Langolino : A Review
Everyone just wants a good plate of pasta. Having dinner earlier in the week in Little Italy left me with hope, and when I went out with a few friends last Sunday, we were hoping for the best; a good plate of pasta. I have never understood why restaurants continue to screw up this classic, simple, easy dish. Tomato sauce, or olive oil, cream or pesto; everyone just wants a simple, good pasta. We ventured into Langolino, on Clinton, just north of College street, thinking that this mid priced bistro, with no table cloths, and a waiter with his shirt un-tucked would be a good bet for a good, casual pasta.
Being an ex-waiter, I notice things that others might not notice or care about. The mis-matched water glasses, something I would never put up with if I had a restaurant, didn’t bother me here. Even the casual treatment of our wine didn’t faze me, after all, we are here for a simple plate of pasta. I sipped a Stiegl while my companions started on the wine, and we perused the menu.
I can never understand bulky menus; and less so when the dishes seem almost the same with tiny differences; but I ordered what I wanted, pasta, with mussels in a white wine sauce to start, and started into the late-coming bread with gusto.
My mussels were typical but tasty. Overcooked, but as so few know how to cook seafood, we can let it go. The same went for the Caesar salad, across from me--not great but not bad--but the problems started with the roasted veggies. A confused mass of pre-roasted peppers and zucchini; slopped onto a plate with greens, warm on the outside and cold in the middle betrayed the ‘grab from the fridge and toss onto the grill’ treatment of a possibly seldom ordered appetizer. If it doesn’t sell, it should be taken off the menu rather than afforded this embarrassing treatment. They were picked at and ultimately left.
The wait between the appetizers and mains was approaching critical when the waiter returned to the table. One guest wanted the salmon on the prix fixe, but a la carte, and ordered it so, indicating that any price charged would be fine. Now, 30 minutes after the appetizers were cleared, the waiter approached, clarified the makeup of the dish, and left, embarrassing the guest when he could have just checked the menu. ‘so you want the salmon with shrimp? From the prix fixe? Because the prix fixe has changed from time to time’ It had been made fairly clear when ordered, but the waiter then checked the menu, and confirmed that we were, indeed correct that the salmon came with shrimp. Phew; glad we weren’t wrong or he would have been the last one laughing.
The mains came, the salmon overcooked, the pasta overcooked, the sausage tasting like it had been overcooked the day before, and the hilarious difference between the ‘two best pastas on the menu’ (according to the waiter) being chicken for capers. I gave up on my sausage, capers , mushrooms and tomato cream fettuccini, a tasteless mass of starch, 1/3rd or the way through, while my companions made their way through ½ of the pasta. We assured the waiter that everything was fine but we were full, a tragic but necessary lie, with the knowledge that the owner will read this review if s/he has any desire to improve their food and service.
To top things off, the bill, $140 with wine, had a small ‘suggest gratuity’ written in on the bottom. Flabbergasted, I asked my companions of they had ever seen that on a party of less than 6. Of course they hadn’t. I gave him exactly the $21 he asked for, though as a former waiter I usually tip 20-25% after tax. It almost seemed like everyone there had given up at some point. We left, and will not return.
Pasta is the hardest thing to cook in a restaurant! The best pasta needs to be cooked to order, or at the very least cooked just before it is needed. Most restaurants don't, they cook it way before and if they don't sell it they use it the next day or even the next. Not to mention they need to know how to do it. The small bistro's can be the worst for pasta, most of the time they have some kid cooking this " simple dish "!
It is similar to the mentality of making a good espresso. People think it is so simple, so they have any one making it. Not so I say!!!
How the waiter could have said that "sausage, capers, mushrooms and tomato cream fettuccini" was one of the two best pastas they have with a straight face is beyond me. It begs the question "What's #2?"
I think the funniest part, though, is where the name ends in "Wine Bar". The wine list is a joke. A very bad joke. To think I could have eaten at Olivia's instead. Oh well.
Alas it's gone downhill and has been for a while. It's a lovely space with a patio made for warm weather dining but...
1) The service. Spotty at best. I've been there and been treated like a new friend, but I've also been there and have been treated like I'm not 'cool' enough to serve.
2) The menu. Never changes. Salmon, all day, all night. Chicken breast? Ditto. What happened to mixing it up now and then?
3) The wine. For a wine bar it's a decidedly short list with very little adventurous selections available. And the markup? Come on now, let's be reasonable.
4) The food. Located that close to Kensington Market, any resto should be able to source quality ingredients. Shopping at Dominion doesn't cut it.
It is a spot with potential. I suspect they're in a rut and hope they pull out of it. It'd be a shame to see that space go to waste.