We are trying restaurants we haven't frequented before as part of this next year together. Frankly, we want them to be local establishments, not chains. It's not that we aren't happy with some, OK many, of the chains. Rather we want to explore and there appear to be more small, locally owned restaurants that are new to our area than there are chain-types.
Off we went on a short drive to an Italian restaurant in nearby Williamsville. We had peeked in the window once when it was full of patrons but we already were going to the place on the opposite corner - which we LOVED. Our hopes were high that this would hold up its end of the short boulevard.
Whoops. That didn't happen. Not by a long shot - and a long shot it was as the waiter/bartender/greeter was the former basketball (?) coach from somewhere, probably there. He was interested in his son calling, the sports news, passing his Cardinal baseball tickets to someone. Not that he wasn't attentive. But we were the only clientele for the first half hour. None of that really mattered; he was pleasant enough.
I spent time reading the touching story of the immigration from Italy to America and how the Italian bloodline held up and the recipes were passed down, time spent sharing family cooking secrets. Then I went on to the menu.
Sometimes when a menu is, well, short, it's a good sign. They know what they can do and they do it great. Sometimes.
Not in this case. I heard the undeniable ding of the microwave in the kitchen. Nothing against microwaves but the story did more than mention, it dwelled on long, slow cooking, careful simmering, flavors melding together. You know what I mean. Mama Mia in the kitchen with a big wooden spoon, tasting her sauce every so often, just to be sure it was perfect. I wanted wafting scents and steaming dishes.
I asked about the ravioli - meat: beef or pork? Beef was the response, quick as it was. I think scores were being reported on the big screen tv. Beef ravioli was my choice then and Ed got the fettucine, with chicken and broccoli - creamy fettucine being his current food fancy.
We were served promptly. I use that word cautiously as we really weren't ready for dinner, not yet having finished our salads. The food was hot. The cook had sprinkled dried, non-descript green stuff - maybe parsley - on my bowl of ravioli. No doubt we cleaned some of that out of my mother's kitchen a couple of years ago. It did add color but not attractively. And nothing could help the food.
The ravioli were too perfect to be handmade. It made me contemplate what the kitchen secrets exchanged long ago had lost in translation or in being handed on to the next generation. "Remove from frozen, commercial packaged box and place in boiling water." hardly seems like what Nonna really said. The meat was flavorless, making my question as to its origin not a matter of taste nor appearance nor difference. The sauce? Well, runny. Some jarred (as in glass jar, not disturbedly moved) mushrooms were put in, probably when the water was added to extend it.
Maybe it was just the ravioli, I pondered optimistically. Then I looked at Ed and he, who usually is a tidy public eater(and I am not), was wearing fettucine sauce next to his moustache. Removing that with his napkin he approached another bite and splash - the other cheek was adorned. At that point I asked if that sauce was runny also.
Indeed, it was. Far from creamy, it merely shared the bowl with the noodles, not clinging to them as it should. He actually ended up taking a piece of non-Italian bread and sopping the sauce up at the end of his meal. Then, because I had no interest in it, he finished mine.
You have just read my $40 restaurant review blog post. Don't go there. Go to the other end of the block, The Blu Cat Cafe.