Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > New Jersey >
Oct 9, 2006 06:25 PM

Review - Deanna's in Lambertville

My husband and I had heard good things about this place (homemade pasta, Italian chef who learned to cook from old family recipes) so we went there on Sunday for dinner. The posted hours said they closed at 8:30, but when we walked in at 7:40 the bartender told us we could only sit at the bar since the kitchen was closing at 8. Not a big deal. We'd been picturing a Chambersburg-style Italian restaurant with red and white checked tablecloths, so we were a bit taken aback by the upscale ambiance, but we forged ahead with the promise of good pasta.

The menu is extremely limited and they were out of most of the specials by that point, so we kept it simple. I got the pasta arrabiata and my husband got pasta with chicken and mushrooms in a gorgonzola cream sauce. He also got a whiskey sour which was so bad he only drank half of it. His description - "It was like the whiskey and sour mix just happened to be in the same place at the same time." Our entrees came with bread and the house salad. The bartender was our waitress and she seemed to not really know what to do. After a few minutes she realized we didn't have our bread so she got someone to get some for us. The bread was cold and came with two of butter pats. Once the bread arrived the bartender gave us a small pot of olive oil and some grated cheese, but no plate to put the oil on, so we rationed the butter.

After about 15 minutes we were still without salads. I caught the bartender's eye and it dawned on her that the space in front of us was still empty so she ran to the kitchen for the salads, which turned out to be nothing special. A very small serving of mixed greens was barely dressed with a vinaigrette. I added some of the grated cheese to try and perk it up. We were about halfway through the salads when a waitress arrived with our entrees. Since we were at the bar we had barely any room for food as it was, so I had to hold my salad plate up in the air while she deposited my entree, which was steaming hot. It was obvious that since our salads had been delayed the timing of the entrees were off, but since our plates were literally steaming hot, I don't see why they couldn't have held them back in the kitchen a few minutes. As it was, I couldn't take a bite until it cooled off substantially. As she was putting our food down the waitress said, "We're not trying to rush you." Ummm...that's certainly not the feeling we were getting.

Perhaps because it was Sunday the regular chef wasn't working, but the pasta was horrible. It was gummy, like it had been cooked hours beforehand and reheated. It was hard to pierce it with a fork because it just disintegrated. The arrabiatta had no flavor other than heat from the red pepper flakes. A few spots held pieces of garlic and basil, which was good, but the majority of the dish just tasted spicy. I gave up eating it when a waitress started cleaning the tables behind us (glass-topped) with Windex and the smell mixed with the scent of my pasta was a huge turn off. My husband fared slightly better. His pasta was also gummy, but the chicken was perfectly cooked and the gorgonzola sauce saved the dish.

By that point we'd overheard two other couples in the bar area who seemed unhappy as well. Maybe it was an off night, but we certainly won't be going back. We were uncomfortable from the minute we walked in the door and we really should have listened to our instincts and gone somewhere else. The only reason we didn't is that Lambertville shuts down early and we were worried about finding another place to eat.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I have had similar experiences since DeAnna's moved to their new spot. It is very disappointing, especially because it used to be so good in the old place, when it was a BYO. Try Rick's the next time you are in town and in the mood for Italian.

    1. I was there recently on a Sunday night for my mother's birthday. We had more than 10 people in our dining party, and the service was excellent (we were there early in the evening). The chocolate cake that was specially made for the occasion was absolutely delicious. However, the entrees were merely good, not excellent. I don't live near Lambertville, and I doubt I will ever go back to that restaurant on my own. There are far too many satisfactory Italian restaurants closer to me and far too many more interesting choices in the area around DeAnna's to tempt me back there.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Heatherb

        Sarah have you tried Ricks in Lambertville? Its cute, in that checkered red tablecloth kind of way, nothing to really look at, and pretty decent food.
        I do believe he makes his own pasta, because I've had (fettucini) bolognese several times, and if its not homemade fresh pasta, i'd be very surprised, but generally good.

        1. re: Sethboy

          I've heard of Rick's and I'm sure my husband (who works in Lambertville) has eaten there before, but it's one of those restaurants that isn't on our radar. We always go to Lambertville for our anniversary in October so I'll keep this one on our must-try list.

      2. We have had similar experiences as well. The first time we ate there, we sat outside on the patio, which was lovely. The food was mostly pretty good, but not what we were expecting after hearing all the raves when Deanna's was in it's previous location.

        My husband went back one time after that with a friend and said the whole experience was truly bad, from the service to the food. We came to the conclusion that there must have been nobody in the kitchen that night who actually knew how to cook, but after reading others' comments here, the problems seem to be more pervasive. I don't beleive we'll be going back.

        2 Replies
        1. re: flourgirl

          I have been to Deanna's once, and thought the pasta was very good, but the service not so great. We ate at the bar also and the bartender was running back and forth under the bar right next to me the whole evening. It was not that crowded, but it took a long time for our drinks to be refilled, and the food took a while to arrive.

          On the other hand, Rick's is great in the food and service department. I recommend going during the week if you can, the menu tends to be a little more diverse. It is much more laid back than Deanna's, and not quite as pricey (Deanna's pasta costs about the same as a meat entree at Rick's).

          1. re: ggg

            We went to Rick's about a month ago (during the week.) The place is charming and the service is really terrific. But we found the food to be a little uneven. Our salads were very good. The white bean dip that was served with bread for dipping was delicious. My son had a big bowl of clams in white wine broth with garlic bread that he enjoyed very much (he's six :-)) I can't remember what DH had, but he seemed reasonably happy. I had the eggplant parmigiana which was not so much. It came absolutely drowning in sauce and the eggplant tasted kind of burnt to me or something. Like maybe the oil it was fried in was heated too high? And as a matter of fact I couldn't really tell how it was cooked, because of sauce drowning problem previously mentioned. And DH & I actually thought they were a little overpriced.

        2. My wife and I recently moved to Lambertville. By any definition we are foodies. We have been to DeAnna's on 3 occasions -- twice on Wednesday which is locals night.

          Our experience has been quite the contrary to yours. We have had wonderful meals there, especially, the homemade rigatoni, sausage & peppers, a ravioli dish (can't remember the name).

          We usually sit at the bar and have had terrific service. I wholeheartedly recommend DeAnna's.

          1. I had dinner there about a year ago with 6 other people. Two of my friends ate at the old location regularly. We were all eating and drinking wine, beer, etc. My friend, who was sitting across from me, went to order another cocktail. The waitress refused to serve her, telling her that she was intoxicated. We all just kind of sat there with out mouths open. My friend is loud and very funny. But, she was not drunk by a long stretch. This would have been her third Dewars. She was not driving. I had at least 4 glasses of wine by this point. The guy sitting next to me was on his fourth Dewars. Only one of us was not drinking (the driver who was under the weather). And, the waitress was not quiet about telling my friend she was flagged. It was very strange. One the way out, the bartender, who knows my flagged friend from past visits, asked how things were. She explained what happened, and that we would not be returning.again. The bartender seemed a bit taken aback, and told my friend she did not seem intoxicated at all to him.
            The food, OK, but absolutely nothing to write home about. I would not go back there again, even if the flagging incident had not happened. Expensive, for what it is as well, imho. Service: aside from the flagging incident: unfriendly and with a bit of a tude.