Cafe Mileto

Situated in the corner of the Cloppers Mill Village Center off Great Seneca Highway, Café Mileto pleases both the palate and the eye. Steel-gray ductwork and ceiling fans hang below the gray corrugated-metal ceiling, but plenty of plants, including a tree in the center of the dining area, temper the restaurant's shopping-center origins. The exposed kitchen, which includes a wood-burning pizza oven, occupies one wall, while big windows on two other sides bring in plenty of light during the day and early evenings. Track lighting and blue pendant lights illuminate at night. Paintings by local artists hang on the walls and pillars. There's also a covered dining patio where live bands perform twice a week.

With the exception of a few items, all dishes are under $11, almost all pasta and pizzas no more than $8.95. So Café Mileto falls comfortably into the bargain range.

It's hard to pass up the plump mussels Caprese as an appetizer; a large bowl of them in a garlic-butter and white-wine sauce is a treat at $5.95. Almost as good are the crisp fried calamari with Marinera sauce. Rounding out the appetizers are satisfactory crostini–mozzarella, roasted peppers, and spinach on garlic bread; antipasto misto with grilled vegetables, prosciutto, cheese, tomatoes, and olives; and soup of the day. Some salads are big enough to share for appetizers, including a Caesar and a house salad of romaine lettuce, sweet peppers, Bermuda onions, tomato, cucumber, and a good vinaigrette dressing.

Pizzas and pastas are the heart of the menu, with a dozen or so of each listed.

The wood-oven-cooked ten-inch pizzas are excellent. The crust is chewy and tasty, and the cheese, tomato, and toppings, which range from anchovies to zucchini, are good, too. House recommendations range from simple tomato, garlic, and mozzarella to smoked chicken with barbecue sauce, but the kitchen will produce a customer's choice at a dollar a topping.

Among the pastas, good values at $8.95 include penne with mild Italian sausage; spaghetti with ground bacon, onions, and a spicy Marinera sauce; fettuccine with meat sauce and a bit of tomato cream; and baked cheese ravioli with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. The linguine with white clam sauce, which includes ten littleneck clams, is worth the extra two dollars.

The list of main courses is dominated by chicken breast and veal scallopine. They are well made and, at $13 and $14, well priced too. The menu includes a couple of combinations, such as veal medallions topped with eggplant, prosciutto, and cheese with a Marsala sauce. Daily specials have included a perfectly pink grilled salmon with diced tomatoes, spinach, and a lemon butter sauce, and a fine grilled tenderloin of beef. Most main courses come with potato and vegetables; veal parmigiana is served with spaghetti and tomato sauce. The house-made tiramisu is the dessert to try.

Another plus is the luncheon buffet. For $6.95, diners can fill up on soup, the mussels, pizza, a couple of pastas, sautéed vegetables, a pair of salads, cake, and fresh fruit salad. The popularity means that most of the items, especially the mussels and the small pizzas, are just minutes out of the kitchen. The pastas are the thick variety, such as penne with mushrooms, fontina cheese, and Marinera sauce, so they stay somewhat firm on the steam table. The blueberry-cheesecake tarts were fine, too.

The reasonable wine list has ten selections at $19 and under. The servers are conscientious, attentive without being intrusive. Café Mileto excels with its bread and coffee, which too many restaurants overlook. The bread is house-made and Italian-style, and the espresso is strong.