1715 Kenaston Blvd
I normally don’t do a review after only one visit to a restaurant, but because this one is rather off our usual beaten track, I doubt we will be going back again anytime soon.
We stopped for lunch at Dacquisto the weekend before last while we were out and about the town. When initially stopped at this plaza it was with the intention of having lunch at Mongo’s next door, but at the last moment we decided to try a give the new place a try. We’ve had good dining experiences at other restaurants in the WOW! Chain and figured it was worth checking out at least once.
Our initial impressions were positive. The restaurant exudes a Moxies-level of upscale, and the pleasant aroma of the wood-fired oven greets you the moment you enter. The hostess seated us promptly, and our first drink order showed up very quickly in spite of some confusion over who should actually be taking our order. Our waitress confessed that she was fairly new on the job, so we cut her a bit of slack for that.
They gave us both a lunch and a dinner menu, telling us we could order from either. The lunch menu consisted mostly of sandwiches, and smaller portions of items on the dinner menu. Atara opted to go with the spaghetti and meatballs off the lunch menu, while I chose to order their wood-fired Siciliana pizza off the dinner menu. Finally we decided to split a bruschetta off their dinner menu as an appetizer.
Normally when one orders an appetizer, there is an unspoken assumption that it will arrive before the main meal. The purpose of an appetizer is to give the patrons a little sample of food in advance of their dinner to keep them occupied while they wait, and to whet their appetite. When our food eventually came, she brought out all three dishes at the same time. From the state of the bruschetta, it was pretty plain that the fault lay with the server and not with the kitchen.
If it had been brought out when it was supposed to come, it would probably have been quite passable. The flavours were still pretty good, but the toast was cold and soggy from sitting far too long. We probably should have sent it back, but being the meek consumers that we are we ate it without complaint and moved on to our main courses.
Atara’s spaghetti was uninspiring and forgettable. The pasta was cooked just right, and it had the proper proportions of sauce and meat balls, but both the sauce and meatballs were bland. The sauce could have stood an infusion of garlic, or almost anything to add a piquant touch to it. The meatballs needed help as well, both in flavour and texture. Some garlic and minced onion would have gone a long way toward salvaging these meatballs, but their biggest failing was the texture; the hamburger was ground much too fine for the meatballs. There are valid uses for fine-ground hamburger, but making meatballs out of it is not one of them.
Unpleasantly flavourless and mushy meatballs aside, we were also disappointed that the spaghetti did not come with garlic bread. It may be because we ordered it off the lunch menu, but that is really unacceptable for a restaurant of this calibre. Even most low-end greasy spoons will serve garlic bread with an order of spaghetti – they go hand in hand. It’s like serving chocolate-dipped ice cream in a plastic bowl instead of a cone. Like the soggy appetizer, the lack of garlic bread was not the end of the world, but it was part of a string of disappointments.
I would like to report that things got better with the pizza, but I cannot truthfully say that. The crust was delicious – by far the highlight of the dish. The rest of the pizza not bad, but it was woefully bland. The Siciliana is one of their bianco (white) pizzas, and this one came with “grilled hot and sweet peppers, ricotta cheese, grilled eggplant and fresh mozzarella.” If there were any hot peppers on the pizza, my palate certainly could not discern them in the mix. While we ate I regaled Atara with ideas on how they could redeem the pizza. Any of the following would have been a significant improvement in my opinion: enough hot peppers to actually affect the taste would have been good, as would roast garlic, pine nuts, and/or caramelized onions. Ultimately though I think the ricotta cheese was the deal breaker. I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to put ricotta cheese on the pizza. It added nothing to the flavour, and added a texture similar to the meatballs in Atara’s dish (hm, I sense a pattern here…). Substituting a soft goat cheese, a flavourful parmesan or even feta would have made a world of difference.
We never did get drink refills.
In the end, our meal was forgettable, but not terrible. If we lived closer to the restaurant I would be willing to go back at dinner time and try some other menu items before passing final judgement on the place. The atmosphere was very pleasant, and the service was friendly but inattentive (which I largely blame on the inexperience of our waitress). The prices were about what you would expect from a restaurant of this type, but a bit more than the quality of our food warranted. I give this place neither a recommendation to visit or avoid. Any restaurant that smells this good MUST have something good on the menu. We might have simply caught them on a bad day and had a very mediocre experience.
Out of *****