Andiamo Ristorante - a short review
My family and I visited Andiamo Ristorante today.
We were seated promptly. However, it took literally 30 minutes for us to receive our menus. Apparently they had more customers than expected and, thus, a shortage of menus. That said, the waiter was extremely apologetic for the wait. I will touch more on this later near the end of the review.
10 minutes after being seated, we received some soft, warm bread and an olive oil - parmesean cheese mix to go with it. The bread was very tender and went well with the olive oil - parmesean cheese mix. This was somewhat of a surprise because we had come to Andiamo Ristorante a long time ago (roughly a year back), and we distinctly remembered the bread being hard and stale at the time. Today, however, the bread was soft and fresh. Perhaps Andiamo has somewhat of a reliability issue, at least when it comes to the bread. Or, perhaps Andiamo was still working out the "kinks" in their quality when they were still relatively new a year ago.
One of our party ordered the Tortellini Panna e Piselli. It's a simple parmesean cream-based pasta with peas. Nothing special, but that is probably due more to the inherent simplicity of the dish. The pasta was certainly tasty and the sauce was well-prepared.
Two of our party ordered the Agnello Casalinga - "Grilled lamb chop with shitake mushrooms and julienned bell peppers finished in a white wine reduction with a touch of balsamic vinegar," according to their website.
The lamb chops were far and away the highlight of the meal. Absolutely delicious. I ordered mine medium, and a family member had his medium-well. Certainly most of us have had rack of lamb with a balsamic-based glaze before; the sauce is not what I would call innovative, but it was remarkably well-prepared.
We had the Tiramisu di caffé for dessert. It was delectably rich, and the light touch of chocolate/rasberry sauce complemented it perfectly.
I felt the food at Andiamo Ristorante was delicious.
That said, I do have a few complaints regarding the atmosphere and service -
The atmosphere was a little too pretentious for my taste. I enjoy more of a laid back, informal atmosphere, but certainly I don't feel this detracted from the overall experience too much. It's just a minor complaint.
The service, however, was borderline unacceptable. I mentioned this before, but waiting 30 minutes for a menu is ridiculous. Fortunately this did not detract our experience too much because we had looked at the menu before going.
After ordering, it took at least another 30 minutes to receive the food.
Furthermore, I had ordered a drink, and they were a little stingy on refills, though this may be due to the unexpected overabundance of people dining here today, thus there was a relative shortage of serivce. I saw our waiter running around almost non-stop, trying his best to give everybody decent service.
The verdict - would I dine here again? Yes. I felt the lamb was delicious enough to warrant at least a second visit. Despite the somewhat poor service, I thought the lamb dish and the tiramisu were exquisite.
I'd rank Andiamo Ristorante second on my Italian list, just under Vespaio. It's sad to realize that Austin truly does not have many great Italian places. Apart from Andiamo and Vespaio, what other Italian places should I try?
I would suggest giving Cibo and La Traviata a try. I've eaten at Cibo a couple of times and enjoyed it quite a bit. It is pricey though. Also, there is a thread here about the menu being dumbed down recently. I haven't been since the change, so hopefully it hasn't changed for the worst. Both are on downtown on Congress.
Ever since original owner Giovanni left a few months ago, service and food quality plummeted and the future of the restaurant appeared uncertain. See here for a recent discussion: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/93442.
However, Dale Rice reviewed the place the other week and it appears that new management is in place.
I heard a while back that a previously 'silent' partner had taken over Giovanni's management role - this may be that person. Still, it'll be a while before I try it again: I dislike being lectured to by chefs.
Your link didn't work, so I'm re-pasting it here for you:
If you just skip one space immediately following the link, before the period or any other punctuation (like a parenthesis), it will work next time. I'll add a relevant example so you can see what I mean: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/429607 .
By the way, I completely agree about avoiding restaurants with chefs or management who try to blame the customers for the kitchen's poorly executed or ill-conceived chow. It's as though they think it's good because they say it's good. Not to this 'hound it isn't.