The delights of a hearty Italian dinner are beyond compare: long-lasting meals, steaming dishes, a pleasant atmosphere that says people are clearly here to eat. And eat we did at Fratelli Italian Restaurant, which sits on a hill near Prince George's Hospital Center. The food and service make plain why the restaurant has enjoyed a four-year run.
Greeted and seated immediately, we were served by an owner, waiter and waitress, all working together to make sure our experience was enjoyable.
We started with four large mushrooms ($5.50) lavishly stuffed with buttery crab meat, browned and then topped with a slice of red pepper.
We also enjoyed the chef's special, seafood soup ($7.25), delivered in a bowl overflowing with clams, mussels, jumbo shrimp and half dollar-size scallops (although my companion argued they were closer to the size of Susan B. Anthony coins). The shells jutted over the sides of the bowl.
Accompanying these starters was fresh Italian bread served with olive oil infused with sage, rosemary, garlic, hot peppers and basil.
A heaping salad liberally dressed with house Italian dressing recommended by the waiter arrived before the main course.
Fratelli's eggplant parmigiana ($10.95) is an exceptional version of that Italian favorite, with thin slices of eggplant breaded with fine crumbs, plus freshly made tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese. Manuel Cruz, one of the three owners, explained the freshness of the dish: "When you order it, we start to peel it."
My companion ordered Pollo al Carciofo (breast of chicken sauteed with dry wine, garlic and artichokes, $12.25). The chicken was awash with a creamy, sweet sauce.
Cappuccino, espresso and coffee were offered along with a tempting dessert tray. It was hard to choose when presented with such delights as tiramisu, cannoli, sorbet, toscanella and Black Forest cake.
Piped inside the cannoli ($4.75) was a wonderful creamy custard with bits of chocolate and a cherry slice at each end. The tiramisu ($4.75) was a tidy, layered cake. Peach sorbet ($5.25) was a large peach hollowed out and filled with light, fruity sorbet; a small peach "cap" sat on top of the icy treat.
From famished to very full, we left the restaurant that has made several friends' recommendation lists, and now makes mine.
Fratelli Italian Restaurant, 5820 Landover Rd., Cheverly, Md. 20784; 301-209-9006. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Saturday, 2-11 p.m.; Sunday, 2-9 p.m.
CAPTION: The owners of Fratelli Italian Restaurant, from left: Alex Caballero, Manuel Cruz and Cesar Caballero.