Back in the early '60s, Tino Maggiore's father feared that the 16-year-old might fall into bad company on the rough streets of Palermo, Sicily. So he arranged for Tino to spend his summer vacations working in the kitchen of a friend's restaurant.
"I hated it," recalls Maggiore, who now owns the two Andiamo restaurants in Long Beach. "All I wanted to do was go to the beach and check out the girls."
Maggiore toiled in the kitchen for three long, hot Sicilian summers. The old chef taught him to cook and also gave him some words of wisdom: "In life, learn whatever you can. You never know when you might need it."
This advice stood Maggiore in good stead in 1971 when he moved to New Jersey and opened his own trattoria. From there, he moved to Phoenix, where he was a successful restaurateur for 10 years before moving to Long Beach and opening Andiamo in the Market Place, a complex of restaurants and shops surrounding a small swan-filled lake.
After being greeted warmly by the hostess, you'll be seated in an attractive dining room distinguished by oil paintings and large potted plants.
To begin your meal, a popular choice is carpaccio ($6.95), thin shavings of raw filet mignon dribbled with olive oil and lemon juice, and topped with Parmesan. The grilled polenta with wild mushrooms ($6.95) is a large portion, but other than a few slices of shiitake , most of the "wild" mushrooms are the tame, button variety.
Pasta selections include rigatoni all'arrabiata ($8.95), featuring roasted peppers, Maui onions, eggplant, zucchini and mushrooms, and jumbo ravioli ($9.95), filled with Gorgonzola and eggplant in a light pesto sauce.
At lunch, the pizza served at Andiamo has a thin crust crowned with bell peppers, mushrooms, eggplant and mozzarella.
Andiamo is at 6509 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach. (310) 493-5529. Open Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Also located at 217 Pine Ave., Long Beach. (310) 435-1225.