A Dash of Italian creativity enhances offerings at neighborhood favorite

Head down Langdon Street, a pleasant residential drive, to the Appian Way, named for the famous road of ancient Rome. Inside you’ll encounter an ample selection of more or less satisfying Italian standards but dressed by an array of creative fare.

Now in its 26th year, the bustling eatery persists as a popular neighborhood destination.

Ambience: The Appian Way is a sprawling, whitewashed structure incorporating two dining rooms and banquet facilities. We preferred the smaller, warmly lit and more intimate of the two dining areas, tucked behind the bar, to the large main dining room. Highlighted with colorful murals of “Via Appia” but with the acoustics of a mess hall.

Staff: Our mellow, friendly server held her own in the busy dining room, maintaining her cool despite the cacophony of clamoring customers.

Food: Fresh generously portioned and reasonably priced Italian cuisine. Choose among classics such as zuppa di clams ($7.95) and shrimp scampi ($15.95), or a fancier fettuccine alla figaro *with wild mushrooms and shrimp, sautéed with French brandy and demi-glace, $15.95); sirloin steak

Salad (sliced steak tossed with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, onions and potatoes in a special dressing) and shrimp and scallops San Pietro (with artichoke hearts, mushrooms and roasted peppers in an herby marinara sauce, over rigatoni, $17.95)

We began with oven-toasted bread and a freebie medley of black olives, chopped celery and onion, Starters were a lineup of highs, lows and so so’s. We flipped over a bowl of rigatoni enveloped in a potent “Siciano” marinara sauce, laden with tender bits of fried eggplant and fresh basil (appetizer portion, ($6.95; entrée, $12.95, chosen from a create-it-your-self mix and match, pasta and sauce section).

Pasta e faioll was good and garlicky, brimming with white beans and stubby pasta. There were fewer fireworks over the rubbery clams casino ($7.95), though we couldn’t resist picking off the mollusks’ crunchy tasty bacon topping in carrozza ($5.95), not quite salvaged by hearty marinara dipping sauce.

The complimentary salads that preceded the main courses were welcome, even though the greens were drowned in viaigrette the best of the entrée was a special scrod ala livornese ($15.95), big flaky hunks of white fish blanked in a robust marinara marbled with briny capers and black olives.

A whopper of tender veal Parmigiana ($14.95) cloaked the plate, as did a tummy stretching portion of chicken and shrimp Francese in a lemony butter sauce ($16.95), enjoyable even with a particularly heavy-duty batter coating the poultry and prawns/ Veal principessa ($16.95), a trio of somewhat tough medallions layered with eggplant, prosciutto fresh sliced plum tomatoes and melted mozzarella, was almost camouflaged by rich sweet marsala sauce studded with peas.

Entrees were sided by a choice of ziti, capellini or vegetables. Dinner was enhanced by a bottle of bright and fruity Parducci pinot noir ($22.00).

A collection of familiar commercial desserts yielded a lackluster cannoli cake, serviceable tartufo and fresh, moist Toll House cookie pie. Despite some inconsistencies, we exited The Appian Way feeling pretty much satisfied. The establishment, so well ensconced in the community, will probably remain a staple for years to come.

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