Bensi - Hampton VA - Peninsula Town Center
Ok, I realize this is a chain place, which I ordinarily despise, but this was an unusally good value meal and worth a post....
Here on business and wandered in mostly on account of convenient location and a scouting mission inside - seemed clean, comfortable with upscale service.
Run of the mill, extensive Italian/Italian American menu of all the usual suspects. Was having a hard time picking my poison and ready to go for an old standby "new restuarant test entree," when offered specials by a very professional server. Lobster Fra Diavlo with clams and mussels on linguine, described as lobster body and tail meat with half a dozen of each shellfish........had many many concerns, least amongst them .- would the pasta be cooked right? Would the fra diavlo be ketchup and texas pete? Not to mention the quality and safety of the shellfish, although I felt mostly ok that with the upscale chain thing at least the safety threshold would be met.
What a pleasant surprise. Service was attentive and timely - bread and included salad course and entree all spaced nicely. The entree was plated very nicelly especially considering we are talking about $23 here - appropriate size portion of pasta - actually al dente for real which is hard to believe, maybe a little heavy on the sauce but not overly much - couple of garlic toasts edging a large platter with a dozen shellfish arranged artfully and lobster tail and body in the center over linguine - plentiful portion of lobste with all meat already out which is a nice touch, especially for someone as lazy as me. Sauce was very good, much to my surprise, with the right amount of heat and the clams and mussels were not killed with overcooking. Probably local Littlenecks here on the Peninsula which helps a lot.
Anyway, can't speak for the regular menu, but this was a real pleasant surprise from a very experienced diner and hobby italian home chef. A real value at $20 something bucks. I may try another tomorrow night!