Pistone's Italian Inn tries, perhaps because of its location at the busy crossroads of Seven Corners, to be all things to all diners. There is an extensive bar - with free snacks at cocktail time on weekdays - an extensive menu and an extensive salad bar, which definitely steals the culinary show.
Despite these efforts for their grown-up customers, the Italian Inn also seems to have a reputation for its way with children. On the night we visited, the dining room was jammed with small ones having dinner with their parents.
Our son received a large share of attention from the waitress, who delivered his Shirley Temple quickly and checked that his seating was comfortable.
The atmosphere at the inn is the standard packaged variety - dark woods, red candles, hanging beams - except the chairs are a bit more comfortable. The overall experience is a pleasant one, although the lights and the heat could be turned up a bit for family dining.
The menu, however, provides enough variety to satisfy almost any taste. There are 11 pasta dishes, 13 Italian specialties - including potato gnocchi, veal alla marsala and tortellini - various steaks and seafood dishes and a mix or match for $7.95, which includes an combination of two from a list of prime rib, filet mignon, chicken breast, veal cutlet, fried scallops, fried shrimp and Alaskan king crab legs.
Pizza is also available as well as a children's menu with spaghetti, chopped steak, fried shrimp or fried chicken.
Our 3-year-old decided on spaghetti and meatballs. His dinner included a "small" salad, according to the menu, which turned out to be a larger plateful than most restaurants serve their adult customers.
The choice was not easy, for there were 26 toppings - not including four salad dressings. Along with the usual cucumbers, carrots, croutons, cabbage and green peppers, there were fried peppers, marinated mushrooms, eggplant slices in a tomato sauce, kosher pickles, olives of all sorts, applesauce and zucchini. Substantial loaves of bread and a crock of butter were also laid out for anyone foolish enough to think he or she could manage a dinner afterwards.
Although my husband was resolute about not overstuffing with the starters, my son and I succumbed.
As a result my husband had sufficient appetite for the tender veal marsala that arrived with a side dish of fettucine alfredo ($7.25). He wasoutmaneuvered, however, by the short person at our table, who also liked the meat. At $4.50, my cannelloni came with a nicely spiced sauce and was large enough to share with my husband, although it was somewhat doughy. We all nibbled on the spaghetti.
For dessert, our son chose the sweetest piece of cake on the pastry tray, and my husband was satisfied with a passable cannoli, each $1.25. I stuck with coffee.
Our bill was $18.20 minus tip, a sweet enough for me. Pistone's Italian Inn
On Rte. 50 at Seven Corners. 533-1885
Atmoshere: Geared to the small set despite candlelight and grown-up decor.
Prices: Pastas and pizza from $2.25 to $4.50; Italian specialties such as veal marsala in the $7 range; a variety of steaks and seafood are a little more expensive. Children's menu lists entrees from $1.60 to $2.45.
Hours: Open 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. weekdays. Closes at 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Sundays open noon to 11 p.m.
Credit Cards: American Express, Carte Blanche, Visa and Master Charge.
Reservations: A good idea on weekends.
Special facilities: Ample free parking, boosters and high chairs, accessible to patons in wheelchairs.