Newly opened they were ironing out a few bugs and that is to be expected, it's a lot to put a restaurant together, tweaking the menu and trying to give the place a welcoming décor. Like Casey, I usually give a restaurant three tries before they're out, after that there isn't much hope it will improve.
I have this thing about hating to pay for food when I know I can make it better at home. If it isn't too costly that's fine, but when it's supposed to be high end I begrudge paying the bill and the first strike is on the board. I inherited my mother's prowess in the kitchen so I know my way around a recipe and have come up with a few of my own, so when I'm out for a meal on the town I want to be wowed. I want to think...gee, I wish I could make that! Or, I wonder what they used in this? I want to get my money's worth that's all and if I can do it better it leaves a bad taste in my mouth in more ways than one.
The restaurant we were sampling was still waiting on their liquor license and I was told when I made the reservation that we could bring our own wine and pay a corkage fee. That's fine but when we all showed up with wine, the three bottles were swept from the table, opened and brought back. Now I'm no drinker and we were out for a casual meal not a bender and when we protested we were told we couldn't take it back home so they would keep it until we came back another time, but of course that was presumptuous and once opened, wine goes off taste. So it was doomed for the drain or we had to do our best to "drain" it. Waste not want not right?
The problem for me, one has to build up a tolerance to alcohol...over time...slowly. I'm like a baby in that one smell of the cork is enough to find me under the table or dancing on top of it depending on the mood or possibly the music. So it hit me like a lead brick before the main course was finished and I don't remember tasting or seeing dessert at all. Apparently we ordered a round of Tiramisu.
One thing I do remember as I staggered along the sidewalk was making the announcement that I could make better lasagna with my eyes closed. So I put my money where my mouth was and held a little dinner party the following Friday evening.
Back in the day before opening the shop when I had time to play, I loved cooking, throwing dinner parties and making fancy garnishes, so I thought it would be fun to add a bit of atmosphere to the table which was one of the complaints at the restaurant. Bare tables and not that much ambiance made the place feel cold and unfriendly. We suggested they add a bit of checkered cloth, bistro the place up a bit, but that was met with a rather damp reply. Maybe we were rude to suggest it but after all that wine our tongues had a mind of their own.
Later I was disappointed to find they'd ordered in dusty rose table cloths, that had absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the décor or Italy for that matter. Personally, I thought dusty rose died in the eighties and wasn't worth resuscitation. Sorry, I'm allergic to the colour and break out in a terrible case of nose-in-the-air.
And I don't know about the others, but I was a bit put off by the owner/chef walking past our table to go outside for a smoke every twenty minutes or so. He should have gone out the back door where we would never have been the wiser. Although I am not a fan of cigarettes I'll I defend your right to smoke them, just don't walk back and forth reeking of them, tainting my sense of smell with their acrid odor. I'm sorry it just seemed tacky somehow, and considering the couple wanted to present the restaurant as "higher end" it just seemed in bad taste...pardon the pun!
So I went to the local fabric store and bought red and white checkered material and made the overlapping tablecloths and napkins. I found a few suitable wine bottles and spent an hour dripping candle wax down the necks by hand; in this age of dripless candles I had to fake the bistro look! It was "Little" Italy with crusty bread, grapes, Chianti a broad spectrum of opera and classical music (be still my heart, Pavarotti), a whole lot of Parmesan and a menu fit for any homesick Italian.
We ate by candlelight and my lasagne was supreme, at least I thought so and I think the evening was a success. I love cooking and have pulled off Italian dinner parties before. There was this one party with ten friends crowded around our table and one guest watched with amazement as I delivered the many serving dishes heaped with Bruschetta, Cannelloni, Spaghetti Alla Cabonara, All' Amatriciana, Lasagna, and Fettuccini Alfredo. As I removed my apron and seated myself he asked, "My goodness that's a lot of good looking food, do you have Italian heritage?" to which I replied, "No.....an Italian cookbook."