The Italian Barrel
we tried this new northern italian place on Barracks & Decatur. sigh.
as far as looks go, it had my hopes up - outdoor seating, white table clothes, candles, well dressed waitstaff...far cry from whatever was there before. it was a gorgeous cool evening and i was excited, really wanted this place to succeed.
first the menu -- expensive. the *salads* were all $15. the apps were around $15 (no simple items like, oh, bruschetta..), the cheese plate was $32 (what!?), pastas $15+, the filet & osso buco were $38. seriously folks, these prices are more than Maximo's. wine was also expensive, most red glasses in the $10-15 range..for a Decatur street, sidewalk, northern italian joint, id expected something else.
the bread they gave us was stock and the crunchy bread sticks store-bought. i ordered the Gorgonzola Ravioli In Mushroom Cream Sauce With Toasted Walnuts, she had the Pesto Fettuccine. no apps or salads due to high prices (did it progressive style and had those elsewhere).
my pasta looked good! delicate, not bloated at all. so far so good... till i asked for fresh grated parm since none was provided, and received powered which was likely store-bought. i noticed there were no toasted nuts on it - waitress said due to salmonella outbreaks none are being imported so theyre off the dish. Riiight. as i ate i noticed the ravioli didnt have much gorgonzola cheese, instead ricotta - waitress explained its also filled with ricotta. yeah im gonna say "mostly" filled with ricotta.. i didnt detect any mushroom in the sauce either, it was just a basic cream sauce. i dont even think they offered fresh cracked pepper.
so basically my $15 ravioli, which i ate in 5 minutes, had nothing to do w/ the menu.
her fettuccine was inedible -- their pesto seemed to be lacking any/much cheese thus way too heavy on the basil. super, super bitter. love pesto but just couldnt eat it. had we not been in good spirits (and doubted much better would be in store) we would have sent it back. waitress didnt ask about it.
sadly, folks, this place is a failure. i wanted to like it because shes done a wonderful job w/ the space & aesthetic, but the menu & execution fell hard...
OMG, it's kismet - that you went there and you were not pleased. That sounds horrible, I know, really wished you had loved it -- but I am looking for a cool place to go Sat night (live here now on Royal). Had read reviews and it sounded great. So, after work tonight, I went there to check out the menu and make sure they had a full bar -- very little data posted about this place and they appear to not have a website - and yes, it is 2009.
Anyway, pulled into a spot - I know, I know, I know, it was an illegal spot - big deal - I was only stopping for 5 minutes. The waitress, who was on break with her boyfriend outside - jumped up and screamed at me. Came right up to my window and yelled - "This is not a parking spot." I told her I knew and wanted to check out the menu. I asked if she worked there and she said, "Yah." with a sneer.
Nevertheless, I went in - and stubborn as I am - asked if that girl would be waitressing on Sat night. When they yes, I said, nevermind - I changed my mind about a reservation.
Sorry to rant on. You are so right -- about the location and ambiance - no matter how good the food is - counts for a deduction on prices.
I suspect, duh, it's because she has ingredients flown in from Italy and it drives up her costs heavenward.
Thanks for sharing! Tell me another cool place to go. And please, don't say August or Stella! :)
Sorry to hear the poor food/service experience. We visited there about 3-4 (?) months ago, not too long after they'd opened. Killed a few hours w/ a decent bottle of Barrolo and a mixed chese/meat platter, which wasn't 'on' the menu, but the staff easily agreed to cobble up. While things were a bit pricey, they weren't overly so, and the experience was all together agreeable; enuf so that I've recommended 1 or 2x. Guess I'll not do that until and if we give it a re-check. Thanks.