Oct 02, 2010 7
My heart has been set on having lunch at Caffe Bello for the longest time. Finally… it was about to happen. I arrived a few minutes after my foodie friend. Valet was not happening that day, so I parked on the side and entered the restaurant.
I occasionally dined here when La Strada was in this building. Not much about the décor seems different to me, or maybe I’m just in a bad mood. I’d actually just like to snap my fingers and forget about this place entirely. Really.
I sat down and our server arrived soon thereafter. She was ready to take my drink order, as well as describe the specials for the day. All I remember is hearing about pig cheeks and something about a rabbit with beans and sausage. Yikes!
The service was great from start to finish. Every question we asked came with the answer, plus additional information to help guide us in the right direction. It was time to see if the chef would like to highlight anything on or off the menu.
Manager Alert … Um, about as useful as the managers at Américas and Uni Sushi. Worthless. He was a waste of space at Caffe Bello that day. He wasn’t the least bit busy, as he strolled back & forth from the kitchen to the bar, with the ease of a snail.
I approached the “manager” and he had nothing to say. He found the strength to mutter the words, “No, I think you should just…you know…go with what you think. That would be a good idea. Thanks though.”
Really? I’m sorry, is that what the chef said, or what you are saying… after your last leisurely lap around the restaurant? The manager represents the chef while he/she is behind a wall in the kitchen. By no means do I feel entitled to anything. The point is this: The role of a manager is to represent the chef, as well as the owner, when they are not there to represent themselves. Keep them informed on what is happening in the front of the house. Period.
We decided to start with the Margherita Pizzetta. The super thin crust is crispy and light. This pizza really is excellent. It is not the least bit filling, which is fine with me.
Wait. Where’s the bread? We never received bread while we were at Caffe Bello… An Italian restaurant without bread and a sassy array of olive oil & seasoning on a side plate… should be a felony. Maybe there is bread and we just weren’t a part of the chosen few. Or maybe… the manager has our bread.
For my entrée, I ordered the Cernia. This roasted red snapper is served with Tomato-Shrimp Ragu.
The snapper is served with the skin… The silver was shining in my face. The last time I was frightened by my fish was at Willie G’s… I ordered the snapper and it came out with the face and tail attached.
Obviously, I realize this is not something that should surprise me, although it has been a while. It’s just not something I prefer, so I took a few moments to gross myself out and scrape the fish skin on to a side plate. Moving right along…
My foodie friend ordered the Rigatoni Bolognese. It was a double order due to the fact our server said a single order isn’t enough food. Small portions are not a shocker, but when your server tells you to order a double because you will be unhappy with the serving size, well, it is surprising. No picture. Yada.
A short time later, a dessert appeared from the kitchen. Still have no idea what it was, and do not care. Describing it would be great, or maybe figuring it out… Nothing to write home about here.
The bad news is this was only visit #1.
On to visit #2…
After a couple of weeks, I entered the restaurant and sat down for brunch in the bar. The bartender approached me to take a drink order. He suggested the bottomless mimosa.
This decision based on whether the mimosa is made upon ordering, or pulled from a mini fridge, possibly made the night before. No thanks. He assured me the mimosas are made fresh to order. Perfect!
My first drink was made to order, but the second one did not come as smoothly. It actually began to stress me out… After ordering the second mimosa, two bartenders began holding what appeared to be two carafes of backwash level orange juice. Um, maybe about two inches high…
It appeared they couldn’t decide which one to use to make the new pre-made mimosas. I looked at them both and said, “Um, I’ll make the decision for you… NEITHER!” How about the fresh mimosa you assured me would not be a problem? Jeez Louise, this place is killing me.
Time to order… gulp … Ordering the entrée during brunch was the easiest part of the visit. I couldn’t stop from ordering Shrimp & Tobasco Grits.
After ordering the Shrimp & Tobasco Grits, it arrived halfway “dried up.” It appeared the grits were going to be cement in just a couple of minutes.
Although I have the highest respect for Tony Vallone, Caffe Bello is overrated. After two visits, I will never return. Why should anyone? Don’t stick a name with a restaurant and think it is always golden, because it’s not.
Almost Veggie Houston gives this restaurant a Full Blown Wouch!
FIVE: High 5!
FOUR: Please & Thank You
TWO: Double Wow
ONE: Wow + Ouch = Wouch