Mia Cucina, which is "my kitchen" in Italian, is the name of a safe and sound, newish restaurant in New Albany. But I'm thinking Tua Cucina would've been a better moniker - if tua (which means "your") referred to Brio.
Because if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then consider the Brio line of Bravo-owned restaurants to be sincerely flattered. This is not necessarily a knock on Mia Cucina because, like the Brios (themselves born of Lindey's), it was designed to please crowds and families; and with Mia's easy-to-like food, it no doubt will.
Inevitably situated in a less-than-scenic suburban strip mall, Mia is pretty easy on the eyes inside. Its inviting, irregularly carved out, niche-happy, smart-looking space effectively contrasts smooth, chocolate brown walls with ones made of chalky, white-painted stone. There's also warm yellow-toned lighting, a nifty jutting-out bar and a playful transition from industrially exposed ceiling ductwork to a decorative usage of bare pipes.
That's the pleasantly uplifting setting for a menu that implements time-tested food preparations - and a generous hand on the butter - to tried-and-true effect. What's on that menu? Well, without invoking the "B" word again, it's semi-upscale pizzas, pastas, steaks, chops, seafood and such all delivered in good portions and at fair prices.
The familiar Beef Carpaccio ($8) was nice enough. Served with perfect bruschetta-like toast points, it was uncooked pink tenderloin sheets slathered in a lemony aioli sprinkled with diced onions and capers.
Saladwise, the parmesan-dusted, heavily dressed, creamy Caesar's best attribute was its croutons. That made the almost pickly Mia Chopped Salad - lots of hacked iceberg tricked out with diced tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, feta, so-so black olives and pepperoncini in an assertive vinaigrette - more interesting.
The housemade, soft-enough gnocchi was competent, if oversauced in "red pesto" (what everyone else calls a tomato sauce). Also very competent - and a terrific deal - was the Mia Cucina Specialty Pizza ($11). Maybe that mammoth, good-tasting yeasty pie should've been called the "MITA," because its pan-pizza-thick, puffy crust was loaded with meat. On it, mushrooms and a fatty fest of pepperoni, crumbly sausage and sliced garlicky meatballs received some contrasting high notes from a pleasantly zesty tomato sauce and banana peppers.
And who wouldn't like the well-conceived and nicely executed Salmon Piccata ($17)? A generous piece of cooked-to-medium pink fish was treated to an attractive exterior sear and then lavished with a butter-buttressed creamy and lemony sauce outfitted with capers, artichoke hearts, mushrooms and tomatoes. It came with simple buttered angel hair pasta that benefited from a twirl in the bright and lush pan sauce.
At least as good as that entree was the Grilled Chicken Marsala ($9 lunch/$16 dinner). A plump slab of grill-marked poultry was showcased with a wine-forward, mushroom-punctuated marsala sauce. On the side were garlicky and super-rich, real-deal mashers that were very friendly with the dairy and on my tongue.
In the end, Mia Cucina generally achieves its goal of sending you home full and happy. So even if it won't rock your world, if you happen to find yourself hungry and out in New Albany, it can make that world seem just a little bit better.