In the case of Attilio’s over on West Market Street, change is definitely for the better. Like a butterfly emerging from its caterpillar origins, Attilio’s is morphing from the former Alfredo’s, that restaurant being an off shoot of its successful Bristol counterpart. After a year in business, the Johnson City venue has shown steady growth in popularity, in large part because their menu features freshly prepared Mediterranean and Italian cuisine. However, the Johnson City dining public’s palate education has matured due to the increase in number and type of new restaurants in the area.
As such, getting these discerning patrons to visit your restaurant and then offering up a menu featuring a lot of old stand-bys won’t make returning patrons out of one-shot-wonders. It takes courage for a restaurant to take the menu, the cornerstone of an already successful business, and change its emphasis, yet that is what chef Galib and his staff are doing with the birth of Attilio’s. Though the Italian favorites will still be around, there will be increased emphasis on the more eastern Mediterranean and Aegean dishes. Spurred by a reader’s email, I took the dine-around bunch out to Attilio’s for supper, just to see how the changeover was progressing.
The old restaurant’s signage replacement was in evidence as we drove up; the new Attilio’s sign was up but unlighted. The interior décor is still minimalist, functional and pleasant. The old restaurant’s menus were still being used, though the whiteboard showing the daily menu had a lot of the new dishes listed. Our server Hayley said that the new menus were being printed and that there were several changes to both the lunch and the supper menu lineups. My friend the Carnivore ordered the Moussaka and a side salad ($10.99). Having heard good things about Attilio’s pizza, my dining partner and the Retiree shared both a 12-inch Veggie Lover’s pie ($7.99) and a House Salad with cheese ($5.99). The Dieter briefly considered a Grilled Shrimp Salad ($7.99) but changed her mind and ordered a Grilled Chicken Salad ($7.49). I ordered the Greek Stuffed Chicken platter with a side salad ($13.99).
Hayley was very attentive to us, making sure our salad course reached the table at the same time, and bringing us two loaves of the incomparable Egyptian bread, an item that Attilio’s will be keeping on the menu. As for the entrees, the pizza and the grilled chicken salad orders arrived first. The Moussaka showed up about five minutes later, my Stuffed Chicken platter just as I was finishing my salad. The Dieter’s grilled chicken salad had a healthy serving of diced and grilled marinated chicken breast topping a green salad of lettuce, red onion, sliced green pepper and shredded carrot. The supplied Greek salad dressing went well with the greens and made a nice marinade for the Dieter to dip her chicken in. The pizza being enjoyed by my dining partner and the Retiree was a hand-tossed thin crust number, smeared with the house marinara sauce and topped with broccoli mini florets, chopped spinach, red onion slices, black olives and mushrooms. Not being a pepper fan, the banana peppers were left out at the request of my dining partner. I had half a slice and was pleased with the freshness of the ingredients and the care with which the pizza was made.
The Carnivore’s love of all things eggplant was satisfied by Attilio’s Moussaka, a savory eggplant tower layered with sliced potato, chopped onion, fresh spinach and mushrooms, dredged in red sauce and Attilio’s proprietary blend of Mediterranean spices. The creation was then topped with shredded mozzarella cheese and baked until sizzling merrily on the plate. Quite out of character, the Carnivore took small nibbles of the still-molten entree to start with; these reverted to normal Carnivore-sized bites as the dish cooled. I got a properly cooled forkful or two and enjoyed it very much, though it didn’t match the slow-cooked goodness of my stuffed chicken platter. The dish is simple; chicken breast and thigh meat pounded flat and then wrapped around a mixture of chopped spinach, feta cheese and red onions, sautéed in the house brown sauce and then baked. Add a steamed vegetable medley to the plate and there you are. Hayley had the chef slice the chicken roll creation into sushi-sized sections and I made sure the whole dine-around bunch had some, and all of us pronounced it a hit.
As we were leaving, Hayley repeated that there would be more changes to the menu, more entrees and lunch items, and invited us all to stop back in and give them a try. Given the enthusiastic response, Hayley and the rest of our friends at Attilio’s won’t have long to wait.
Attilio’s Mediterranean, Greek & Italian Family Restaurant
1109 West Market Street
Daily 10:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.
Available on Facebook
Credit cards accepted