The Del Pietro clan is onto something with its newest place, Sugo’s Spaghetteria. A project of matriarch Mary Rose and her son Michael (who mans the kitchen), the simple little spot strategically located in the new Frontenac Grove is already packing ‘em in.
That’s probably thanks to a good business model and reliable food. The menu is limited to traditional Italian favorites like spaghetti, lasagna, pizza and salad, prepared without fuss or intense flavors. There are some nice daily specials and Italian appetizers, like bruschetta and eggplant Parmesan, and very little else. Then there’s the pricing: low, as in $10 pastas and pizzas, $4 appetizers and $12 daily specials.
Decor-wise, Sugo’s is pretty bare bones. The kitchen is ‘open,’ meaning glass windows allow diners to view the bustle of chefs at work. A rustic wooden table in the center is laden with wine bottles, a sort of ad hoc cellar that reinforces the casual nature of the place. There is no real ‘waiting area,’ so diners near the door are subjected to the hungry stares of those lining up for a table when it’s busy.
We started with the bruschetta ($4) and eggplant Parmesan ($6). The former was kind of ho-hum: lightly toasted rounds of Italian bread spread with olive oil and topped with diced tomatoes, garlic and large shavings of Parmesan cheese. The eggplant, on the other hand, was outstanding. Three tender, large slices of the vegetable were coated with fine olive oil and placed on homemade red sauce. They were covered with large shavings of Parmesan cheese, fresh basil and a little mound of Italian bread crumbs. These didn’t so much ‘coat’ the eggplant as gently top it, and it worked very nicely.
The Caesar salad ($5) was fine, a bowlful of romaine with good, toasted croutons and a nice dressing. For entrees, we ordered the Friday special, shrimp griglia ($14), lasagna ($10) and pasta tutto mare ($14). The lasagna was a generous portion made with Bolognese sauce, tomato with ground meat, in this case a mix of beef and sausage, as best I could tell. It was flavorful.
The pasta was good, too. The linguine noodles came with a light cream sauce and some very good, medium-sized shrimp and a generous portion of minced clams and crabmeat, albeit from a can. The dish had a slight garlic flavor, but I would have liked to see some herbal flavors in this and some of the other dishes, to add more interest.
The shrimp griglia was disappointing. It was served in a very soupy sauce, which totally surprised me. This dish is usually dry breaded shrimp, period. The shrimp were large and there were plenty of them, but their breading became soggy in the sauce…too bad, since the shrimp were so flavorful.
We ordered both of the pizza offerings for the table, Sicilian, a thick crust with red sauce and plenty of mozzarella, and Neopolitan, an olive oil-coated, very thin crust, with light toppings and cheese. We had the Sicilian with mushrooms, onions, tomatoes and meatballs and it was fine, although here again, I missed the usual herbal flavors, oregano and basil, that go so well with pizza.
The Neopolitan was better, I thought, with an excellent, crispy thin crust. We got the funghi-olive oil version, and it was quite good. The subtle toppings, roasted garlic cloves, wild mushrooms and truffle oil, complemented its thin crust and fine dusting of white cheeses. The only dessert offered is tiramisu, but it was a very good version, whipped creamy, the cake soaked in espresso liqueur.
Sugo’s is a great spot for a casual meal. It doesn’t pretend to be gourmet, and it’s not. But the food is satisfying overall, and the prices are almost too good to be true. You’ll have to exercise some patience with the service, which is friendly but not particularly efficient and a little rushed in the interest of turning over those coveted tables.