Andiamo's in Austin Falls Short
Was so close to my work, so despite the mixed reviews I had to try it.
First we were served a basket of bread and while the olive oil with parmesan cheese was very nice, the bread was stale. My friend asked four times (twice to our waiter) for some red pepper flakes. Finally, he asked the bussboy who then ground black pepper into the olive oil...
We ordered the house salad, which was extra and what arrived was hopefully the bottom of the bowl. The mixed greens had been wilted by the dressing, which was obnoxiously vinegar-y (I mean, I like a lot of flavor punch, but this was too much).
I ordered the gamberi boccelli, shrimp suffed with crabmeat, prosciutto, shallots in white wine. First and most important, the shrimp was WAY overcooked - tough and rubbery (four of them for $8, btw). Secondly, if there was crabmeat in there, I sure as heck never found it. Thirdly, the prosciutto was bacon. If it was prosciutto, it sure didn't have the taste/texture I've come to know as proscuitto.
On the positive side, the carrots were done well and the sauce was very nice, but mild.
Meal for the two of us for lunch was $35. Would I go back? Probably not.
I've been to northern Italy many times and have a pretty good idea of what the cuisine is supposed to be about. To me, Andiamo seems most like an Italian restaurant catering mainly to foreign tourists; overpriced wine (300% or more above average wine-shop retail -- hey, let me BYO and I won't complain about any corkage fee), unsurprising and unadventurous cuisine featuring lots of pounded filets, heavy sauces (including the ponderous plate o'red) and what seems like lmost everything stuffed with crabmeat. Andiamo seems almost more like a French restaurant in that instead of emphasizing the natural, vibrant taste of fresh ingredients (which is what Italian cuisine means to me), their focus is on DISGUISING the natural taste through aforementioned stuff-stuff with heavy sauce. Call it artistry if you like, but if this is authentic Italian then I'm Vic Damone, or at least his initials. I've been here 3 times, my wife's been here 4, but though crowded, the old-fashioned room seemed to have a moribund air last week when we came for our anniversary dinner; it was a ponderous and joyless place. We had the misfortune of being waited on by a sharp-faced young man who gave us the impression he'd rather be anywhere else, and seemed to have only the most tenuous knowledge of the menu -- he told my wife a veal dish was in a cream sauce when it wasn't even close, and when he was reciting the daily specials and she asked about the soup of the day, his rejoinder was, 'I'm not finished yet.' (Indeed.) Andiamo is supposed to lose its mojo when the owner, Giovanni, isn't in residence; when I asked if he was in the house, Bonehead's curt rejoinder was, 'He's out of town.' Indeed he was, and it showed. I don't want to seem curmudgeonly, but anniversaries and birthdays are customarily marked here by a free dessert with sparklers; for our anniversary we received zero, zilch, nada. Way to bring people back there...
Finding ourselves in the vicinty of Andiamo yesterday evening, a group of five of us decided to stop off at one of our favorite dinner spots. Our immediate impression upon entering was that the restaurant was far emptier - at 7.00 pm - than we had ever seen it. We were the third table to be seated. A second impression - immediately following the first - was that owner Giovanni was not present. This was confirmed by our waiter, who then proceeded to rattle off the specials so quickly that we couldn't follow what he was saying. Never mind ... we all knew what we wanted. My friend ordered his favorite, the gnocci, I had the veal porcini, and another guest had the veal & mushroom ravioli special. I also ordered a starter of scallops in pesto sauce. I will say that the chef, whoever he is now, he is a real fan of sauce. These scallops, although good, were absolutely drowning in the stuff. My veal too, when it came, was also smothered in sauce, which unfortunately was rather on the salty side.
My colleague with the gnocci was very disappointed that for his second visit in a row it was 'spongy' - lacking the firmness that a well-cooked gnocci should have. The waiter, upon hearing of this, immediately dispatched the chef to our table - a voluble Italian gentleman who explained to my friend with gusto that the gnocci was indeed cooked as it should be, and that he should order it 'al dente' in future, if he wished for it to be 'undercooked'. Our other friend, who felt the same way about his ravioli - it was overcooked AND drowning in liquid - decided to keep quiet. I didn't mention the salt in my sauce either, for fear of further upsetting chef.
All in all, although not a bad meal, not the high standard of cooking that we have been accustomed to at Andiamo. Is it slipping? Definitely. Rumor abounds as to the whereabouts of Giovanni and the previous executive chef ... off opening a new restaurant, perhaps?
"their focus is on DISGUISING the natural taste through aforementioned stuff-stuff with heavy sauce [...] but though crowded, the old-fashioned room seemed to have a moribund air last week when we came for our anniversary dinner; it was a ponderous and joyless place."
I couldn't agree more. Lots of too-heavy cream sauces and the service / atmosphere is atrocious. Nothing worse than a restaurant that acts like it's fancy when it's third-rate.
I greatly prefer the far less pretentious Reale's on 183 for Italian in North Austin. Austin could use more simple, flavorful mid-range Italian joints like Reale's.