Prezo Grille & Bar
229 1/2 East Main St., Milford
Hours: Monday -Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Friday, 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Saturday, noon-10:30 p.m.; Sunday, 4-9 p.m.
Accessible to the handicapped
Major credit cards accepted
Function rooms for 20-100
Peppercorns is back, in a matter of speaking.
Prezo Grille & Bar is the latest restaurant in the Route 16 space formerly occupied by Zuppa's and, before that, the enormously popular Peppercorns . Prezo's owner is none other than Tom Oliveri, who ran the Milford Peppercorns until it closed in 2002. Oliveri also runs a Peppercorns in Worcester, as well as Elsa's Eatery in Shrewsbury, with the assistance of head chef Tim Vaillette, who oversees all three kitchens.
Like Peppercorns, Prezo offers a large, varied, Italian-influenced menu with moderate prices.
On a Thursday night we were daunted by the full parking lot, but pleasantly surprised to find only a 10-minute wait for a table. Oliveri said later that a crowded parking lot usually means there's a function going on, but there can still be plenty of seats available in the main dining room.
Decor is minimalist with celery-colored stucco walls and ceiling, wood tables and chairs, and horizontal blinds. Simple framed mirrors and small prints decorate the walls, and plants add a splash of green. But there is not much else to absorb ambient sound, and since we happened to visit on a night when a lot of large parties were apparently celebrating one thing or another, we found the dining room so noisy we could barely converse. Oliveri said later he is looking into installing some sound-absorbing panels.
Intrigued by the selection of exotic-sounding martinis, I went for a Swedish Fish ($6.50), a sweet combination of tequila, triple sec, Chambord, and banana liqueur with gummy Swedish fish candies at the bottom.
Other choices, which can be enjoyed in the restaurant's large horseshoe-shaped bar as well as in the dining room, included a Grape Fizz, a Cappucini-tini , and a Peach Bomb.
To start, we shared an appetizer of Tuscan calamari ($9) -- a nice combination of flavors with black olives, chunks of summer-fresh tomato, hot cherry peppers, and garlic. But some of the calamari pieces were decidedly more tender than others. Asian dumplings ($8), a surprise on the Italian-themed menu, held their own with a tasty ground pork filling in wonton wrappers.
Chicken Merabella ($16), designated on the menu as one of the chef's favorites, was two large pieces of boneless chicken breast covered with a generous amount of prosciutto, mushrooms, and mozzarella, and served with a subtle lemon and white wine butter sauce. It came with pasta topped by a delicious red sauce.
Grilled swordfish ($18) tasted fresh. The accompanying red bliss mashed potatoes were rich and buttery, and a vegetable combination of cauliflower, summer squash, carrots, and green beans was cooked just right. The swordfish was topped with pencil-thin asparagus, also perfectly cooked, though some ends were woody, as though the spears had been trimmed with a knife instead of the preferred method of snapping them off by hand where the flesh turns tough.
From a dessert menu that seemed geared to chocolate lovers, we chose Key lime pie ($6). It was excellent, properly yellow and puckery and set in a graham cracker crust.
Our coffee, however, came in large, clunky mugs, with rims so wide the coffee was hard to sip without it running down our chins. We found the mugs an oddly diner-like touch in an otherwise sophisticated setting.
On a lunch visit we tried a citrus tilapia special ($9) over rice pilaf. The moist fish was sauteed with pea pods, red peppers, wild mushrooms, and mandarin oranges -- a thoroughly delightful combination of flavors. We also liked a stuffed-to-bursting chicken Mediterranean wrap ($7) with spinach, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, onions, and feta cheese in a light Asiago cheese dressing.
It's worth noting that many of the intriguing entrees on the dinner menu are also offered at lunch, in smaller portions and at substantially reduced prices.