Monday, May 14, 2012
A Difficult Assessment... Paisano's.
Mother's Day, 2012. My hopes were high, confidence incontrovertible as I made Paisano's my celebratory dining choice to commemorate my motherhood on this day. Reviews digested and beautiful family in tow, I was sure it would be the best Italian lunch ever.
Prepared for my newest adventure as a foodie blogger, I absorbed each detail with sponge-like precision. The restaurant's exterior was noted, a tribute to authentic countryside cafes of Old World Italy. The sky was thick with gray clouds, the smell of fragrant, soon-to-fall rain heavy upon the cool air... all of this adding to my fervor and motivation for the task at hand. "Take it all in, Sunny," I whispered to myself as we entered the place.
Cozy and classically decorated, the establishment was inviting and reminiscent of another time, when restaurants were mom and pop owned, before the sting of franchise vaulted in like a corporate scorpion, poisoning all sense of family-owned uniqueness. I was comforted by the delicious smells emanating throughout and still positive the reviews I'd read would ring true on every level.
After a fairly long wait, which I didn't really mind after seeing they knew a regular patron by her first name, (which was a pleasant sight,) we were at last seated on the closed-in patio, laden with mosaic-tiled tables, whimsically-coloured chairs and fresh greenery climbing the surrounding walls.
My dreams of having the perfect dining experience were dashed, however, as soon as we sat... not due to shoddy service or an improperly-cleaned table, but my youngest little gem soon became the most fussy she'd ever been at any eating establishment. She demanded food immediately and was less than quiet about it. My husband and I scrambled to appease our 5 1/2-month old for well over half an hour, all the while ordering our drinks, perusing the menu, helping our oldest daughter decide what to eat, (which wasn't an easy task considering Paisano's does not offer a children's menu,) then eventually ordering our meals.
The prices were high, as anticipated, but higher than I'd have liked. I'd read a rave review of the Caeser salad, which I had to try. Conquering a Caeser salad properly is not the simplest of tasks for any kitchen. The exact balance of flavours must be perfect. I am picky when Caeser is concerned so I didn't fuss about the additional charge of $2.50 that would be tacked on because of the substitution for a house salad. My husband ordered the lentil soup, (another dish proclaimed to be "the best in town.") The starters came. How disappointed was I at that first bite of what I was sure to be the best Caeser salad? Extremely. The presentation was lovely, the ingredients unique... but, oh my! the overwhelming taste of anchovies! Now, I enjoy the subtle flavour that fishy little critter adds to a Caeser indeed, but this was an absolute wreck. Who wants a fishy salad dressing? Not I. I shuffled the tomatoes over to my eldest daughter and picked at the artichoke hearts. I was, however, slightly more appeased when after reporting the condition of the salad to our server, she promised to deliver the message to the kitchen and upon returning, informed us that the additional charge had been removed from the bill. At least they care about their patrons' opinions.
I tasted the lentil soup to see what the fuss was all about... *sigh* It was nothing to write home about and it certainly did not meet up to its standard of comparison with Jacob's so-good-his-brother-gave-away-his-birthright-for-it lentil soup as I had recently read in another blog.
The bread came and olive oil was drizzled over a plate of herbs and spices. Reaching into the basket, I was a little taken aback that the bread was not warm, but still pleased at the flavours coming alive on my tongue after dipping a hunk in the now-perfumed oil. It would have been better warm, I'm convinced, and even better yet with butter.
I felt compelled to order the stuffed portabella mushroom as it was yet another talked-about favourite in recently read reviews. THIS was beyond delicious. The mushroom was meaty and cooked to perfection. Combined with plenty of cheese, tantalizing herbs and the most wonderful marinara I've ever had, this is sure to become a favourite on my list of scrumptious appetizers. (The pool of chunky marinara doubled as a nice bread-dipper.)
Our entrees arrived and everything was plated beautifully. I had the Stuffed Shells.
The filling was a divine concoction of cheeses and spinach, topped again with that lovely marinara which just about made up for the rubbery shells. The freshly-grated Parmesan was impressive in it's larger-than-average sized shavings.
Hubby had the Linguini alla Livorno. The pasta was very good, but the flavours weren't unusual as I'd already had them in the Caeser salad: tomatoes, Greek olives and artichoke hearts. I would have preferred the pasta dish to the fishy salad.
My daughter ordered a pizza. Oven-baked to a lovely colour, topped with Canadian bacon and green chile, THIS was the best of the entrees at our table.
All in all, the service was efficient. Our drinks were never empty and we didn't ever have to wonder where our server was. The food was hit or miss I'd say. If you know what to order, then Paisano's might be a delightful destination for a dinner date. I'd recommend leaving the kiddos at home especially in the absence of a children's menu and kid-friendly foods.
My heart was certainly heavier at the end of the meal, even in the presence of our Molten Chocolate Cake and Gelato, which was fairly tasty, but not that amazing. I'd say... overpriced.
I couldn't help but think my days as a critic/food blogger were over as soon as they had begun. How could I fully concentrate on "taking it all in" when there were even more important things to worry about, like feeding my little one and making sure a fussy baby didn't spoil any others' dining experience? It was a difficult assessment indeed.
My gorgeous husband wrapped me in his arms upon arriving home, and seeing that I was downtrodden, offered me some comfort food in the form of soothing and encouraging words. He suggested I venture out once a month, more when finances allow, alone, and continue on my journey to be a genuine Foodie.