I’m not sure that writing about a restaurant while the food is burbling around in your gut is the fairest thing to do, but it’s 8am and I can’t sleep and Ravelry has forgotten to wake up the dancing clowns for my amusement.
La Grolla is one of those places where the super awesomeness is so evenly matched with its super unawesomeness that you’re just not sure what to tell people. Yeah, the food was good…but
A big hit in its favor is that they are open until 11pm. Half the time, David and I don’t even think about food until later in the evening, then it’s a 12 day marathon of “where do you want to go?” “I don’t know, where do you want to go?” “i don’t know, where have we eaten lately that we liked?” “I don’t know, let’s go somewhere new.” “like where?” “I don’t know what do you think” “I don’t know, what do you think?”
In a more perfect world people like this would die of starvation before they had a chance to breed. Lucky for us, humans don’t cull the weak or the sick, they accommodate them with later serving hours.
After all our digging around, La Grolla won out simply because it was open and it got a good review from Dara Moskowitz. Oh Dara….I’m losing faith in you.
It definitely had that “cozy little italian place” going on, without having to resort to strands of garlic bulbs on the walls and fake salamis and cheeses hanging over the kitchen. Unfortunately, when I think ‘cozy’ I don’t think ‘300 watt lightbulb 12 inches from my head trying to burn a hole through my vitreous humor”. Turn down the lights a bit! I’m not saying dark and moody, just…less intense.
The waiter was nice he had his “flirt with the girl just a little but not too much while still talking up the guy” patter down. The menu was diverse with your old time italian standards, a good number of italian dishes you don’t often see in your average italian place and then a few surprises here and there. The wine list was packed and varied, maybe a little too packed. Unfortunately, the mark up on the wine was obscene. Obviously there’s mark up on a bottle, that’s expected and accepted, but $8-9 bottles going for $30, $42 and even $50 was a bit much. These are good wines, these gems of the $10 and under world, but a mark up like that is…ugly.
The calamari came highly recommended to we ordered that and a salad of belgian endive, hearts of palm, fresh fennel and pecorino in a lemon vinaigrette. I loved the calamari, very light with a crisp puff and tender tender squid. The arrabiata sauce that accompanied had a fresh, almost undercooked flavor. I enjoyed the calamari, but I think David was somewhat unimpressed. The salad was consistently all one color (off white) but for the single radicchio leaf garnish. The salad was very light and crisp, the kind of thing you’d want to eat on a very hot summer evening just as the sun was going down. All of the ingredients worked well, but they just didn’t ‘POP’. It was missing one thing, but I’m not sure what that would have been, maybe orange vinaigrette, maybe candied pecans? I don’t know. We’ll place this salad in the “tasty but not memorable category”
We chose the Bonny Doon Sirah to go with dinner. I thought it went well, but was probably a tad heavy. It was perfect for the arrabiata sauce with the calamari.
David ordered the rigatoni alla matriciana. I only had one bite of his, but compared to what I ordered, I was not interested. I had the tagliatelle alla bolognese and I wanted to sit there all night slowly eating bite after bite. This was the perfect bolognese, not just some red sauce with meat. This was slow cooked, flavorful and almost creamy. I wanted to slam my face into the bowl and scream filthy things at my pasta, but perhaps it was the wine.
The problem with pasta dishes is that they are so hit or miss. I know never to order stuffed pasta as you with only get a few raviolis or manicotti artfully arranged to seem like more. Sometimes you get a dense bowl stuffed with pasta or sometimes you get what David got and end up joining the clean plate club a good 15 minutes before your partner. Poor guy, he had to sit there watching me eat all that and I was not exactly offering it up to share. No, this tagliatelle alla bolognese is MY DIRTY GIRL!!!!!!
also, there was a drunk guy at a table near us trying to not be obvious about the sexual references he was making but he was too drunk o realize that BJ isn’t a sly code word that no one knows, especially when he yells “and there were no…BJs for him anymore!!”. Indeed, the rest of the area was thinking, ‘oh, poor guy, no more Ben and Jerry’s’ and not ‘dang, a blow job is like the easiest thing to ask for, if he’s not getting them then he must have really pissed her off’ (this is one of the myriad reasons why I cannot be a professional food critic, I talk about blow jobs). The table next to me was 2 couples living vicariously through their children. The polite and genteel oneupmanship regarding the professional lives and childhood achievements was the best argument for stealth sterilization that I’ve heard in a long time. Also, if you could make a career out of name dropping, the dude next to me would be the Steve Forbes of talking about other people who knew other people. But don’t forget these people, we’ll get back to them momentarily.
Dessert. Is there any sweeter word in a fat girl’s lexicon? I ordered the ‘tulip’ described as a cookie with mascarpone cream and fruit. The tulip was in fact a giant almond tuile formed into a bowl and filled with sweet mascarpone and fruit. Lovely. I wanted to order something small since I’d already consumed so much but here I was with another dish screaming for me to just stuff my face. David ordered the chocolate mousse and I was much impressed. definitely made fresh, by hand with very dark chocolate and not too much sugar. I had a bite of his then got mack to my cookie-bowl of love.
There was a slight mix up with the bills and we got to see what the vicarious parents were getting charged. 2 couples went to see a show and decided to go out after. One couple ate before the show and just ordered dessert. The other couple had not yet eaten and ordered entrees. When the entrees arrived one lady offered some of her chicken to the other lady to try. The other lady took some and tried it and said it was good. The waiter saw fit to hit them with the $3 split plate fee, a fee they slap on when you decide to get one entree for 2 people. I’m not a fan of this, but fine, you can say that you are charging for the extra work the kitchen has to do in dividing things on two plates and then the extra plate that has to be washed. In this case, they weren’t splitting the entree, there was some ‘trying’ going on. There was no extra plate, the kitchen did no extra work. The restaurant listed the fair price for this entree and a person ordered it and when it arrived at her table it was hers to do with as she pleased. a split plate fee for a meal that was not split is asinine.
When we finally got our bill it was definitely higher than expected (but with no hidden charges, thankfully). The food was good, the service was lovely, but none of it was worth what we paid last night. Even our dinner at Al Vento for my birthday was cheaper than this and it was the same sort of deal, salad, appetizer, two entrees, two desserts, bottle of wine. The food at La Grolla was definitely delicious, but Al Vento has them beat by a mile for flavor and complexity.
So, while the food was good they need to drop the price a bit, dim the lights and stop charging stupid fees because we all know that the profit margin on pasta is huge. I’d definitely go back, but only if someone else was paying.