Atmosphere: Fresh, pretty; like an Italian country inn.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5:30 to 10:30 p.m., Monday through Friday; 5:30 to 10:30 p.m., Saturday; 4 to 10:30 p.m., Sunday. (The restaurant will be closed during August).
Price range: $6.95 to $9.95 (specials are higher; ask for price).
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard.
Special facilities: Street parking and after-6 p.m. parking in back of the restaurant; accessible to wheelchairs; booster seats available for children.
Positano is back, much to the glee of the patrons who groaned when their favorite Italian restaurant closed its doors almost four years ago, a victim of its own success. Angela and Luigi Traettino's establishment was so popular in its first incarnation that they found themselves with too little time for their family, so the business was put on hold.
Now that their children are older, they have reconstructed Positano in the same neighborhood, with the same menu, the same waiters and the same good food. It has attracted its original following as well as new customers who keep the dining room humming, particularly on weekends.
Several details account for this. There is both professionalism and hospitality at Positano. Regular diners are greeted warmly and new customers are served with care by both the staff and the Traettinos themselves.
The provincial freshness of the dining room is both pleasing and casual, with dark wooden chairs, white linen on the tables and shiny glassware. Country-style carved doors and a realistic-looking brick floor suggest the provincial atmosphere of the Italian mountain town named Positano, which is pictured in a large mural on one wall of the restaurant.
Diners also may feel they are being served at the family table. Pastas are homemade and carefully cooked; the marinara sauce is fresh and delicately seasoned. The menu offers such homey dishes as escarole and bean soup, and fried smelts along with its tortellini, linguine and scallopinis.
On a night when two of our daughters were socializing elsewhere, we took the third, who is 11, and set off to enjoy an evening for three at Positano. We had a lovely dinner, but had we been five, the evening would have been an expensive one.
Pasta, chicken and vegetarian offerings are priced $6.95 to $8.95; fish and veal dishes, which constitute more than half the entrees, are $9.95. Specials run higher, and salad is not included with dinner. There is no children's menu, although pasta orders may be split.
Most kids would enjoy tortellini or cannelloni ($6.95 each), creamily sauced concoctions of tender pasta stuffed with meats. But otherwise they must choose vegetarian dishes or order at a higher price. With one child in tow, we were not in a position to split anything; our daughter ordered her favorite shrimp, served with linguine and marinara sauce ($9.95).
My husband chose one of his favorites, Italian sausage with peppers ($7.95), and I decided to try a special, stuffed veal and chicken scallopini ($12.95).
The shrimp, four large ones, were perfectly cooked and beautifully presented on a bed of linguine. The sausage, also accompanied by linguine, was flavorful and juicy--plain food made special by delicate cooking.
The special demonstrated what Positano seems to do best: a filet of chicken and a filet of veal were bound together with a finely seasoned, finely ground sausage stuffing, and sauteed until the flavors married. Served simply with a vegetable, it was delicious, although a bit greasier than I would have liked.
On another visit, I sampled cannelloni and sauteed clams, which also attested to Positano's ability to handle simple food carefully, and to create something special with seasonings and stuffings.
You might as well finish dinner with cappucino. Dessert was the one area where we thought Positano mediocre. We sampled a cannoli ($1.95) and a Positano ($1.95), a slice of pastry overwhelmed with a chocolate version of the cannoli's filling. Both were overly sweet and the pastry crust lacked the flakiness it should have had.
The bill for three of us, without tip, was $39.80.