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Dining Out: Award-winning Italian restaurant with compelling twists

An Italian restaurant that boasts both tradition and flair, Max’s Es-Ca on Richmond Road offers a little bit of everything.

Owner Max Calicchio, a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education, opened the restaurant in 2002, then just called Es-Ca before selling his part of the successful restaurant in 2010. When he returned in 2011 with co-owner Allison Marchese, he revamped the eatery with new menus, a better space and the new name.

“For me to come back, I didn’t want it to be the same way. I wanted to make a statement,” said Calicchio. “Allison was part of that statement and the past four years, we’ve been gaining momentum.”

The new space caters to all types of occasions, whether it be a date, party, family outing or watching a big game.

“My whole intent was to make this place really shine and be a staple of the area,” he added. “We knew we needed an upgrade in ambiance, the service has to be on point and the food has to be on point.”

Calicchio appears to have succeeded. The restaurant won several awards at the most recent Taste of Staten Island event, thanks in part, he believes, to the fact that it is not a traditional Italian eatery.

Max Calicchio
Max Calicchio

“Opening up a restaurant, I didn’t just say I wanted to be Italian,” he said. “We’re kind of Italian. We do baked clams and calamari but then we also do spring rolls.”

I had the opportunity to try one of the eatery’s most popular appetizers, the Fried Calamari with spicy marinara sauce ($15). It’s no wonder that it’s a fan favorite.

Unlike the fried calamari served at many other establishments, Es-Ca’s isn’t greasy or tough, and the cooks also opt for a delicious flour coating. You can taste the difference.

The marinara sauce was an added treat. However, the calamari was so tasty on its own, it didn’t require any additional embellishment.

Next up, Calicchio brought out his unique and extremely flavorful Spicy Tuna Tartare ($16).

The unique appetizer consists of raw tuna topped with a salsa of avocado, tomatoes, red onions and a little bit of a spicy mayonnaise. It’s served with tortilla chips, perfect for dipping into the tasty treat.

Beignets
Beignets

I skipped the restaurant’s plethora of famous entrees altogether and went straight for the dessert. Although Max’s Es-Ca offers tons of delicious options such as cheesecake ($8) and Fried Ice Cream ($8), I tried what I considered to be the most interesting item on the Desserts By Max menu, the Beignets ($8). These delicacies are French-style doughnuts filled with raspberry jam. The dish includes three delicious sauces you can dip the beignets in: Caramel, Chocolate and Creme Anglaise. There’s also a scoop of airy whipped cream.

Although you can’t go wrong with any of the sauces, I found the chocolate to be the richest tasting one. The Beignets were the highlight of the afternoon, which in itself was a gastronomic delight.

MAX’S ES-CA
1559 Richmond Road
Staten Island, New York 10304
718-980-5006
Monday-Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
Wednesday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.
Friday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-12 a.m.
Sunday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m.
www.maxsesca.com

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