I don't have an Italian grandmother, but if I did, I imagine Sunday dinner at her house would look a lot like the lasagna at Vittoria. The Powell restaurant serves a towering casserole of comfort food ($17): Five thick sheets of pasta are layered with lots of meat, and the huge slab is doused with smooth, sweet tomato gravy. The hearty Italian fare feels right at home in the warm, friendly neighborhood gathering spot.
In fact, the cozy bar up front is always buzzing with regulars. The leather stools, granite bartop and surrounding woodwork seem elegant, but the mood is definitely casual and sometimes even boisterous. (I appreciate the dim lighting, which also helps keep the conversation humming.)
The Traditional Pepperoni pizza ($10) is very popular with those front-room regulars, and it's easy to see why. The thin and crispy crust-just what you want from a bar pie-is topped with cheese that's bubbly and crispy brown, and the pepperoni has a nice spicy kick.
Vittoria's large dining room isn't as intimate as the bar, though the fireplace in back is comforting when there's a chill in the air outside. Still, the restaurant maintains the easygoing vibe, and I've always found the service to be decidedly friendly.
Do not miss the great house bread. Served warm, it's nice and crusty outside and cloudy-soft inside-just right for melting lots of the accompanying herb butter. I don't know for sure where the recipe came from, but my guess is Heaven.
My favorite shareable plate from the apps list is the Scampi Alla Sorrentina ($13)-shrimp sauted with white-wine butter and capers. It's like hosting a garlic party in your mouth, where lemon and wine crashed the festivities. Just make sure you use the ciabatta toast to soak up any leftover buttery sauce when the shrimp are gone (you can thank me later).
If my pretend Italian granny lived near the Mediterranean, Sunday dinner might look more like the Seafood Linguini Alla Pescatora ($26). This colorful plate hit the table with a fragrant flourish. The mound of soft pasta soaked up a light and flavorful tomato broth; it was topped by lots of huge shrimp, a few small scallops and calamari, and ringed by a fortress of mussels.
Seafood also played a starring role in the Veal Alla Sorrentina ($29), one of Chef Nick Bedalli's signature dishes. The thin-sliced, breaded veal had a few citrusy comments, but mostly it let the nutty cheese sauce do the talking. Conspicuously resting on top of the meat were three huge lumps of crab, while a nice splash of color was provided by a fan of green asparagus stalks.
For dessert we indulged in what looked to be the world's largest chocolate truffle. The Tartufo ($7) is actually an elaborate, baseball-sized frozen treat, with vanilla ice cream blanketed by chocolate mousse, and topped with hazelnuts, dusted in cocoa powder and drizzled with chocolate sauce. Let it soften just a little before digging in, then grab a spoon and enjoy the sweet ending.
10241 Sawmill Pkwy., Powell