Bizzarro italian baxou4

Image: Sarah Flotard

The couple at the next table knows the menu so well, he ordered for both of them before she arrived. He chose well. She inhales the steamy aroma of her clam linguine and sighs with pleasure before she takes a bite. The parents at the next table converse through caesar salads while their toddler fills up on focaccia. 

By 6pm, nearly every table is occupied here at Bizzarro Italian Cafe in Wallingford, its awning out front unchanged since the place opened in 1986. The decor is the conversation piece. Vintage tandem bike, oversize dog statue in a cart, inverted year-round Christmas tree—more stuff hangs from the ceiling than most restaurants have on their walls. Small plates to share? Not on this menu. Every dish is an appetizer or an entree, and every entree comes with a salad. The bread, ferried to the table soon after you sit down, is free. Grab a peppermint from the dish on the way out. Sunday is always spaghetti-and-meatballs night; the snap pea carbonara is always on the menu, seasons be damned.

That’s how neighborhood Italian restaurants like this one outlast a parade of flashier establishments. Why the dining room hums even on a blustery Monday. Sometimes the best plates of pasta are found in rooms that don’t change, atop laminated tablecloths, paired with one of two wine varietals—red or white. Places as comfortable as the food itself.

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