Brothers Steve and Jamie Komorek opened Trattoria Marcella in 1995, and since then, the Italian eatery has won a slew of awards, as well as legions of local fans. The duo is in the process of opening another restaurant in West County, scheduled to bow later this year, so we decided to drop by the original after a long hiatus to see where it all began.

The restaurant’s covered outdoor patio is relaxing and well-shaded, and we could have easily just wiled away the early evening sitting there, sipping on a frosty tumbler of House-made Basil Lemonade ($4) and a glass of 2010 Terlaner Classico ($8) from the wine list. The list of Italian cocktails really piqued our interest, but we were there to eat, so we buckled down and made our dining choices.

We started with the Roasted Wild Mushrooms ($9) and a small Field Greens ($6, large available for $12). The mushrooms were served in a caramelized sweet marsala sauce, pooled around a tower of crispy polenta fries that were stacked Jenga-style on the plate and topped with gorgonzola crumbles. These fries were as satisfying as any potato version we’ve had, crunchy on the outside and tender inside, and the gorgonzola added a nice savory counterpoint to the sweet sauce. The salad was a deliciously simple mix of greens topped with red onion, mozzarella and pine nuts and dressed with a tangy balsamic vinaigrette.

From the Pasta e Risotto list, we chose the Straw And Hay ($14), then perused the Secondi section of the menu and ordered the Spiedini Di Gamberi ($18). The Straw and Hay was a creamy amalgamation of egg and spinach noodles, mascarpone, coppa, crimini mushrooms and green peas. It looked almost too good to eat, with its gorgeous color combination of rich reds and greens and simple, rustic presentation. Almost. The spiedini featured plenty of jumbo shrimp in a marsala wine sauce. They were fanned out around a fennel risotto cake that rested on a bed of fresh spinach. While the shrimp were succulent and the sauce had great flavor and depth, we were most smitten with the risotto cake, which had a delicate, lightly crisp coating that belied its creamy interior. For those who might balk at the dish due to the possibility of tasting too much fennel, don’t worry. We only detected a subtle hint of the aromatic herb.

We’d enjoyed the Chocolate Creme Brulee ($6) during our last meal at Trattoria Marcella, and were really pleased to see it was still offered as a dessert option. It was as decadent as we remembered, and provided a sweet end to what was a fine re-introduction to chef Steve Komorek’s cuisine.

The front of the house staff proved to be the equal of the kitchen during our visit. Despite the bustling dining room, service was attentive and efficient.

It’s never an accident when a restaurant weathers culinary trends and economic downturns and not only survives but thrives. Trattoria Marcella has succeeded and expanded by offering quality cuisine at a reasonable price, served professionally. We promise we won’t wait so long before our next visit!

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