Restaurant review: Mr. G's Restaurant in New London

One should never take the greatness of Mr. G's for granted. A dining experience there - the welcoming service, the very fine food, the ambience of family and comfort and belonging ? it's like the first time you behold the Temple of Bacchus at Baalbek, except you can't walk in and order a pizza.

And, yet, sometimes I DO take Mr. G's for granted.

Yeah, yeah, I know: on the surface, it's just another pizza and grinder restaurant. But it's e'er so much more. The menu is expansive and pushes all those happy Greek/Italian culinary buttons, and the daily specials carom off the beaten track and embrace such wondrous comfort foods as lobster mac 'n' cheese, pot roast, fried chicken and creative pizza-of-the-week combos.

Basically, Mr. G's is a New London tradition in every great sense of the concept. It's one of Those Places where the dining room routinely hosts softball or bowling teams, Coasties, area politicos, Conn College profs and students, post-church groups, book clubs and so on. Tucked away on one end of the building, with egress through a side door in the restaurant foyer, is a wonderful locals' bar that is at once part of the overall vibe but still serves as a separate entity.

We happily invest in many meals and hours at Mr. G's, but it hasn't occurred to me to properly "review" the place. Maybe I don't want to share the news with folks for fear of overruning G's with people who, if they were G-worthy, would already have known about it.

In any case, my duty as a citizen trumps all - it's high time you Become One with the G People.

Over the course of a few recent voyages, I want you to:

• Consider the combo grinder ($7, $10.50) - a routine production for any northeast sammich shop. You get ham, salami, capicola, cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato, and oil on the roll, right? But within those strict parameters are so many variables! At G's, there's a lot of highest quality meat - not one pathetic slice of each, as with too many spots - and it's apportioned between the three types for maximum flavor interraction. The spicy capicola is tartly but delicately present, surfing atop a mighty wave of salty salami and slightly sweet Danish ham. A magnificent contribution to the lore of the combo!

• There are gourmet white and red pizzas at the G. One of the great things is that the red isn't OVERLY red. There's a peppery tomato sauce presence, of course, but a multi-cheese coalescence that actually anchors the medium-crust pies. A custom job: spinach and tomato. The spinach was fresh - not frozen - and the tomatoes were thinly sliced and deposited evenly around the pie like ripe polka dots,* There was a perfect amount of toppings - not too many so as to weigh it down or obfuscate the sauce and cheese, but not too few, either. The crust has great texture - not cracker thin, not deep-dish thick, but a perfect balance of crispy and chewy.

• And, off the imaginative breakfast menu: the broccoli and cauliflower scramble ($8.50) was full of big pieces of fresh broc and caul and lots of cheese. The big pieces made it easy to cut and apportion sections in various veg-to-egg ratios. The home fries were fresh from the pan, flavored with paprika and other spices, crisply textured on the exterior and with a nice touch of almost carmelized onion sprinkled throughout.

Now, listen. The burgers are always wonderful; ditto the club sandwiches. My wife goes nuts for the giant, ingredients-packed Greek salad; the pot roast and lobster mac 'n' cheese specials are impossible to ignore, and, basically, this place could easily become your family dining headquarters.

* A beautiful description by my bride.

Mr. G's Restaurant

425 Williams St., New London
(860) 447-0400,

Cuisine: Greek/Italian specialties, pizza, grinders, sandwiches and daily specials; weekend breakfasts.

Atmosphere: Angled wood paneling, time-pegged prints and photos referring to 1966 - when the restaurant opened. Spacious with tables and booths; side bar is intimate and great for watching sports.

Service: Friendly on your first visit; after that, you're family.

Hours: 11 a.m.-1 a.m. daily (till 2 a.m. Fri. and Sat.)

Credit cards: All majors

Reservations: You might call ahead if you've got a large party.

Handicap access: Very easily accessed.


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