Sunday, July 29, 2007

Review of Antonio's Italian Grill

I was afforded the opportunity to eat at this little Italian Restaurant located at  1105 Center St, Deer Park thanks to my fiancee's family.  Nothing like a little family gathering to go out to eat to a new place, or in this case, a place familiar to the family, but not to me. 

As soon as we were seated I noticed that there were little bowls filled with oil (which I correctly assumed was olive) and spices.  This is always a good sign for an Italian restaurant as this means that some kind of bread will be sure to follow and you will have bread to dip in your olive oil, the Italian version of chips and salsa. 

Sure enough, shortly after we were seated and before our drink orders were taken, a waitress emerged carrying baskets of warm bread.  In each basket were two versions of bread.  One was the common elongated loaf which as pre-cut.  It was a soft garlic bread.  The other version was a singular piece of bread shaped like a triangular puffy pillow.  The crust was a harder than the other bread, but still quite soft.  It was also sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.  These pre-meal appetizers left me with high hope that the rest of the meal would be quite enjoyable.

The salad course, on the other hand, was quite a disappointment.  As with many restaurants, you got a dinner salad ahead of your entree with your choice of dressing.  When I asked what the choices of dressing were, I got a very pedestrian choice of ranch, Italian, Thousand Island, and blue cheese.  I naturally chose Italian since we were at an Italian place and since it was the closest thing to a vinaigrette.

When our salads did arrive it was easy to identify them as the standard iceberg salad mix with a few bits of shredded carrots.  I think I even managed to find half a grape tomato in there somewhere. When I finally took a bite all I could notice was the tang of the dressing.  I don't know where they got it, but it was too much acid and not enough oil.  The salad was nothing to get excited about. 

On to the entrees.  I ordered Spaghetti Dimare.  Spaghetti noddles, calamari, shrimp, mussels, and clams tossed in a light tomato sauce.  My fiancee ordered the Tuscany Grilled Tuna.  This promised to be a delight since it was a grilled tuna steak served with fettuccine noodles.  My fiancee's sister ordered a Stuffed Chicken Florentine, which was a chicken breast stuffed with cheese and spinach.  Her boyfriend ordered a Char Broiled Steak Pomodoro.  I must say these were really quite a hit and miss bunch.  After the initial good start, I was surprised by these dishes.

My dish was quite good.  The tomato sauce was a nice compliment to the sea food.  It did not overpower the complex flavors hidden within the mound of pasta.  Truthfully I only had two complaints about the dish.  Fist of all, it could have used a little more of the wonderful seafood.  A lot of volume was taken by the shells of the clams and mussels that were left in which made for nice presentation.  However, sometimes it seemed I had to dig to find what was the main thrust of the dish.  The other complaint that I have is that I really wish they would have deveined the shrimp.  To me, deveining shrimp just shows that you are willing to go the little extra for your diner.  You also have to worry that sometimes undeveined shrimp tasty a little crappy.  Well, what do you think is in the shrimp "vein"?  I would call this dish good.

My fiance's dish was kind of a disappointment.  When I read grilled tuna, I was expecting a tuna steak that had been nicely grilled on the outside but still leaving a beautiful red center.  Boy were my fiance and I surprised to find that the tuna had been completely cooked through.  Sigh.  I have always said that if you want well done tuna, might as well get it out of a can.  This was no exception.  While the taste was indeed good, you lost some of the subtlety of a rare to medium rare tuna.  Not to mention that it was a bit dry.  The pasta was good, but it just could not detract from the over cooked tuna.  Sigh, yet another dish that did not live up to its potential.

My fiance's sister's dish was one I only tasted slightly.  From what I could tell, it was not bad.  The spinach and cheese mixed together nicely and had a good flavor.  The chicken was not overdone and rubbery.  So, I guess that the Chicken Florentine passed.  At least it did from the small morsel I had.

The Char Broiled Steak Pomodoro is one that I have to report on only by hearsay.  From the account of the person who ate it, the pasta part of the dish was good.  The steak was not.  The steak was, like in a good deal of restaurants, over cooked.  He had ordered it medium well.  When he got his steak, it was more like well to over done.  Here is a little tip I have picked up over the years.  When going to a restaurant for the first time and ordering steak, order your steak a degree of doneness under what you really want it.  Chances are that the restaurant will err on the side of caution (read liability) and over do your meat.  (The exception to this rule is steak houses since it is their business to cook steaks right.)

So overall, I would not count this experience as unpleasant.  However, I don't know if I would go back there on my own.  If I did, I would just have to try something different.

Antonio's Italian Grill on Urbanspoon

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