Monday, August 9, 2010
With my new "diet" restrictions (somewhat Paleo with frequent dairy stops), dining out hasn't held the same appeal for me it once had. Menus are a little tricky to navigate, and my weakness for empty carbs in the form of bread and pasta have been well documented. So if I'm gonna blow a night on food, it better be damn good. That said, Grotto did not disappoint on the food end of the bargain. But that's really only half the story. Perhaps it's best to start at the beginning.
E saw that Grotto had a lobster pasta special but upon closer inspection of the menu on-line, we realized it was part of the regular menu line up. The menu looked fantastic though with plenty of offerings for both of us. So E made a reservation a week in advance and we both put some effort into our attire that day. For me, it meant actually combing my hair and for E it meant looking like her usual cute self.
We arrived to the small basement space and had a very awkward first encounter. Neither of us was certain if she was a hostess, manager, server. But the first person who greeted us wasn't anything other than harried. She waved her hand to two tables off to the side of the door and in the middle of the dining room and told us to take either of these two places. And she went off, not to be seen again. Um, ok. E was not pleased. She had called and made this reservation a week prior and wasn't happy 1.) that the tables were in a really akward place in the dining room 2.) we were kinda waved off. We stood there for a bit, pondering if a change of tables would be possible. We were told by a waitress (we think she was a server) that those open tables in more optimal locations were already reserved for larger parties. So we sat. And a choice had to be made. Either I could move the table back so E wouldn't get constantly bumped by the people at the table behind her or we could leave it were it was and I wouldn't get bumped constantly by the people who worked in the restaurant trying to serve the table behind me. We made the choice to move the table towards me which resulted in me being bumped on the back of my seat thru-out my meal. It wasn't really a big deal for me (which is why I made the choice to kinda take one for the "team") but I did reflect with E on the fact that I'm not a big person. I'm 5'2 (ish) and weigh 120-125 (ish) so if I was any bigger, this table and seating arrangement would have not really worked well.
Regardless, I was ready for a nice meal and looking forward to having some tasty empty carbs! One of the things about the menu was that it was kinda heavy for the summer. Fondue, cheese garlic soup all of these things were listed as appetizers. And a lot of rich sounding pastas and heavy meats for mains. For our appetizer I ordered the garlic, parm and truffle soup and E ordered the only summer sounding item on the menu, the mozzarella, tomato and arugula salad. Only thing was that it ended up not being all that summery afterall. The server let us know before the dish came so we were aware but I was really surprised at how the dish was described compared to what truly arrived. It was basically a grilled cheese sandwich with some nice sundried tomatoes and dressed greens. It was a nice dish but again fairly heavy. The soup was lovely. Rich and creamy. I wish that it had a bit more truffle going on but eh, it was still pretty darn good. E also ordered a fairly reasonable wine. She said it was usually over $100 but at Grotto it was only around $60. Seemed like a good deal to me but I don't really drink so I had a few sips but as to how good it was, well, that's really lost on me.
For our mains we ordered the braised short ribs with gorgonzola and gnocchi (me) and spaghetti bolognese (E). Again, heavy dishes but really nicely executed. The pastas were both clearly homemade. The gnocchi was feather light and the pasta for the bolognese was cooked perfectly al dente. I loved both dishes. But by then E and I were stuffed from our appetizers. So we only had a few bites before dessert.
And of course we got dessert! Well, I should say I had dessert. I ordered the banana bread pudding and E ordered the molten chocolate cake for me to eat, of course. The desserts were very good. Not especially note worthy but good and a nice ending to a really lovely meal.
We still had an entire bottle of wine at the end of the meal and were relaxing and talking a bit after our dishes were cleared but I clearly got the sense that the staff was a little stressed and were really wanting us to go already. I can understand that in such a small place it's hard to maneuver around the tables or turn tables when there aren't that many but making us feel rushed after I was bumped into constantly wasn't cool. Even if someone had just said to us, here is your check, please take your time and poured us more wine, I would have thought, "well how very gracious". It wasn't the case.
So overall, I enjoyed the food quite a bit and found it to be an excellent value but the space lacked "romance" for me and the service seemed a little all over the place. I would absolutely go back to Grotto but next time, I think we'll specify that we want a corner table.