Italian cuisine offers some of the most tantalizing and satisfying culinary offerings in the world. But when it comes to the Williamsburg area, it’s easy to overlook some of the real treasures. Tucked away in the Market Place Shopping Center off of McLaw’s Circle, Maurizio’s Ristorante Italiano offers its own taste of Italy.
For owner and operator Maurizio Fiorello, it’s in his blood.
“When I was a little kid, my mother was always in the kitchen,” the Sicily native said. “My father too; he was a good cook.”
Fiorello, who founded the restaurant more than two decades ago, prides himself on his establishment’s fresh ingredients.
“We make all the pasta,” Fiorello said. “We use all the fresh shrimp, fresh seafood. Never frozen.”
The restaurant is intrinsically a family affair. That ideal was instilled in him at the age of 15, when he moved to New Kent County and began working at his family’s restaurant, cooking up his mother’s recipes.
After moving to Williamsburg in 1990, Fiorello’s own establishment continues that legacy. His son, Frankie, and his nephew, Giuseppe, run the dining room. His wife runs the kitchen, and Fiorello oversees the operation each and every day.
“You cook with love,” he said. “It makes it different.”
Appetizers include Antipasto Siciliano, a sampling of Italian deli meats, olives, roasted red peppers and fresh mozzarella as well as the Carciofi Adriana, comprised of marinated artichokes and fresh mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto and topped with seasoned extra virgin olive oil.
The rest of the menu features pizzas, beef short rib ravioli, chicken cacciatore, veal parmigiana and many other favorites.
Fiorello comes up with recipes, mixing up menu offerings from time to time. He travels to New York City, Las Vegas and other culinary hot spots to meet with other chefs and swap the fruits of their creativity.
He said they serve an estimated 1,500 to 1,800 meals a week.
Something like lasagna can be easy to ignore when you come to a fancy Italian restaurant with seemingly endless items on the menu. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of your time. That’s particularly true when the ingredients are made from scratch in-house.
“The best menu items, to me, are the simple dishes,” Fiorello said. He added that the restaurant serves as many as 80 lasagna dishes daily.
Although its location near Busch Gardens and Water Country USA attracts as many tourists as locals, Fiorello has a simple, welcoming message for anyone interested in some family-owned Italian cuisine, crafted with love.
“Everybody is local,” he said. “We treat everybody like a local.”
In a large bowl, mix together fresh ricotta cheese, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh Asiago cheese, white cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese and salt. Stuff the mixture into the fresh pasta of your choice and sprinkle some more cheese on top. Pour your sauce of choice on top and bake for 12 minutes at 350 degrees.
Want to go?
Maurizio’s is at 264 McLaw’s Circle, Suite E. It is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.