Massimo Terracciano, owner and chef of Massimo Bar and Grill with a involtini marsala dish. Lui Kit Wong/The News Tribune
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Massimo Italian Bar and Grill
Where: 13802 Purdy Drive N.W., Gig Harbor; 253-514-6237
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to closing daily, twilight menu specials 3:30-5:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday
Prices: $-$$ (entrees under $30)
By Jeffrey P. Mayor
The scene: You have to start with the view, looking down Henderson Bay, when you visit Massimo Italian Bar and Grill. The row of red taillights from the steady stream of commuters heading out to the Key Peninsula helped highlight the Purdy Spit. The line of cars made us happy to be seated at our table and not behind the wheel.
Inside, the decor is neutral and understated, with tan walls and white trim offering a clean look. A gas fireplace gives one seating area an added touch. There are five high-definition TVs – two in the bar and three in one of the dining areas. We were seated in an area without a TV but could still hear its cheering soccer fans. Tables might be better option for larger patrons as our booth was tight.
In the kitchen: Massimo and Cindy Terracciano are the owners. In December, they moved to the Purdy Spit locale – best known recently as home of the Beach House – after running Terracciano Ristorante in Gig Harbor for five years. Massimo Terracciano, a native of Italy, gained his early cooking experience in Naples and Germany before coming to the Puget Sound region 10 years ago.
"We're very happy to be here. It's bigger, we have a full bar and the view," Massimo Terracciano said of the new location. "We also are more successful here.
"It was my dream to have a place like this and my dream has happened," he added.
Much of the menu is southern Mediterranean style, Terracciano said. "Ninety-nine percent is homemade. We do our own bread, our own sausage, the pizza dough is made fresh."
The menu: We felt the offerings were varied and left us pondering for several minutes exactly what to order. The kids menu has two pizza and two pasta items, along with mac-and-cheese.
Starters: We began our meal with gamberi in camicia (prawns wrapped in prosciutto, $9.95), and a crab cocktail ($7.95). The shrimp were large and came in a butter sauce that was great on bread. The crab came mixed with white beans and was tossed with green onions, extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. It had a nice, clean taste, although the crab pieces could have been larger or more plentiful. The Italian wedding soup ($3) was filled with large pieces of sausage.
Entrees: We tried three dishes – Penne Grancio, Salmone Fantasia and Scalloppine Marsala. All entrees come with choice of soup or house salad.
The penne pasta ($12.95) came with crab meat mixed in a basil cream tomato sauce. This was a good dish to have on a cold night because the creamy sauce had an unexpected level of heat.
The salmon ($16.95) was served with capers in a white wine and lemon sauce. The salmon was cooked just right and the capers added a nice flavor.
The best of the entrees was the veal Marsala ($16.50). The mushroom, creme and wine sauce was delicious, but did not overwhelm the two generous pieces of veal. The meat was moist and could be cut with a fork.
Dessert: To finish off the evening, we had Classico Tartufo, Profiterole and a Frangelica cheesecake.
The tartufo ($7) was a baseball-sized chocolate truffle with a vanilla ice cream interior. It was overshadowed by the cheesecake and Profiterole. The cheesecake ($7.25) was incredibly moist and tasted truly homemade. The Profiterole ($7) was two puff pastries filled with cream and topped with chocolate mousse. This was one of those desserts that's best when you get all three tastes in one bite.
Service: Our server was patient, attentive and full of good suggestions. She helped us narrow down our choices from the multiple good options on the menu, she steered us in the right direction when trying to choose between veal dishes and she offered tips on how to get the maximum enjoyment from our meal.
Best surprise: The basket of bread delivered to our table when we arrived was accompanied by a plate of beyond-the-norm olive oil. It was a tasty and very aromatic mix of oil, garlic, parsley and pepper flakes. Our server recommended buying a bottle to take home. She said she uses it for making a quick pasta/meat dinner.