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With the help of Ed Vasaio, former Carytown diner Galaxy goes Italian.

Out of This World

The Galaxy restaurant in Carytown returned from the mother ship last fall with some refreshing changes. Once an overly bright retro diner, its larger-than-life luster has lost its sheen; retinas will appreciate the dimmed lights. The ceiling and wall areas — and the bartender's clothes — have been painted black. The diner's intergalactic cuteness has been buried under somber tiles, glass-encased booths and piped-in blues. And the Galaxy's teeny-bopper clientele has been sent back to their rooms, leaving a mostly adult crowd squeaking on the sparkly hot-rod vinyl seats.

Although some gimmicky galactic themes still linger, you won't find them in the food, which helps make the Galaxy's latest rebirth worth a visit.

The Galaxy has not changed ownership, but it does have a new chef and a new menu created by Ed Vasaio of Mamma 'Zu. The conventional lunch and brunch menus, which range mostly from $4.95 to $10.95, appear to offer most local favorites. But it is the dinner menu, which can be traditional Italian and sometimes unabashedly pricey, that I found especially pleasing.

Starters include a generous wilted-spinach salad ($6.95) and steamed mussels in tomato broth ($10.95). On one evening I wasn't able to try the foie gras on toasted brioche with blueberry compote ($12.95), but the generous crispy sweetbreads with fingerling potatoes, pancetta, and Marsala sauce ($10.95) were fresh, their natural flavor complemented nicely by both the sauce and Italian bacon.

Entrees include a range of pastas for $10.95 — such as rigatoni, penne, gnocchi and orecchiette — and a risotto of the day. Vegetarians will find only a few options, including a vegetable lasagna ($14.95). The prices go up for a shrimp fra diavolo ($17.95), seared venison chops with porcini cabernet sauce ($23.95), and a rockfish fillet with braised Belgian endives and mushrooms ($20.95). The pan-seared duck breast ($22.95) was exceptional. Served on the rare side, as requested, it was appropriately seasoned, sliced thin and topped with sauce. Though the grilled polenta had plenty of garlic but no salt, the entree's bed of white beans was full of flavor and texture. The osso buco with oven-roasted root vegetables ($20.95) was also enjoyable. The thick cuts of slow-roasted veal shanks were covered lightly in their own rich sauce and fell easily off the bone. Bread would have been a nice touch, but it was not missed.

Desserts include a surprisingly light strawberry creme brulee ($5.95) with a crispy caramelized top and a tiramisu ($5.95) that consisted mostly of mascarpone and was drizzled lightly with chocolate sauce instead of topped with shaved chocolate.

If you go for some of the more expensive starters and meat entrees, the bill can add up, particularly if you order a bottle of wine (from $17 and up). For the thriftier, the Tuesday-night menu offers pasta for two, salad and wine for $30. Dining on the pricier side, I enjoyed the excellent service, the starters and the entrees enough to make return visits.

3109 W. Cary St.
Lunch: Tuesday-Friday 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Saturday 11a.m. - 4 p.m.
Sunday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Dinner: Tuesday - Thursday,
Sunday 5 p.m.— 10 p.m.
Friday - Saturday 5 p.m. — 11 p.m.

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