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Monday, April 1, 2013

Filling Palermo Villa’s Spot

Divino’s classic Sicilian-American menu

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Palermo Villa was an East Side mainstay for pizza for more than 30 years, but last year owner Kathleen Mirenda sold the business to her brother, Dean Cannestra, and his niece, Tina Conley. The new owners nearly gutted the building. They gave the place a new name, Divino Wine & Dine, and opened the doors last December. Cannestra is hardly a stranger to the restaurant business. He currently owns Nessun Dorma and Libiamo in Riverwest. He’s obviously a fan of opera. The menu retains the Palermo Villa pizzas but has an expanded selection of pastas and entrées. This is a classic Sicilian-American menu.

The new interior features a revamped bar, exposed brick walls and taller ceilings. It’s a comfortable and casual setting. There are a wide variety of starter courses. Among them are classics such as fried eggplant strips, toasted ravioli and, of course, calamari. There are also arancini ($6.50), rice balls with tasty fillings of spinach with cheese or seasoned ground meat. The Insalata di Palermo ($12) is a fine salad made from conch and octopus with onion, thin slices of celery, pepperoncini and chopped Italian parsley. Add the right amounts of olive oil and vinaigrette and you have a very decent seafood salad.

A few of the entrées and most of the pastas are served in two sizes. The beef tenderloin spedini ($8 as a starter, $18 as an entrée) are wonderfully thin slices of meat rolled-up and filled with seasoned breadcrumbs, Fontinella cheese and a bit of Genoa salami. They are tender and served with a side of pasta in marinara sauce. Fettucine puttanesca ($7 starter, $14 entrée) has a lusty tomato sauce with giardineira, flavorful black olives and hints of anchovy. This sauce is supposed to be spicy and it is. The chicken marsala ($15) consists of boneless breasts with onion and mushrooms in a marsala wine sauce. The wine is used with restraint, otherwise marsala can get cloyingly sweet. The pizzas come in sizes from 8” ($8-$10.50) to 16” ($13-$20.50) and with a variety of toppings. Favorites from the old Palermo Villa menu include the Palermo with mozzarella, sausage, pepperoni, mushroom and onion; the Neapolitan with three cheeses and tomato slices; and the Florentine with a base of tomato sauce, three cheeses and spinach.

The wine list includes more than 40 choices, mainly from Italy and California. About half are offered by the glass ($5-$9), with bottles running from $25 for Chianti to $75 for Brunello di Montelcino. The place remains popular especially on weekends. With a revamped interior, an updated menu and cheerful service, Divino Wine & Dine should have the key ingredients for ongoing success.

Divino Wine & Dine
2315 N. Murray Ave.
414-212-2222
$$
Handicapped access: Yes (except bathrooms)
divinomke.com