Will Travel for Food

Texas Restaurants Worth Visiting on the Road This Summer

Massimo Restaurant
Massimo Restaurant (Photo By John Anderson)

Massimo Restaurant

In San Antonio

4263 NW Loop 410 Suite 109 (Babcock & Loop 410)

210/342-8556

Mon-Fri, 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:30-10:30pm; Sat, 5:30-10:30pm

What lover of all food Italian hasn't lingered over the movie Big Night and longed for such an eatery in the neighborhood? From the obsessive, uncompromising chef to the unpretentious charm of the room, the restaurant in Big Night has it all. But perhaps it's just as well, if we buy the premise of the movie: The joint would soon fold under the crushing pressure of the meatball joint across the way. The haunting film has kept food lovers searching for just such a place, however.

While the gently worn tiles and picaresque neighborhood is missing, a darn good facsimile of the cuisine can be found down the road some 70 miles in San Antonio at Massimo, a small jewel in a strip mall in the northwest portion of town. Yeah, that's right, a strip mall. But once you enter through the doors, all reminders of the intersection of freeways that got you there are forgotten as you're swept away to Italy and all its glorious aromas and flavors.

An antipasto worthy of a still-life painting can be found voluptuously gracing a table which anchors the room. It's a tempting beginning to an unforgettable meal. While the smattering of items that my party sampled on a recent evening didn't delve the depths of the offerings, everything was noteworthy.

The linguine with pesto for the youngster in our group was a silky, pungent rendition of the favorite. The pasta was properly al dente, and the pesto packed a basil punch that sang of sunshine.

For the two adults in the group, there were a number of menu items that looked tempting, but the decision was surprisingly easy to make when we both hit on the same item at once -- salmon encased in a potato crust with bell pepper sauce. An unusual offering at any restaurant, surely, but in an Italian one, it raised our eyebrows. The result of the pairing is spectacular: a perfectly moist, thick fillet of roasted salmon is surrounded by the thinnest layer of crusty potato purée and sits atop a silky, delicate pool of sunny, two bell-pepper sauce, all of it set off with wilted fresh spinach. The flavors of the salmon and peppers are a perfectly compatible marriage, and the potato crust adds just the crunch that the smooth sauce and velvety fish need to make the meal complete.

The dining room is small and lovely; the staff, while not as obsessive and insulting as those in Big Night, are enthusiastic and eager to offer wine and menu suggestions for those stuck among the selections. On any excursion into the Alamo City to visit the notable landmarks, a stop at Massimo's will add a culinary delight to the vacation. A trip to San Antonio for the purpose of visiting Massimo's alone is a journey to the soulmate of that fictional restaurant of your Big Night dreams.

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