Name: Tony's Italian Grill
Location: 2315 E Main St., Endicott, NY 13760
Phone: (607) 785-3750
Price: Usually $40-$60 for two. Could be much cheaper or much more expensive depending on your order.
It's amazing to me that we haven't yet taken the time to review Tony's Italian Grill, seeing as it's one of the area's restaurants we've visited most often. Located on Main St. in Endwell, Tony's is quite literally the "brother" restaurant to Nick's in Endicott. While Nick's is a much smaller restaurant that in my opinion is most notable for its pizza, Tony's is a spacious eatery with a huge, beautiful dining room, a separate bar area, and even a porch available for outdoor seating while the weather is accommodating. On looks alone, Tony's has long been one of our favorites.
The menu consists of all the usual, traditional Italian options, in addition to some other less common ones (Bucatini all amatriciana, Penne Rustica to name a couple). They have a long list of appetizers, several different soups and salads, and pizza available both by the slice and by the pie. Certainly there's something on the menu that would appeal to everyone.
We decided to head to Tony's yesterday for lunch. During lunch, Tony's has a bit of an abbreviated menu, but the portions you get are exactly the same as those you get for dinner. Being in a particularly gluttonous mood, I elected to start with the Fried Calamari appetizer, opted to try a slice of their meatball pizza, and went with the Penne Rustica as my entree. Megan went with one of the entree-sized salads, the Insalata Milanese.
The calamari is, in my opinion, one of the best items you can get at Tony's. Served with red sauce and light buttermilk breading, this was a top-notch way to start the meal. It's worth noting that this appetizer will easily feed four or more, and if you really like calamari, you might even be happy with this as your entree. Yesterday, I felt like there was a little bit of a salt issue, as some of the calamari pieces were significantly more or less salted than others. But this is an appetizer I can certainly recommend wholeheartedly.
In perusing the menu yesterday, I was surprised I'd never tried the pizza before yesterday, and my choice of a meatball slice was a pretty good selection. This was a standard NY-style slice and, not too surprisingly, was reminiscent of the pizza at Nick's. It didn't blow me away or anything, but it was pretty good pizza and probably a notch above-average for the area.
The Penne Rustica was a good choice for an entree. Featuring grilled chicken and fresh broccoli florets in a garlic cream sauce served over al dente penne, it was pretty tasty. I expected the garlic cream sauce to be rich and overpowering, like an alfredo sauce is often prone to being, but it was refreshingly light yet flavorful. One thing the dish was lacking was a savory component. It's my understanding that Penne Rustica often is made with pancetta, which I think would have made a fantastic complement to the flavors inherent in this dish. But, as seems to be the case with every visit to Tony's, in the end I found an entree that I liked quite a bit, but did not love.
Megan's salad was somewhat less impressive. Its components (grilled chicken, Italian greens, walnuts) were good, but she commented that it was overly drenched in its oil-and-vinegar based dressing.
According to Urbanspoon, Tony's Italian Grill is listed as the #1 restaurant in the Greater Binghamton area. At first, I have to admit this was somewhat surprising, but after some thought, it made perfect sense. On Urbanspoon, restaurants are rated based solely on whether a patron liked it or disliked it. In my estimation, it's nearly impossible to dislike Tony's. Aesthetically, it's one of the nicest places around. It's a versatile place where you could easily eat for under $20 if you just come for pizza, while also serving as a destination for special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. Service is good, if somewhat unremarkable. (It's worth noting that Megan was mildly peeved about being carded when she ordered a glass of wine yesterday. We aren't that old, but come on, do we really look 20 or younger? ) And there's no doubt that the food is good: I have never had a meal at Tony's that I've disliked.
But the problem with Tony's, if there is one, is that while the food is always good, it's never great. I've probably eaten my way through about half the menu at this point, and quite simply, there's nothing I've ordered that I crave, that I would absolutely have to get again on a future visit. For that reason, Tony's takes a backseat in my mind to some of the area's other Italian restaurants. Don't get me wrong, Tony's is a good restaurant, and a fine place to grab lunch or dinner. We have done so many times and will inevitably do so again. But the best restaurant in Binghamton? Sorry, Urbanspoon, methinks not.