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posted: 9/10/2013 6:00 AM

DiPiero's casual Italian continues to please

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  • DiPiero's Special Pizza includes sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, onions and bacon.

       DiPiero's Special Pizza includes sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, onions and bacon.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Veal Marsala has been pleasing diners at DiPiero's Ristorante in Lake Zurich for two decades.

       Veal Marsala has been pleasing diners at DiPiero's Ristorante in Lake Zurich for two decades.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • DiPiero's Ristorante has been in Lake Zurich for more than two decades.

       DiPiero's Ristorante has been in Lake Zurich for more than two decades.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Bartender Joel Gaytan pours a glass of wine in the bar at DiPiero's Ristorante in Lake Zurich.

       Bartender Joel Gaytan pours a glass of wine in the bar at DiPiero's Ristorante in Lake Zurich.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Dining room at DiPiero's Ristorante in Lake Zurich.

       Dining room at DiPiero's Ristorante in Lake Zurich.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Calamari puttanesca and baked clams are among the appetizers at DiPiero's Ristorante in Lake Zurich.

       Calamari puttanesca and baked clams are among the appetizers at DiPiero's Ristorante in Lake Zurich.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Baked clams is one of the many popular dishes at DiPiero's Ristorante in Lake Zurich.

       Baked clams is one of the many popular dishes at DiPiero's Ristorante in Lake Zurich.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

 
By Thomas Witom
Daily Herald Correspondent

Give DiPiero's Pizzeria and Ristorante in Lake Zurich credit for staying power.

The town's central business district has all but shifted southwest and evolved along the busy U.S. Route 12 corridor, but this stalwart restaurant, owned and operated by Bob Narcisi for more than three decades, hasn't budged and continues to attract a loyal clientele.

Since the last time I supped there 15 years ago, little has changed except for the escalated prices. Today's diners can expect to fork over $13 to $24 for an entree, excluding appetizer, beverage, tax and tip.

The freestanding building, with a white stucco exterior, is unprepossessing as is its cramped, dimly lit interior with barely enough space to handle 50 diners. Yet on a recent Tuesday night nearly every one of its seats was occupied by 7 p.m. And judging by the way they were greeted, a majority of the patrons were regulars.

Familiar Italian-inspired favorites populate DiPiero's extensive menu. Some are hits, others less so.

High marks to the kitchen for its expertise in handling fried calamari. The lightly breaded squid rings, accompanied by a sweet chili dipping sauce, were as tender as could be. Another plus: the portion was generous enough for two to share.

Some of the other appetizer options included bruschetta, baked clams, shrimp cocktail, grilled octopus and artichoke hearts.

A fellow diner chose well for her main course: a 9-inch round DiPiero's Special pizza. This thin-crusted signature dish packed a lot of flavor from its toppings: sausage, mushrooms, onion, green peppers, bacon and mozzarella. Note: The establishment also offers take-out and local delivery service from a separate facility around the corner.

Unfortunately, my veal Milanese entree didn't live up to its potential. The two seasoned, breaded cutlets, pounded thin and served with capers, were overcooked, rendering the meat tough. The dish was plated with small boiled potatoes and sauteed eggplant. A serviceable green house salad accompanied; oddly, an unmentioned 75-cent upcharge was added to the bill for a bland blue cheese dressing.

A wide variety of pasta dishes, such as fettucine alfredo, ravioli and linguini and clams, also is available. Meanwhile, chicken fans will find such preparations as marsala, piccata, parmigiana and vesuvio. Recent specials included osso buco, beef braciole, halibut vesuvio and rigatoni contadina.

Desserts follow the tried-and-true playlist of tiramisu, cannoli, spumoni and chocolate cake. Skip the cannoli cake, which is overly sweet even for someone with a sweet tooth.

A full-service bar stocks a diverse selection of wines, both domestic and Italian, including a smooth Folonari Chianti Classico sold by the glass or bottle. Of four beers on tap, two are Italian brews: Moretti and Peroni.

While DiPiero's fare can sometimes fall short of expectations, that's not the case with its service, thanks to a hard-working, attentive wait staff.

• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.

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