John Mineo's Dining

John Mineo's Italian Restaurant has been a fixture in Town & Country for 40-plus years, emphasizing traditional Italian dishes and upscale service. Tucked away in a small shopping area on Clayton Road, the eatery had escaped our attention for far too long, and we were happy to remedy that oversight recently.

Upon entering, the space seemed deceptively small, thanks to the cozy bar area just inside the front door. But past the hostess stand, the space opened up into two fairly spacious dining rooms. While the bar side was casual, there was a more formal air about the dining areas, with details such as the coterie of wait staff dressed in coats and ties, finishing dishes table-side, and the patterned china on the tables.

We started things off with the Shrimp Martini ($13) from the Antipasti Freddi (cold appetizers) selections. This take on the shrimp cocktail featured several plump shrimp balanced on the rim of a cocktail glass, which was lined with a lettuce leaf and filled with tangy sauce. The Tomato, Onion & Anchovie Salad ($9), also was a straight-ahead classic, with three thick slices of tomato served with mozzarella and plenty of onions.

Of course, it was imperative to order some house-made pasta. The list of possibilities was impressive; but when a dish is listed as mom's recipe, that one automatically gets the nod. Mama's Lasagna ($24) was just as comforting as it sounds, a block of layered cheese, meat and pasta with a surprisingly sweet sherry tomato sauce. The dish had just the right amount of garlic, as well—not overpowering but accenting the other flavors nicely.

So often when we dine at an Italian eatery, we focus on the pasta and the seafood specialties and overlook the Pollo (chicken) offerings. This time around, we decided to rectify that and ordered the Chicken Michelangelo ($27), and the combo of tender chicken breast, savory tomato sauce and copious amounts of cheese made us very glad we branched out! It was also served with some really flavorful braised spinach on the side.

We ended the meal with a small sample of cannoli, provided gratis by one of our waiters when we announced we had no appetite left to indulge in a full order. That little bit of customer service was indicative of the overall level of service we experienced at John Mineo's. While none of the servers hovered, we were definitely taken care of. The only oddity we experienced--we were never offered a wine list. We decided to forgo vino, anyway, and made do with a Negroni ($10)

In addition to dinner service, the restaurant also offers off-site catering services, as well as a lunch menu and a pleasant outdoor dining area for al fresco fans. John Mineo's is definite proof that The Hill isn't the only place in town to get a high-quality traditional Italian meal.

--John Mineo's, 13490 Clayton Road, 434-5244,

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