For the past 17 years, Frank Papa’s Ristorante has been steadily turning out some of the best Italian food this side of The Hill. It’s easy to miss the brick storefront and drive on by, tucked as it is in the retail sprawl on Brentwood Boulevard. But this restaurant is definitely worth keeping an eye out for.

We have to say that we loved the comfortable, classic ambience of the interior. The bar area was dark and cozy, perfect for a pre-dinner Negroni, and the fake grape arbor hanging from the dining room ceiling evoked the old-school Italian eateries our folks took us to back in the day. Service was prompt and efficient, and we really appreciated the fact that our waiter, though attentive, didn’t hover excessively.

The dinner menu at Frank Papa’s was extensive—almost overwhelming, really. There were 11 appetizers (Primi), 17 pasta dishes and 20 entrees listed. With so many Italian favorites to choose from, it was hard to decide, short of throwing a dart or blindly pointing at random items on the page, but somehow we made our selections!

We started with the Funghi Con Lumache ($9), four mushroom caps stuffed with sauteed snail, tomato and garlic and drenched in fennel butter. On the plate, it looked manageable, but the mushrooms soaked up tons of the butter, and that, coupled with the meaty snails, made for a very filling dish.

To be as fair as possible, we chose one pasta dish and one entree. We were told the Tri-Colored Tortellini Fiorentine ($17) was a specialty of the house, and it was soon obvious why. We got a large bowl brimming with semolina, tomato and spinach tortellini stuffed with ricotta and served swimming in a cream sauce that included mushrooms, peas and prosciutto. It was some of the best tortellini we’ve had in a long time! The pasta was tender and the sauce was especially rich. Delicious, decadent and definitely not for dieters!

Entree-wise, we opted for the Shrimp Philo ($20), something a little different from the more traditional Italian fare on the menu. The dish consisted of four hefty shrimp, spinach, pinenuts and feta cheese wrapped up in philo dough. Like the mushrooms, the dish looked like it would be easy to handle at first glance, but the huge shrimp and creamy cheese, though delicious, proved to be anything but light.

The Chocolate Ravioli ($9) we chose for dessert had nothing to do with pasta and everything to do with flaky pastry goodness! Inside the dough was a creamy filling (likely mascarpone). The whole thing was covered with chocolate and served with a nice selection of fresh berries.

We found the extensive wine list, featuring 15 wines by the glass and 200 or so bottles, well worth perusing, as well. Frank Papa’s also offers a lunch menu that has a nice selection of starters, salads, sandwiches and larger entrees. If the lunch fare is anything like the hearty dinner offerings, though, it might be hard to make it back to the office!

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