At Sofia’s Ristorante Italiano in Bay Ridge (there is a sisterrestaurant in Manhattan’s Theater District), patrons have come toexpect an upscale dining experience with small town service andfamiliarity – you are as likely to bump into your next doorneighbor as you are an elected official over a plate ofcrispy-yet-tender fried calamari ($8.95) – and the friendly staffare more than capable of making you feel right at home.This is modern, authentic northern Italian cuisine, explainedhead waiter Andy, who has been with Sofia’s for seven years. [Westand out because] our food is fresh, prices are competitive andwe’re very consistent. There are no bad meals one day, then a goodmeal. We’ve had the same Italian chef for 10 years, fromTuscany.There are three menus available: prix-fixe lunch ($15.95 for threecourses), prix-fixe dinner ($23.95 for three courses), and a lacarte. Each features a long list of antipasti, salads, seafood,poultry, meat and homemade pastas – with gluten-free and wholewheat options available – and desserts.The Zuppa del Giorno (soup of the day – $4.95) happened to be thecheese tortellini soup, a delicious bowl of Sofia’s homemade pastabathed in a surprisingly refreshing light broth dotted with flecksof parsley.The hot antipasto ($12.95 per person) provided a toothsome samplingof a wide array of goodies, including fried zucchini, stuffedpepper, mushroom and artichoke, and a battered and fried triangleof mozzarella cheese, served on a bed of tomato sauce with a coupleof lemon wedges on the side.The Insalata Tricolore (three-color salad – $6.25) featured crispleaves of nearly white endive, green arugula and purple radicchiotossed together and topped with generous shavings of fresh parmesancheese – a richly flavored and bitter-yet-savory combination thatwas satisfying without being filling.The Vitello Piccata ($12.95 lunch, $20.95 dinner) was light andlemony, the pleasing tartness of the wine-enriched sauce enhancedby capers and artichokes, non-traditional additions to the classicentrée. Served alongside the paillards of veal were fresh sautéedzucchini and carrots, and pan-fried potatoes.Since all of Sofia’s pastas are handmade in-house, we opted to trya sampler of sorts with the Pasta Tricolore (prix-fixe lunch,$16.95 a la carte) – a trio of Penne Sofia, Linguini Pesto andRigatoni Amatriciana. The penne was a hearty and creamy mix of aldente pasta, peas and mushrooms; the rigatoni mixed with awell-seasoned chunky tomato, pancetta and sautéed onion sauce; andthe linguini possibly stealing the show with its delectably heavystrands laden with basil goodness. Other great options include avariety of risottos, which are so popular there is even a Risottoof the Day.If you are up for a finale, then note that there’s a reason whyTiramisu ($7.95) is such a popular dessert. The version at Sofiacombines layers of mascarpone cheese with light-as-air cake,garnished with strawberry wedges and drizzled with chocolate. Youwill definitely need to leave room for it, and maybe their take onItalian cheesecake ($7.95) as well. The cheesecake – made withricotta, not the cream cheese of New York cheesecake – is fluffilydelicious and comes with a side of berry slices and a drizzle ofchocolate syrup.Whatever you order at Sofia’s, be sure to come hungry, withfriends, and ready to leave happy and full.
SOFIA’S8406 Third AvenueBrooklyn, NY 11209718-680-4242www.sofiasny.comOpen daily from noon to 11 p.m., on weekends until midnight.Lunch ends and dinner begins at 4 p.m.