LaScola, approaching its fifth anniversary, is a South Toledo charmer, from the first step in the door (where the vestibule's walls are lined with hundreds of intriguing old family photos), to the classy bar and contemporary Mediterranean dining areas. Amber lighting soothes, the never-too-loud sound track is Frank Sinatra/Perry Como-ish, and the decor has wrought iron, black leather, columns, and original art.
It's a venture between veteran restaurateur Gus Nicolaidis and out-and-about chef Moussa Salloukh.
Most of what I had was terrific, so let's start with that.
Lake Superior whitefish ($17.99) was scrumptious with a light crusty crunch of pecan/polenta. Magnifying the flavor was porcini-mushroom butter and a sweet drizzle of dark balsamic on the fillet. A handful of julienned, steamed peppers and zucchini was as good as it was attractive.
Eggplant parmigiana ($14.99), was every bit of what one hopes for when ordering this odd vegetable: five big slices of lightly breaded eggplant with excellent marinara sauce, topped with parm and mozzarella over thin capellini noodles.
Chicken saltimbocca ($17.99) lived up to its "jumps in the mouth" translation. Tender chicken breasts are topped with salty prosciutto, sun-dried tomato pesto, fresh sage, and asiago: A combo that delivers bold flavor.
Hot bread and an herbed olive-oil dip is serve with meals. If you get a salad, ask for the home-made white balsamic dressing: It's crisp and light with a bit of sweet and will soon be bottled and sold.
A fine appetizer was wild mushroom bruschetta ($9.99); six slices of bread topped with three types of 'shrooms, fresh basil, ricotta, and asiago, drizzled with the Mediterranean's favorite oil. On one visit, we chose a side dish for an appetizer: a very good, warm, wild-mushroom risotto ($4.29).
Two desserts are homemade. If you like chocolate, share the tiramisu ($6.99, worth every penny).
The kitchen disappointed with two specials.
Salmon with prosciutto ($19.99) on wide noodles with a handful of green peas was oily, heavy, and barely registered on the flavor-ometer. Salmon pieces, about an inch each, were good, but the dark prosciutto was chewy.
Sending both thumbs south was the roasted vegetable lasagna ($15.99), a leaning tower of veggies in need of judicious selection, more cooking, and a better sauce. It arrived as a big square, smothered in a pool of orange. "The pieces are getting bigger as the night goes by," said our server.
Even with a serrated knife, negotiating this thing was work. I took most of it home for dissecting the next day, and could appreciate how it might have sounded good on paper: Single layers of lasagna separated a substantial clump of spinach, a mess of onions, red peppers, and tomatoes. The top layer was thick slices of hard squash.
Service was uneven: very good once; another time, it came on strong but petered out about halfway through.
●Pasta Days, every Sunday and Monday, are $30 specials-for-two featuring about 10 choices (lasagna, fettuccini, ravioli, and penne), homemade bruschetta and two house salads.
●Gluten-free options are offered for pizza crust and several pastas.
●A new venture by the same owners, LaScola Tuscan Grill, has recently opened at 2215 Tiffin Ave. in Findlay (419-669-6918).
Contact Bill of Fare at email@example.com.
LaSCOLA ITALIAN GRILL
Address: 5375 Airport Hwy.
Category: Business casual.
Hours: 4 to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Reservations are accepted.
Wheelchair access: Yes.
Average Price: $$$
Credit Cards: AE, Dis, MC, V.
Web site: lascolaitaliangrill.com.