If you go
› Where: Tony’s Pasta Shop & Trattoria, 212 High St.
› Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday
› Prices: $5.50 soup to $17 for pan-seared beef medallions
› Alcohol: Yes
› Phone: 423-265-5033
EDITOR'S NOTE: It's patio weather. So Times Free Press staff writers are sharing their favorite local spots for al fresco dining in a series appearing each week of May in Chattanooga Now.
When I want to impress out-of-town visitors with a delicious dinner that shows off the city's scenic beauty, Tony's Pasta Shop & Trattoria is my go-to.
Tony's location in the Bluff View Art District provides panoramic river views to diners while its classic Italian dishes at reasonable prices don't drain my wallet. Win-win all around.
Tony's is located in the former carriage house of one of High Street's homes. Whether you are seated outdoors on the second-floor deck or first-floor patio, or inside the first-floor dining room with its walls of windows, there is a view just over your shoulder.
Leafy canopies of vine-wrapped, criss-crossing wires shade the patio and deck. Looking out over Veterans Bridge across the Tennessee River, one has the feeling of getting away from the workday's hustle and bustle, even though you are still in the heart of the city, just a half-mile from downtown.
If you find people-watching interesting, the patio adjacent to the front entrance is for you. Everyone coming and going passes you by — but they are also checking out what's on your plate, which can feel a little intrusive.
Tony's is Italian fare that offers house-made hand-cut pastas, fresh sauces, salads ($5.50-$14), create-your-own pizzas (pay by the toppings), paninis and subs ($10-$12) and 15 signature entrees ($11-$17).
There are a lot of pasta-bilities on the menu, but Chicken Tetrazzini is the choice I find myself coming back to again and again. It's comfort food and a warm, filling meal: inch-long cuts of rigatoni pasta combined with Alfredo sauce and bite-size pieces of chicken, all blanketed in gooey, melted mozzarella cheese.
But on a 90-degree day, a heavy meal wasn't what I wanted. After I'd narrowed my choices to two, my server suggested the shrimp scampi for its light sauce. A small Caesar salad completed the order.
Although penne isn't one of the pastas made in-house at Tony's, the noodles tasted fresh and had a spring to them when bitten. A bright, white-wine, garlic butter sauce coated the cylindrical noodles inside and out, but they weren't drowning in the sauce. Nor was there a heavy garlic taste overwhelming the shrimp.
Warm pasta on a hot day borders on becoming oxymoronic, but Tony's shrimp scampi proved a lighter touch can make it quite appetizing.
Between the views and the food, I think diners will be hard-pressed to find a better showcase for what Chattanooga has to offer in al fresco dining.
Contact Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-757-6284.