A couple of chain Italian restaurants get litigious on the Plaza, reminding us of the very civil Figlio.

Law and Orders 

A couple of chain Italian restaurants get litigious on the Plaza, reminding us of the very civil Figlio.

I've always maintained that part of Osteria Il Centro's success (see review) is its location, on the southern fringe of the Country Club Plaza but without that neighborhood's parking headaches. And unlike the Plaza's chain Italian restaurants -- Brio, Buca di Beppo, Figlio -- it's a real neighborhood joint, owned and operated by a single restaurateur, just like Joe Accurso's namesake restaurant across the street.

Accurso¹s Italian Food & Drink is located in a space that's been occupied by some kind of dining venue since 1905. But it's as different from Osteria Il Centro as, say, James Gandolfini is from Roberto Benigni. Accurso's specializes in traditional Sicilian-American dishes and looks like the kind of joint you'd find in New York City's Little Italy. I vastly prefer it to the campy, Minneapolis-based Buca di Beppo, a "pretend" version of a Sicilian-American restaurant that's my idea of a big ol' tourist trap.

And a none-too-happy one at that. Last fall, the restaurant chain filed a lawsuit against its Kansas City landlord, Highwoods Properties Inc., for allegedly breaking a provision in its lease by renting space to a major competitor, Brio. Highwoods maintains that Buca is casual-dining Italian and Brio is more upscale and, thus, different.

Where does Figlio, another Minneapolis-born operation, figure in this fracas? It's not filing a lawsuit, anyway. One of Figlio's managers, Dennis Catlin, tells me that he hasn't noticed any decrease in business since Brio opened three months ago. "We're doing the same numbers we did last year at this time," he says.

Numbers aside, I have a secret fondness for the 17-year-old Figlio, though it desperately needs redecorating -- the décor, all mauve and brass, is as much a relic of the 1980s as Simon Le Bon. But the weeknight early evening pasta dinners are still one of the best bargains in town, if you don't mind the stigma of chasing after an early-bird special like your grandmother.

Offered Mondays through Thursdays from 4 to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 2:30 to 6 p.m., the dinner deal includes an all-you-can-eat Caesar salad, one of the 12 pasta dinners on the menu, freshly baked breadsticks and a scoop of gelato for $11.95.

Another benefit to eating early at Figlio is that finding a parking place on the Plaza isn't nearly such a pain in the ass. Not that I'm thinking of filing a lawsuit or anything.

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