When most people think about dining in Annapolis, they picture water views and Midshipmen, early American dining rooms and contemporary American watering holes.
I'm willing to bet a crab claw they don't think of Fred's.
Fred's is a regular place on Solomons Island Road in what used to be the heart of Parole, miles from the City Dock. It is a comfortable restaurant, with a fairly informal crowd and a menu that mixes its Italian heritage with its surroundings. That means lots of seafood lots of ways.
This is not to say that Fred's is stodgy. It is not. It is traditional, yes, but it also sports a bevy of young servers and a third dining room -- added not too long ago -- that attests to its continuing popularity.
We were seated at a comfortable corner table in this room, which, though new, does not give the impression of being tacked on. It is a warm room, with a brick wall down one side, traditional paintings throughout and a small raised area at the rear. For new construction, the room is surprisingly rich.
We were just settling in with cocktails when our waiter appeared, expecting our order. Indeed, he seemed a little miffed when we asked for a few more minutes.
His cavalier attitude continued throughout the meal, most annoyingly when he brought us the wrong antipasto and at first said that, yes, that was what we had ordered.
We persisted, however, and, once he realized he was wrong, he was quick to replace the regular antipasto with the Antipasto Supreme ($9.95).
The dish turned out to be a tasty showpiece of Fred's strengths -- a rich Italian dressing thick with onions and tomatoes over a salad center surrounded by seafood samplings.
I particularly enjoyed the Crab Ball, a deep-fried, breaded ball of creamy crab imperial, and the small fried clams. The antipasto also included shrimp, clams casino, cheese, salami and anchovies. Often, sampler plates don't do justice to the individual items; this one did.
I stayed with seafood for my entree, choosing Scallops Anatasia (12.95). The small casserole dish was full of tender scallops mixed in a butter sauce with grilled chunks of feta and, to my surprise, hot peppers and olives.
I abhor olives and was put off by their unannounced appearance. Others might feel the same way about the peppers. As it turned out, however, neither had a negative effect on the taste.
The dish was unusual -- mixing the blandness of scallops with the richness of feta -- and successful. The contrast between the scallops and feta, in taste and in texture, worked most pleasingly.
My husband had Shish Kabob ($10.95), mammoth chunks of marinated pork skewered with mushrooms, onions and green pepper and served with rice. The pork cubes were 2 inches or so on a side. The serving was itself mammoth; there was enough left over for a good-sized lunch a few days later.
As for taste, it was tantalizingly saucy.
Included with my entree was a stuffed potato. While the inside was creamy and the top appropriately crispy, it tasted as if it had been done for a while. Included with each entree was a salad of very fresh greens. We both had the house Italian dressing, which proved to be the same dressing served on the antipasto.
From the eight desserts offered (plus a multitide of parfaits and flavored coffees), we chose the two our waiter said were made at Fred's -- cheesecake and carrot cake ($2.50 each).
My husband loved his cheesecake, its unusually lemony accent reminded him of his mother's cheesecake, which was actually more chiffon than traditional cheesecake. My carrot cake was unnecessarily dusted with coconut, another food I dislike. My slice, far larger than his serving of cheesecake, was good. Good, but not exceptional.
The bill, with a $13 bottle of wine and two coffees (95 cents), came to $62.85. If only the service had been better.
Solomon's Island Road
Hours: 11 a.m.- 10 p.m. daily. (Occasionally later than 10 on weekends.)
Reservations: Recommended on weekends.
Credit cards: Major credit cards accepted.
Handicapped access: Accessible.
Smoking: Separate areas designated.