanced assembly mimicking a saltimbocca where the prosciutto is laid over the chicken and decorated with sage, but topped with a pink cream sauce—almost unneeded, given the moistness preserved in the meat.

Both entrées were served with sautéed Brussels sprouts and a piping of mashed potatoes.

For me it was braised meat part two: a special of brisket served over risotto ($26), as amazing with beef as the star as it was with the osso buco’s veal, although it must be confessed that most of the entrée portions journeyed home with us.

An excellent wine list features affordable items that Turano and the servers describe knowledgeably.

The menu will be changing in a couple of weeks, both for dinner and the popular Sunday brunch. We look forward to the fact that we can revisit for pizza and a burger and enjoy the same hospitality on an entirely different budget.

Mio Vino Wine Bar & Bistro, 186 Main St., Altamont, 595-5095, Serving dinner Tue-Thu 5-9, Fri-Sat 5-10, Sun 5-9; brunch Sun 10-3. AE, D, MC, V.

Metroland Magazine, 11 September 2014

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