Pistachio Grille—Quality Food, Cute Name
Johnson & Wales-trained Moscardelli offers up breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Pistachio.
Five years ago, Ray Moscardelli took over a dingy, moribund restaurant and personally made it over—new name, new menu, new furnishings—and saw it doing brisk business in a few months.
Moscardelli, called Ray Ray by family and friends, created Pistachio Grille from what had been Hayeck’s Café in Maple Glen. The name stems from the fact that the pistachio is his beloved young son’s favorite, and the first four-syllable word he learned to pronounce, even before he could say his four-syllable last name.
Moscardelli paid his dues and learned his craft well. He trained at the prestigious Johnson & Wales University, and cheffed (newly invented verb) in such top restaurants as Il Gallo Nero, which later became the excellent (5 m’s) San Marco in Spring House. He knows what an attractive dining room should look like.
The burgundy walls hung with colorful French posters; white wainscoting, accented by black linens and candle holders; the dropped ceiling and recessed lighting; clean hardwood floors; shaded light sconces; and tea lights on many ledges combine to produce an attractive ambiance.
Moscardelli knows what works with his customer base, too, and he has used his experience to design his relatively small, but well-selected breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.
B.Y.O.B.-loving readers and friends will be pleased that Pistachio Grille is still a B.Y.O.B.
The feminine touch is present in good measure from his partner and gracious hostess, Statia, who can often be seen at one of the front room tables, having a meal with their son Ray Jr.
Living close by, I found it convenient to get there several times, at least once for dinner and lunch. I had also gone to the Pistachio Grille for breakfast with family just after it opened. Portions were consistently generous and nicely presented.
On my first visit, I treated my love, my Lovely Dining Companion (LDC), to dinner for Valentine’s Day. It was a snowy, cold and windy night, but we were warmly greeted by Statia. Sinatra was crooning soft love ballads over the sound system, easily heard in the low-noise ambiance, though the room was full.
Complimentary roasted green peppers, a basket of bread and a bottle of pinot grigio preceded the bowl of good, hot and yummy crab and shrimp bisque ($5). A shared spinach salad ($7.50) with portobellos, dried figs, grilled goat cheese, croutons, sherry vinaigrette and wonderful crunchy, candied pistachios, accommodatingly split in the kitchen, was truly inspired and was one of the best salads in recent memory.
Fettuccini with grilled shrimp, fresh asparagus and cherry tomatoes in a rich, creamy saffron-laced sauce ($18) displayed Moscardelli’s expertise with Italian pasta dishes.
My entrée, tasty seared jumbo scallops ($19), though listed as over spinach, was mainly over fresh green beans, carrots, and potatoes (not mentioned), but was also elevated by crunchy fried shredded leek and the saffron-pistachio butter.
Statia handed a rose to each female patron that Valentine's Day.
At one of my lunch visits, another excellent soup—creamy, hot and deliciously crammed with a variety of mushrooms ($3 per cup)—was slow in coming, but worth the wait. I positively recommend Olivia’s grilled chicken sandwich ($8), moist blades of mesquite grilled chicken breast with avocado, bacon, lettuce, tomato and Swiss cheese, served on, most importantly, first-rate bread, a fresh, wide baguette.
The lunch menu also offers a raft of salads, wraps and many other sandwiches, all at $10 or less. For my next midday visit, I have my eye on “Ray Ray’s Favorite” sandwich with prosciutto, capicola and smoked mozzarella.
Based on two breakfasts, I suggest trying the “Maryland Omelet” ($9.50), made with crabmeat, tomato and spinach, or the classic eggs Benedict ($8.50). These egg platters come with some really good thick-cut country-style home fries.
My LDC praised the large bagel and nova lox platter, served with cream cheese and fresh fruit. She had enough nova to take some home for her breakfast the next day. Breakfasts also feature the usual cast of morning favorites, including pancakes, French toast, breakfast meats and good, nonstop coffee.
We were well overdue for an update on Pistachio Grille, and paid a visit on a warm evening last week. Happily, not much has changed; the quality of the food was still high, although prices have increased somewhat.
Once again, a complimentary dish of roasted green peppers in olive oil, a basket of fresh Italian bread and the opening of our chilled bottle of pinot grigio got thing started nicely. A special appetizer, the seafood trio ($14) of fresh oysters— large Long Island Blue Points in a classic mignonette—mini cubes of raw Ahi tuna in a superb light ginger-carrot-pineapple-soy dressing, and sliced scallops ceviche hit it out of the park. A bowl of cream of wild mushrooms soup ($7.50), with button, shitake, Portobello and truffles, was tagged, “Delicious!” by my LDC.
Entrees of veal scallopini ($21.50), and of chicken and jumbo shrimp Francaise ($25) were both large and very tasteful. Only their presentation was amiss. Both dishes used the now-to-me tiresome vertical tower style arrangement, where each ingredient is piled atop the other. Why not show the plump shrimp, chicken tenders and veal cutlets off instead of burying them en masse in a formless heap?
A freshly-made key lime pie tart with strawberries ($8) and a parting touch—a dish of pistachio nuts—ended the dinner on a pleasant and sweet note.
Overall Rating: mmm 3/4 (out of 5 m’s) Pleasant ambiance, quality dishes at mid-range prices
To contact Mitch Davis, email MdavisMainCourse@aol.com
Location: 521 Limekiln Pike, Ambler
Cuisine: Contemporary upscale Italian/American
Hours: Tuesdays through Thursdays, lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., dinner, 5 to 9 p.m.; Fridays, lunch, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., dinner, 5 to 10 p.m.; Saturdays, breakfast, 8 a.m. to noon, dinner, 5 to 10 p.m.; Sundays, breakfast, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Dinner entrée prices: $14.50 to $25
Ambiance: Clean, pleasant new look.
Reservations: Strongly suggested on weekends
Credit cards: All major accepted
Alcoholic Beverages: B.Y.O.B.