Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fairmont Edition: Muriale's

For the next issue of Savor WV Magazine, I'll have a profile on Muriale's Italian Restaurant. So, for the first time ever (I know!), I headed on out to Fairmont to get a first-hand look at this restaurant and all the buzz that surrounds it.

I've had so many people tell me how fantastic this place is. And from people whose opinions I value, too. It's just that it's in Fairmont, and I'm never in Fairmont, and it's hard for me to justify a trip all the way out there for just a restaurant then to turn back around and come home. But I totally did it. And it was totally worth it.

Spaghetti & Meatballs
I'm not going to go too much in detail about the history of the restaurant (you'll have to check out the magazine for that!), but it has been a staple in Fairmont for more than 40 years. This is THE restaurant in Fairmont, and it's THE place to go for Italian in North Central WV, and quite possibly the entire state. It's a family-owned Italian restaurant that features family recipes for spaghetti, rigatoni and their all-time best seller - lasagna. The current owner is Rocco Muriale, who is the second-generation, and he is quite the guy.

Meatball Casserole
There's a ton of parking at this restaurant. There's some outdoor dining spaces (and a deck!), as well as multiple dining rooms inside. When I walked inside, there was an immediate sense of comfort. The walls were lined with family photographs and memorabilia, sports merchandise, Italian decor and more. Once I told the girls at the front that I was there to interview Rocco, they had me sit in the "cubby" area, which donned more photos and decorations. The staff here is more than accommodating, all the way up to Rocco, who was constantly waving and talking to his customers throughout the duration of the interview. Hospitality matters just as much as the food does here.

There's a real sense of community, of family here. From the old-school photos hung on the walls to the friendliness of the staff, they've got something special going on here. And it's not the tacky, fake plant kind of "Italian" places that pop up too often. It's real, it's genuine, and it's loving. After I spoke with Rocco for quite a bit, he had his staff make some dishes for me to photograph - the spaghetti, lasagna and meatball casserole. After I took my photos, I thought I was on my way. No, no. Rocco had something else up his sleeve. When I wasn't around, he had his staff box up the lasagna, fill a large container full of meatballs and bag up a whole loaf of bread for me to take home.

I was grinning from ear to ear on that drive back home. The whole time, I was just smelling hot Italian food, and I couldn't wait to dig in. As soon as I got home, the container packed full of lasagna was open, and my fork was in the center of chunky, rich tomato sauce with tender noodles and creamy, smooth Italian cheeses. This took me straight back to my mother's homemade lasagna. It's easily the best lasagna I've had at any restaurant. Wow. The flavors blend together seamlessly, yet each is defined. the ingredients are fresh, and it's just like mom used to make. It doesn't get any better than this.

The meatballs, too, are out of this world. Flavors of garlic, breadcrumbs and Italian seasonings are prevalent. Coated in their hearty red sauce, the meatballs are a meal all in their own. I make tons of little meatball hoagies with their fresh bread and the giant meatballs.

I wish I had a chance to try their desserts - because the dessert tray looked heavenly. There will definitely be a next time. This has got to be one of the best restaurants in the state. If you haven't tried it, you're doing yourself a disservice. I honestly can't wait for the next opportunity to go. This would be one of those few restaurants, that if I could, I would go higher than an A. The food is phenomenal, the service was exceptional - I can't find anything about this place that isn't amazing. Except that it's not in my backyard.

Grade: A
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