Thursday, December 13, 2007

Raddichio


Wade's Take:

It was a somewhat Deb Downer that our last meal of the year was one of my least favorites. Now that I think about it, our first meal of the year was Cebu, another unappealing gastronomic adventure. Two of the lesser places started and ended 2007. That’s fine with me – let the less-fine places sandwich the rest of this year’ goodness.
I’d been hearing good things about the Raddichio café for years. Unfortunately, those whispers of good food didn’t pan out. The meal was fair to partly cloudy, not the joie de vie I had expected.

I began on an upnote with the insalata di mare. Take an orgy of squid, scallops, shrimp, mussels, and clams – toss them in some extra virgin olive oil, add lemon juice and you’ve got a party. It was light and the seafood was fresh (thank you to Sasha Isenberg’s “The Sushi Economy” for teaching me how to tell good seafood from the flash frozen stuff). The insalata di mare had me started in a good direction, despite the grumblings of one of my dining companions (rightly so) about his subpar appetizer and the waiter’s assault on Jess with her glass of red wine.

My entrée was Gnocchi ai funghi – potato gnocchi with spicy marinara and porcini mushrooms. It was a dish I could have easily prepared at home in 20 minutes with some basic ingredients from my local Trader Joe’s.

Although dessert set the bar higher (particularly a chocolate tartufo – dusted with cocoa and a crème center), I still cannot rate Raddichio above a 2 out of 4 italian accents.

In the end, I think the Raddichio Café is a place you’d take nervous traveler friends when they are in town. You know the type – those that only want to eat at Spaghetti Warehouse and any other “safe” chain restaurant when they have ventured into parts unknown.

Let’s see what guest writer Chris has to say. That Little Bit is full of sass, and I know she will have words about Radicchio’s lack of climate control (air temperature that went from burning to freezing and back again).

See you in 2008!

Dave's Take:

First I would like to start off with the positives. Radicchio is a very cute and comfortable. The prices are reasonable and the wait staff is very nice and attentive. If you want a nice place to go for a dinner with the family and do not need great, knock you socks off food, it's a safe bet. If you are looking for dynamic dishes with pronounced and interesting flavors, you might want to move on.
First we started off with some wine and they brought some bruschetta as an amuse bouche. The amuse bouche is always a favorite of mine because it's like a bonus taste. You didn't order it, you weren't expecting it, and bam bonus taste. The bruschetta was very nice. Plump tomatoes, roasted red pepper and onions obviously marinated in some heavy garlic and olive oil. Tasted great.
Things were looking up and I ordered a bruschetta for my app so I was very excited. The description read, Cannellini beans, arugola, onions, fresh tomatoes, oil and garlic and I'm thinking damn, that sounds awesome. I was anticipating a simple mix of those, perhaps with a nice flavor of rosemary and freshly ground pepper atop some petite bread slices. What I got was Progresso minestrone soup can dumped on some burnt white bread slices. Ok, maybe not actually progresso soup but you could have fooled me. It did not necessarily taste bad, but was not good. Would have been an OK lunch at the desk at work, but not an app at a restaurant. I guess for $6 I shouldn't be complaining, but I would have much rathered a smaller portion size and some more refined flavors.
OK, at this point I'm a little disappointed but still looking to my entree. Fusilli Positano. Long fusilli with jumbo lump crab meat, oil, garlic, arugola, fresh tomato sauce. Sounds tasty. It was just OK. Again, not bad, just not as exciting as it should be. The crab meat was top notch but the flavor were dull and the pasta was not fresh and a bit under cooked (not al dente). Tasted like something I would cook at home. Now, Jess's Whole Roasted Branzino was REALLY good. Although, I have not had a whole roasted fish that wasn't. I would certainly recommend that.
2 out of 4. I would go back with friends/family, but not if I'm making the reservation. For you Italian lovers out there, I'll give you a key. If you love Joey Italiano's Maplewood(s) (Jersey) then go to Radicchio. Food is on par or slightly better and prices are cheaper. Plus you can bring your own. If you are more the Osteria kinda person. Make another reservation.

AND... tonight we were joined by a special guest and good friend Christine Gronwaldt. And so, we are happy to present... our guest blogger:

Ok, ok, I know I’m only the guest blogger, so I should probably not be too over the top or critical in my first posting and be henceforth known as the “BitchFork”…but the Foodies know I am nothing if not blunt…
Radicchio is on the list of places that I‘ve heard most of my friends say they’ve been to and loved.
And all I have to say to them is “what Radicchio did you go to?”
Feeling a little lazy in my ordering and wanting to just catch up with friends instead of reading and rereading a menu, I thought I’d just get the salmon. It’s nearly impossible for any restaurant to do salmon poorly. Sometimes you’ll even get the nice surprise of a great salmon dish that has an inspired flavor that’s enough to make you want to recreate it at home. This was not that dish. I was a little disappointed when my blandly, grilled piece of salmon arrived at the table. It was sitting in a pool of tomato juice and asparagus spears and none of the flavors tasted as if they were cooked together. The chunks of tomato and juice seemed more like they were poured in from a can and the asparagus was more than al dente. My salmon sat on top of this without much ado. I was unimpressed, and chocked this up to healthy eating since there was nothing creamy, cheesy, salty or otherwise unhealthy about my dish that would have made it taste better. At least I was happy that I hadn’t wasted a ton of calories on a mediocre selection.
I think Jess may have actually been glad to get the red wine shower that our waiter gave her since our table was positioned in front of a heating unit that could have doubled as a jet engine.
It’s always nice to end on an up note, so for a BYO, Radicchio is quant and spacious unlike many other BYO’s that try to pack the customers in like sardines. I loved the free little biscotti that came with coffee and our desserts. They were orange and nutty and a nice end to the meal. I also love when waiters have heavy accents so you have to strain to understand the specials. It somehow makes the food seem more authentic.
Thanks for the invite, Foodies, the company far outshined the food! Next time another friend tells me how great Radicchio is I’ll finally be able to correct them and point them to the much better Italian BYO selections in town like Porchini, Melagrano or Farmicia of which I’m still drooling over from last night’s portabella and eggplant dish.



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