Agostino Ristorante - Brief Review
- Fwagra Aug 9, 2009 05:42 PM
We were four at Agostino on Saturday night.
The evening started very well. Our waiter was excellent: very gracious, hospitable and professional. And he knew the food. He brought bread quickly. Not just bread. Some of the best crusty rustic Italian loaf I have had in some time. This very fresh bread was served with extra virgin olive oil. I emphasize extra virgin, because some "Italian" restaurants (such as Ferraro and probably others) have a totally nasty habit of serving regular olive oil (cooking oil) with their bread. Often they gussy it up with some herbs, garlic, or chilis. But it's still cooking oil and I think it's unforgiveable. Anyhow, enough about the damn bread.
I started with the steame shrimp and clams in a basil and chili tomato broth. Very nice: fresh, flavourful, lemony, a bit spicy (fresh chilis used). The portion was too small. (Franco, that's a compliment, sort of).
Then, I had the handmade ravioli with ricotta, asparagus, in a brown butter. The butter was not brown. It was just melted butter. But, the dish was still pretty good although lacking any "bite" or "tang". The pasta was very nicely made. But, the butter should have been brown and I think the dish is missing something. I don't know what. Something to give a bit of contrast to the very mild subtlety of it all. I realize that this dish is supposed to be light and subtle in flavours, but it was downright meek.
My wife had an absolutely gorgeous and incredibly delicious chargrilled octopus salad, with fingerling potatoes, and near-candied red onions. It was darn near perfect. She is still talking about it, and she's no foodie per se.
My main course was the veal parmigiano special, served with spaghetti pomodoro on the side. Well, again, the portion was a tad miserly. To me, Italian food is generous in every way, including the portion. The veal was delicate, thin and slight. The pasta was nicely done. The dish was somewhat undistinguised but tasty. For $24 I can get a veal parmigiano twice the size at a more downscale Italian eatery.
The menu features a number of whole fish dishes which looked very good as they left the kitchen. And, they were asking twenty-something dollars for these dishes which seems like a better value than my meal.
I will return to this restaurant, but not because my meal was fabulous. It's because I think that there is a lot of potential in this restaurant. The owner and staff care a lot, and it shows. There is some very good food going on here which I think will grow and change. I am looking forward to this place as it develops.
I haven't tried this place yet, but I have tried his food over the years. Execution has rarely been a problem, but I have noticed a certain tendency to test what the market will bear. Imperia started out reasonable, accessible and delicious; then the prices started creeping up. Commensurate with that, the crowds dwindled. Before that, Il Posto grew some fairly steep wine and cocktail prices.
Hopefully this latest venture will keep that in hand. It takes time to build clientele and loyalty, and this time he's across the street from his former chef from Imperia (Massimo Collavini of Lolo), in a highly competitive stretch.
I just went to Agonstino's last night after reading all this great reviews and craving some good Italian fare. Unfortunately, it was horrible. The bread was amazing and that was the best part of the meal. My friends and I shared the grill octopus and a wild clam black truffle risotto as starters. The octopus was cooked well, but it had no seasoning/flavor. Maybe they forgot to salt it. The risotto was ok, but ordinary. Only found one clam and one piece of truffle.
My main was Gnocchi with oxtail. The gnocchi was so over cooked that it was complete mush and it was difficult to even pick it up with a fork w/o it completely melting off the utensil. There was a total of 3 baby finger tip sized oxtail. My friend's half moon ravioli stuffed with cod was tasteless and at least his weren't overcooked. My other friends spicy pancetta pasta dish was all pasta and not much pancetta. When Frank came to our table to ask us how everything was, I was so hesistant to complain b/c he was so nice. But in retrospect, I should have told him the truth. It would only hurt for the moment and would benefit him for the future. The service was fine and everyone was nice otherwise. Ambiance was fine as well. Just the worse overcooked pasta ever, that's all. I do love that bread though!
They're currently working in a new chef who's delivering items from the old menu while trying to design a new one. While this doesn't excuse what happened to you, it may explain a few things. I too noted the uneven execution. Hopefully once chef gets full control things will settle into place. I'm happy to return and test this theory.