Lou Reda comes by his credentials as a chef the hard way. He began cooking in his father’s kitchen when he was fourteen and never looked back. In 1994, he opened An American Grill, just a few miles from his father’s former restaurant, the Italian Chalet. It quickly became a favorite in the area.
The restaurant is comfortable inside without being elaborate, and the same can be said of its American comfort food with an Italian twist. To nibble on while making our menu selections, we are brought focaccia topped with chopped tomatoes and onions and rugged chunks of Parmesan cheese. Besides the regular menu are a menu of specials, a small but varied wine list, and a list of sixteen wines by the glass, none costing more than $8.50.
There is absolutely nothing dainty about the food here. Portions are large and not always as attractively plated as they could be, but they often taste better than they look.
Recommended appetizers include coconut shrimp and the large roasted portobello mushroom topped with goat cheese in a rich, dark sauce tasting of bacon and balsamic vinegar. An Italian-style seafood salad in a lemony garlic dressing and green shrimp in a parsley-flecked sauce with an overkill of garlic are acceptable, and so is the puff pastry triangle filled with spicy sausage, mozzarella, and mushrooms with a piquant, creamy red sauce. I would prefer to have the vegetable strudel with more filling and less phyllo, and the three-cheese ravioli with less cognac in the cream sauce because the bitter taste of unburned alcohol overwhelms the other flavors, but I rather like the soft and tender firecracker calamari, with vinegar, hot peppers, and balsamic vinegar providing a welcome kick.
Portions are large: Oven-roasted Veal Chop Jack Daniels arrives as two surprisingly tender fist-size chops with a sauce of black peppercorns and shallots that is a good foil for the normally bland meat. The two enormous softshell crabs, wrapped in panko crumbs and served with bitter greens, are another pleasant surprise.
Sesame seed–encrusted tuna, served very rare with a soy-ginger dressing, is tender and silken, and the sliced loin of lamb flavored with rosemary and served with lentils, bacon, and carrots is flavorful. Monkfish Française is probably the best main course, with just enough lemon to cut the richness of the fish.
Country-style chicken and sausage is greasy and overcooked, and the blackened shrimp and scallops taste only of the blackening spices. Although the meat itself is quite good, the large hunk of roasted suckling pig is unappetizingly served soggy skin down and charred bone up.
For dessert, choose the crème brûlée, apple strudel, or chocolate mousse, but avoid the stale-tasting tiramisu and dry chocolate cake.
Reviewed in: July 2006