There isn’t a more American dining experience than the steakhouse. Steakhouses are the only type of restaurant I can think of that still has a menu full of classics like creamed spinach and corn, wedge salads dripping in bleu cheese dressing, and sautéed mushrooms. Though indulgent, they can be a little boring.

Tony Ricci, in creating Tony’s in Mason, was looking to step outside of the box. “My philosophy can be summed in three words: perception, value and flavor. It’s got to look good, taste great and be a value. If I achieve this, I’ve got you hooked,” he says. Though the restaurant, with its sharply dressed hostesses, open kitchen, dim lighting and heavy leather-bound menus, reads as standard steakhouse, you’ll notice a few distinct (and important) differences. First, alongside those standards you’ll see other things that are a bit less standard: chorizo in the PEI mussels or sumac on the New Zealand leg of lamb along with a distinct Italian edge (notable in the pasta dishes), based on Ricci’s Italian upbringing.

Ricci’s true specialty is hospitality. Ricci is often in the dining room, and makes sure to check in at every table at least once. In his absence, his managers do the same thing, with a subtle touch: at no point do you feel rushed or hovered-over. The portions are large: nearly everyone I saw in the dining room took a bag with them, myself included (and Ricci indeed prides himself on the leftovers he sends home, much like a grandmother making sure no one goes hungry for days after a visit to her home).

His hallmark is serving a salad and a starch with every entree. Pasta, seafood and poultry options each come with a choice of salad (including an anchovy-rich Caesar and bright, crisp Greek), and steaks and chops come with a choice of potato (baked or mashed). If you start with market-priced raw bar or another appetizer and still want to save room for dessert, you will definitely have leftovers. I chose the Yellow Fin Tuna, served with wasabi cream and Asian-style greens. It was perfectly cooked—seared with a sesame crust—and a more than generous portion that was delicious sliced on top of a salad the next day. We also tried the 24-ounce porterhouse, a behemoth of a steak served medium rare and dusted with a subtle spice blend. It, too, was beautifully seared, cooked perfectly, and the perfectly fluffy, buttery mashed potatoes were a classic, delicious complement. Tony’s also has an extensive, Wine Spectator award-winning wine list with both luxe pours and more frugal choices, both by the bottle and the glass.

There’s a reason that certain things are tried and true: good service and a juicy cabernet paired with steak and potatoes are all classics. Tony’s keeps enough of the familiar classics around to appeal to the steakhouse connoisseur, but livens things up enough to keep adventurous diners interested. For a treat, go on a Saturday night and eat in the lively bar area, where your dinner can involve both fine dining (the entire menu is served at the bar) and a dash of live jazz.