Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pazzo Ristorante, Springfield, MA October 2008 Grade: D+

Joanne and Amy write:

I admit I am a repeat customer at
Pazzo. Despite mixed reviews, with the bad being really bad, I decided to try it. I had my niece for an overnight last spring and since it was next door to the Basketball Hall of Fame, and had a kids' menu offering "spaghetti and basketballs" and no line, we went. The meatballs were good, my pasta dish was nothing to write about, and the garlic bread was not kid-friendly. Our waitress took it back and had it taken off the check, although I hadn't asked for that. Given that excellent service, and my delicious arugula salad, I decided I'd come back. The menu had other interesting choices that I could try another time.

I did in fact go back for a late, leisurely lunch--on more than one occasion--this summer. I always get the arugula salad, and I have never been disappointed with it. One day I tried to recreate a dining experience from Italy (while Amy was actually there!) and ordered the prosciutto and arugula pizza. It would have been perfect if not for the Americanized red sauce on which the prosciutto and arugula sat. I made a mental note to order without sauce. Other things I have tried are the mussels and the pollo prosciutto lunch entree. The chicken dish is rich and delicious, a rather generous lunch portion, which of course is also more Italian-American than Italian...but I enjoy the leftovers and continue to patronize the restaurant. My service has been good and the food tasty enough to try it with Amy, and her discerning Italian palate, which we did last night.

Joanne has told me about her visits to Pazzo, while I had never eaten there before last night. I was aware of the mixed reviews, many claiming it's the best Italian in Springfield, many others, that it's the worst, and not much in between. I was a bit wary at first, but prior to the visit, as I often do, I perused the menu online, and it made my mouth water. When I got there and saw the wine list, I thought someone was reading my mind. All of my favorite red - from cabs to pinots to zins to great Italians - were there. I had to ask Joanne to choose because I'd never be able to make up my mind.

But back to the food. The appetizer that was especially interesting to me was the spiedini alla Romana, which was described as "mozzarella grilled Roman style." Unfortunately, what I got was a strange version of cheesy garlic bread. When it was delivered, I stared at the plate and thought, "I don't get it." Soggy, oily and served with a horseradish-based dipping sauce (!?!), it was like day old, microwaved French toast gone awry, and there was nothing "grilled" (the definition of spiedini!) about it. Joanne summed it up as a waste of good cheese, and I have to agree with her. Next I ordered their house-named salad which promised baby spinach with pancetta and crumbled gorgonzola cheese served in a phyllo cup with sliced green apples. How can you go wrong with bacon, cheese and pastry??? Well, apparently you can. Although the salad itself, large (not baby) leaves of spinach tossed with gorgonzola in a sweet and tasty dressing, was good, some of the bacon bits were hard enough to crack a tooth, and the apples were julienned and - unbelievable in October in New England - they were brown. The phyllo cup? Unspeakably bad. Pale yellow in color, I thought they forgot to cook it. Then I took a bite of it and my mouth was full of the taste of rancid, stale oil. So very very bad and so very very disappointing. The one hope of salvation came in the form of my entree. I went for a classic lasagne, and it was that. Layers of pasta filled with meat and cheese, it was quite good, but would have been better with less of the orange sauce in which it was drowning.

For me the only thing that didn't disappoint, besides the wine, was the arugula salad, which I suppose I can conclude now is the only consistently good thing on their menu in my experience. I was so disappointed, especially since it was Amy's first time there. Her name-that-cheese thing was so bad (not that the waitress noticed it was barely touched) that we shared my mussels done in white wine sauce. The preparation was simple and basic and hard to get wrong, but some of the mussels were a little mealy, so even that wasn't a great consolation. For dinner I chose swordfish, done with olives, capers, garlic, and tomatoes. I was in the mood for fish, and the Provencal/almost Puttanesca sauce seemed interesting. And it was good. Only the fish was swimming in it, pardon the pun. There was a lot of extra sauce but nothing to eat with it, as the dish was served with a side of polenta (a square piece) and vegetables.

The first time I went my server saved the day. Amy and I were not so lucky. As noted above, she didn't notice that things were relatively untouched, she did not come around--or send a bus boy--nearly enough to refill water, and she corrected our correct pronuncations of words that included a double-z, which sound like a ts. Like the restaurant name (after which Amy's salad was named), like intermezzo, like pizza for God's sake. Listen for yourself.

I agree that our server was unfriendly and inattentive. I think she filled our (small) water glasses one time in three courses. When she took away my salad plate, I said, "You may want to let the kitchen know that the phyllo cup tastes bad, like bad oil or something," she replied, "It's baked," and walked away. My mind's reply? "Baked or not, it tasted really bad, and by the way, you're a terrible server and I'm only leaving 15%!"

Would I go to Pazzo again? Hard to say. The prices were high, especially for what we got. If we hadn't had a gift certificate, we would have paid $100 each, which is the equivalent of two or three outings at one of our "favorite" restaurants. Joanne says their pizzas are good (with special instructions) and I'd like to say I'd be willing to give them a try. But I think it's going to take me awhile to get over last night's insult to Italian food.

Pazzo means "crazy," and honestly, I think we'd have to be to go back anytime soon.

1 comment:

Tam said...

So sorry to hear your dinner was terrible; J, I know how much you like this place. Still, I wanted you both to know how much I loved this post! - Tam