MILFORD — Just before the holidays, we were looking for a restaurant that could accommodate our family get together. On recommendation from a friend we were told to try Pietra Italian Restaurant located in an indiscreet white building with green awnings at 765 Boston Post Road.

I have been to Italy many times and their restaurants are very plain on the outside but when you enter you are surprised by the elaborate décor. The entrance to Pietra is on the side of the building where you enter through glass doors finding yourself in a cozy foyer where you will hear the sound of a rushing fountain and feast on the Italian aromas coming from their open kitchen.

You will then be greeted by Madalena or Nei who will escort you to your table where you will continue to enjoy this pleasant European atmosphere with its beautiful tile floors, soft lighting, Italian music, and large paintings on the walls of Italian scenes setting the mood for a pleasant evening.

The large main dinning area is separated from the bar by a glass wall divided by beautiful cherry wood columns. They have an extraordinary beautiful stone and brick bar which has seating for 28 — a perfect place to start your evening, just to relax and breath in the atmosphere while viewing their widescreen television and selecting one of their many choices of wine, beer, cocktails or martinis.

Pietra’s Northern Italian Restaurant is known for its family-style casual dining. It’s a concept that takes some getting used to because their portions are large and can be shared. Not only did we find the food exceptionally delicious but the cost was also economical because each entrée can serve more than one person. This is especially good when entertaining a family of four or more. They also offer on request single portions if you have a hungry appetite and sharing is not what you want to do.

Pietra is owned and operated by Nei Martins and his sister Madalena De Barros. Nei also managed five other successful restaurants with this same concept for 30 years. This is the second restaurant with this concept to open here in Connecticut.

On this particular evening we were entertaining Robert’s brother and wife. We started with cocktails, white Zinfandel for two, beer and a Canadian club and water. We toasted the holidays then put in our order for appetizers with one order of Cozze, which is Mussels steamed in white wine and an order of Mozzarella and Pomodoro, which is fresh made mozzarella with roasted peppers and tomato. The two appetizers were more than enough for the four of us. The Mussels were cooked to perfection and the wine broth was so tasty that I could not stop dipping the hard crusted bread in it. The mozzarella was fresh and the tomatoes were large with healthy slices of red roasted peppers alongside the dish.

Our waiter for the evening was Antonio who has been working for Pietra’s for the past two years. He explained the menu in detail to us and how to order our entrees if we wanted to share which we did. Our orders consisted of Pollo Marsala which is chicken breast sautéed with mushrooms in a Marsala sauce. Robert’s brother and wife wanted an assortment of seafood such as clams and shrimp in a marinara sauce over linguini which was not on the menu and was prepared special for them. Antonio explained to us that if there was an entrée that you desired that was not listed on the menu Chef Gabriel Abruzo, would be pleased to prepare it for you.

They also list a great selection of pasta, meat and fish on their menu. And, if you have a taste for pizza they can also prepare many special Italian and American combinations. We were told they use a lot of old family recipes in the kitchen with good quality ingredients that gives their food exceptional flavor. We not only enjoyed the casual atmosphere but also the delicate flavors of each meal.

After laughing and enjoying our feast we looked at the dessert menu which was a variety of Italian specialties. Our choice was the Italian ricotta cheese pie. It was fresh and creamy. We shared two of these desserts between the four of us and each of us ended our meal with a cappuccino.

For special occasions they have a beautiful second dinning room that is divided by a glass petition where you can view there immaculate kitchen. This dinning area will seat about 80 to 100 people so it can be used for weddings, showers, anniversaries, Mitzvahs or any private event.

We have since been back to Pietra’s Restaurant with friends and family at least two more times enjoying the many Italian specialties which change weekly. It’s also been great on our budget. Hope we meet you their some evening.

Two guys are Vincent Farricielli and Robert Modena. Both are food aficionados who regularly dine out at a variety of different restaurants. They have agreed to share their dining experiences with Elm City readers. Both reside in Orange.