Avenue 805 

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reflects, as many Fan restaurants do, the general upscale climb that has occurred recently in the area. Chef-owner Andy Howell previously had his hands in Zeus Gallery on Belmont Avenue early-on before opening Portabella in Petersburg, and more recently, taking over the dining facilities at Swift Creek Mill.

Avenue 805 has a pleasant coziness and warmth. Howell has turned up the lights a bit, and the votive candles in their handsome holders add a festive note in windows and on tables.

The regular menu is perfunctory and is supplied because it is expected. It does indicate that the direction of the kitchen is generally toward the Italian way. But unless you're in the mood for pasta ($10), chicken ($14), or veal ($16) in traditional Italian preparation, go to the sheet of specials.

On neither sheet does Howell do much with appetizers. Except for the soup "of the moment" ($3/$5), a grilled portabella mushroom ($6), and a medley of grilled seafood ($7), the appetizers are salads ($3-$7), from a simple house salad to substantial ones. Appetizers can offer delicious beginnings and let a chef show off his creativity. It's a shame to waste this opportunity.

Beef, pork, fish and shellfish are featured in the entrée specials ($13-$20). Pork loin, taken from the grill at the perfect point to preserve succulence and tenderness, is paired with wild boar sausage and macaroni and cheese. Seared diver scallops (three) over layered prosciutto and fontina cheese atop focaccia and moistened by portabella cream is never better than the sum of its parts. The cream sauce simply can't unify the parts or surmount the dryness of the focaccia. Each of the dishes was accompanied by an interesting mélange of vegetables that included Swiss chard.

The list of desserts is a familiar litany these days. A large wedge of a richly chocolate confection was more than even the chocoholic could finish.

My guess is that Howell, who is a restaurant veteran, is doing a bit of taste-testing himself, trying a number of combinations and preparations. Let's hope he comes up with a list of winners.


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