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Il Grano - what's happening?

After a few really wonderful meals at Il Grano, and good review on this site, we returned last night and were very disappointed. It seems something has changed.

First, we arrived at 5:30pm when they open and were immediately seated at a nice table (we had a reservation). We ordered cocktails, and asked for a few rolls to enjoy with the drinks. My Bombay Sapphire martini was fine, but the couldn't find limoncello to use in my partner's limoncello martini (basically a lemon drop with limoncello added). This was very strange in that limoncello is on their drink menu, and is an extremely common Italian spirit. So…my partner had a normal lemon drop which was fine…but where were the rolls? Il Grano has wonderful house made rolls which we always look forward to. We were told that they were in the oven "finishing up". They arrived 50 minutes after the restaurant opened!

More importantly, the rest of our meal was just ok, certainly not anywhere near what it had been in the past. Starter salads were not special, gnocchi were just ok, and the house made pasta with lamb ragu was not especially good…that ragu was good, but the pasta was very overcooked and mushy.

Shockingly, by the time we left (almost 7:30pm) only 3 other parties had come in. The restaurant was essentially empty…and on a Saturday night! We had earlier in the day tried getting a reservation at Madeo which we also love, and it was fully booked until ~9:30pm. We were terribly disappointed with Il Grano, and will not likely return. Have other CH's had similar experiences. Has something changed?

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  1. the last time i went to il grano,
    although the raw dishes were fine, all the cooked fish dishes were overcooked.
    never went back.
    with only one alcoholic drink and tap water, the tab for two was astronomical.
    for that amount of money, the meal, imho, should have been perfection.

    1. Beware of the problem of trying to dine on a holiday weekend.
      No guarantees, EVER.
      Not trying to stand up for the restaurant, but it may not have been the best day to try the place.
      I have had good food in the past, but the past is also the operative word.
      If Sal is not there, then who knows who is there?
      Sal can cook, yet might have taken the holidays off to relax, etc.

      8 Replies
      1. re: carter

        Agree about holidays, Mother's Day etc, but what explains Josephnl's observation that the place was nearly empty on Saturday night. I've enjoyed several good dinners at il Grano over the years, but I have to agree with WG that the last time was more costly than I remembered.

        1. re: Baron

          The Saturday night after New Years Eve, and you expect a restaurant to be full -huh?!
          Any place that has a full house 3 days after NYE is living in never never land.
          As to baron's comment regarding price, the cost of shrimp & beef are at all time highs, so expect higher prices than you might think are warranted.

          1. re: carter

            Our first choice was Madeo, and it was fully booked until 9:30 or 10:00! We wouldn't have cared that it was empty if everything had otherwise been up to their previous standards. But having to wait 50 minutes for bread to come out of the oven, not having limoncello available from the bar, and seriously overcooking pasta at a previously top Italian restaurant in Los Angeles made us wonder what's happening.

            1. re: carter

              I would think that after the Holidays with all that "home cooking" people would enjoy going to a restaurant. Maybe you can call Sal and see if there's a problem. I expect to pay for a good dinner...but not for sub par food as mentioned by WG and josephnl. And Carter, you forgot to mention the price of good seafood. I am well aware.

              1. re: carter

                since i only eat seafood (i eat NO meat nor poultry), and i eat out at least 5 nights a week, i am well aware of the current prices for good/excellent seafood.

                their prices were astronomical.

                1. re: carter

                  Carter, restaurants like iLGrano are the quintissential "small business" which are under attack from rising taxes, rents, food expense and State, county, city and Federal regulations. They are also under attack from large chain restaurants with superior buying power and influence, advertising budgets etc. I"ve seen too many good small restaurants get pushed out just by rent increases

                  1. re: Baron

                    I am a real estate person, so understand your assessment of the costs of remaining in business as a small entrepreneur.
                    However, holiday weekends are always problematic, not knowing whether everyone will show up, or no one.
                    But until Sal himself shows up to answer the question of whether he was cooking that night, or someone else in his stead, I would just say the place was having an off night, which happens, yet as we both know, should not.

              2. re: carter

                I would not have thought that Saturday, 4 nights after New Years Eve would be dining on a holiday weekend...but maybe?? Nevertheless isn't was not good...indeed pretty bad, and we'll likely not return.

              3. The last time I was there was wonderful. It wasn't completely full (never is) but plenty of full tables. I have never found the pasta itself there to be up to the quality of the rest of the restaurant, although the pasta sauces can be excellent (especially the funghi).

                1. They do some interesting things there, and the chef is a sweetheart, but they never hit it out of the ballpark for me.

                  Everytime I go to Angelini Osteria - I leave thinking they should clone this place.

                  I really want Il Grano to be great, and I've given them many, many chances (always give the chef total freedom) but I think I'm going to have to settle for just pretty good. Can always get a table!

                  I like their crudo. They should do a whole meal - just crudo.

                  1. Not to excuse the restaurant, but you did dine at 5:30, the first available seating...plenty of restaurants I've been to aren't running at full steam at opening, so I'm not all that surprised about the lack of bread at 5:30 PM.

                    Also, restaurants were packed this weekend (all week, in fact). Il Grano is always empty and easy to get a table.

                    As for Il Grano, I always found the food excellent but the prices too high/portions too small. Not a great combination.

                    Never been to Madeo, but judging from the pictures on yelp, it looks like your standard northern italian fare at very high prices in a room filled with hollywood wannabees.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: manku

                      "Not to excuse the restaurant, but you did dine at 5:30, the first available seating...plenty of restaurants I've been to aren't running at full steam at opening, so I'm not all that surprised about the lack of bread at 5:30 PM. "

                      That's a problem each time I go to Pann's at opening for breakfast at 7AM and they are still in the process of baking their first batch of biscuits for the day.

                      1. re: Servorg

                        You're right, but....I cut some slack for Pann's. It's not a find dining restaurant, but a value oriented old fashioned coffee shop.

                        But I consider Il Grano to be a fine-dining restaurant. If they open at 5:30, they should be ready at 5:30.

                        I suspect, or perhaps I'd like to suspect - this was an anomaly. Restaurants are run by people after all, who can screw up.

                        1. re: foodiemahoodie

                          Forgiveable…yes and no. Not really in a restaurant of Il Grano's stature. However, if that were the only fault that evening, I'd forgive it…but no limoncello, overcooked pasta, uninspired (lumpish} salads, etc. Difficult to forgive.