SIMPLE ELEGANCE at Leo’s.
Over the decades, Leo's Pizza became a Bristol staple, after Panteleone Mancieri (aka "Leo") opened it in 1948. His grandson Paul Mancieri relocated the eatery to its present spot in 2000, expanding the name (Leo's Ristorante), the seating (an extra dining room), and the menu (classic Italian-American entrees, appetizers, and specialty burgers). He kept the hometown feel to it — linguine and clam sauce are a requisite — and made sure it was family-oriented, with plenty of room for eight around a large table, or four at a smaller one.
The high-ceilinged dining room we chose (away from the entry door) was bi-level, as is the first and smaller room. The upper level has seats along the windows onto Hope Street, with a room divider providing privacy from diners on the lower level. The first room has a burgundy and green color scheme, the second, a soft Tuscan yellow on the walls, with some abstract paintings and a group of black-and-white family photos. Tables are covered in white butcher paper, with beige linen napkins at dinnertime.
On a recent Sunday evening, older couples, younger couples, and several families kept the waitstaff hopping. With such variety on the menu, one table could order three plates of burgers and fries with a large pizza — broccoli rabe and pepperoni — for Dad (with the others jumping in for a slice). Couples split apps and entrees with no problem; substitutions for sides were also not an issue.
We did our reviewing duty and started with a "Leo's classic pizza" with a very tasty red sauce, plenty of melted mozzarella, and a crispy, chewy crust. We added fresh mushrooms and breaded eggplant chunks ($10.40 for a medium-sized pizza).
Leo's also has a list of "award-winning gourmet white pizzas": with buffalo chicken; shrimp scampi; a veggie mélange; or a Greek mixture with feta, mozzarella, and provolone. There's a gluten-free crust option, and the "heart attack" pizza, with pepperoni, sausage, bacon, ham, and meatballs.
Leaving the pizza section, we began to study the pasta dishes and the entrees. I was initially psyched to see flounder stuffed with broccoli rabe and sundried tomatoes, but when I asked about crab (not listed, but an allergen for me), I discovered that indeed, it did contain crab, and I switched to chicken piccata ($14.99). Among the other seafood possibilities are a fisherman's platter, a teriyaki-glazed salmon, baked scrod, and shrimp scampi, but none of these was as appealing as the locally-caught filet of sole.
The piccata was fine, with capers and a lemon sauce, though I would have preferred the boneless breast cutlets a bit more tender and a bit less breaded. However, the garlic mashed potatoes and the steamed broccoli were excellent.
Bill opted for the veal saltimbocca ($19.99), which looked somewhat overcooked to me, but he had no complaints at all, and he loved his sides of penne with red sauce and spinach with sliced black olives and bits of roasted red pepper ("beefed up," as he put it). The veal was breaded and pan-fried, with ham slices and mozzarella on top.