WHO’S IN CHARGE Gabriele Ascione, chef of the newly opened FiorItaly Trattoria in Medford, has a vision about his customers. He wants them to visit his restaurant regularly and has priced the meals accordingly. He pictures them coming in after a bad day and feeling better after an appetizer, a glass of wine, and a meal. When the 25-year-old declares, “I cook with passion; my secret is my passion,” it’s hard to argue with his brand of youthful energy.
Ascione moved to Boston five years ago from the small island of Ischia, off of mainland Naples, where he attended culinary school. After a few years cooking in North End restaurants, he has found a showcase for his versions of classic Italian dishes — “the recipes are from my grandmother” — with some updates “for a new generation.”
THE LOCALE FiorItaly occupies the space of the longtime eatery Lantana, bringing its own version of comfortable but refined dining. The walls of the restaurant’s two rooms are a creamy broccoli color; there are large windows, exposed brick, and rust-colored chandeliers; a wine rack and wine cabinet serve as décor.
Seating about 55 people, the space works well for both large parties and intimate pairings. Ascione said his uncle, Andrea DiiOrio, a longtime Medford resident, convinced him it was a great place for Italian food. So he went into partnership with DiiOrio, and his uncle helps run the show while Ascione does the cooking.
ON THE MENU All the favorites are here — fettuccini, spaghetti, chicken parmigiana, risotto, lasagna, ravioli, and more. We started with the caprese salad ($9.50) with lovely creamy Bufala mozzarella; the tomatoes were a trifle too chilled. We also tried the FiorZucchini Ripieni ($10), a seasoned zucchini flower stuffed with truffle ricotta; it was a rather rich starter.
For main courses, we tried the Gnocchi Sorrentina ($14), which had just the right amount of San Marzano tomato sauce to complement the chewy potato dumplings. The shrimp scampi ($13) was delicately flavored with lemon and chardonnay and served with a very tasty spinach accompaniment.
We also opted for the chef’s choice seafood risotto ($15 to $19), which came with a generous offering of clams and calamari in a creamy rice base. The Spaghetti Vongole Macchiato ($16) with fresh littleneck clams was tasty and very filling, with al dente pasta and juicy clams.
However, the standout dish for us was the Orecchiette Napoletane ($14), with its round orecchiette pasta, delectable bits of sweet sausage, broccoli rabe, and chopped plum tomato sauce, served with a topping of sliced provola cheese.
All the dishes were presented with visual flair — a leaf of basil here, shaved cheese there. Other options include Chicken Parmigiana, FiorItaly style ($18), Salmone Arrosto ($20), and a FiorItaly Burger ($10) with pan-seared meatballs, various cheeses, and eggplant caponata.
The service was a bit slow at the new restaurant, but already FiorItaly is attracting a cadre of fans. Desserts are currently tiramisu and cannoli ($8), which split among our weight-conscious group was enough to banish all remaining thoughts of the workday.
FiorItaly Trattoria, 417 Salem St., Medford, 781-393-1930, www.fioritalytrattoria.com.