Our favourite local Italian restaurant closed down recently and left a bit of a hole in our eating-out repertoire. It wasn’t especially trendy, but the food was good and unpretentious, the service was (usually) fine and you could usually get a table.
So, when Pinocchio opened recently in a shopping strip not too far from us, we immediately wanted to try it out. It may have had something to do with my love of fairy tales, or the wide variety of things on the menu that my notoriously picky man would eat, or the fact that they make their own pasta on-site, but I was really looking forward to going.
Anyway, we tried it out last night and while I don’t want to be overdramatic and say that my hopes were dashed, I was disappointed.
I don’t really consider myself over-critical of restaurants. I’m not one of those wankers who goes “god, I can’t believe their serving Tasmanian oysters, how passe” or anything; I am, in fact, liable to gush if I like a restaurant (for instance, Dandelion in Elwood or Ilona Staller in Balaclava). I just want courteous, sensible service, a good atmosphere and nice food.
I’m not sure Pinocchio delivered any of those things.
The fit-out, while stylish, was a bit pretentious (that was mostly the lighting and the ceiling, really), and all the hard surfaces seemed to really magnify the sound. It was very loud; even as busy as it was, I’m not sure it should have been so loud, but also there was the regular noise of cutlery-rummaging for some reason. Wherever and however they stored the silverware (it was nowhere near us and I couldn’t actually figure out where the noise was coming from), I don’t rate it, as it carried and the noise of hands rummaging through an enormous cutlery-drawer constantly was quite annoying.
The service was a bit crummy; not actively, just sort of in a negligent way. In their defense, it was pretty packed (mostly with families); however, when it cleared out a bit later, we continued to be benignly not-very-well-taken-care-of. When you only get some service after you’ve attempt to catch someone’s eye multiple times, something’s not right, and when your waiter does one thing and disappears quickly, without making eye contact and before you can ask him to do anything else, that’s not quite up to the standard I expect.
I had the mixed seafood pasta, which I always consider a bit of a test in an Italian restaurant. The house-made pasta I had been so looking forward to came out so al dente that it was chewy and got stuck in my teeth (it also sat like a lump in my stomach when I got home).
Not only was the pasta poorly cooked but it came with barely any seafood. One of the (seemingly obligatory) three mussels also tasted a bit off; and one of the bits of fish was practically raw, and not in a good way.
While the meal took quite a while to arrive, we figured that was just because my man ordered steak; but the dessert took a bit too long to turn up as well, which we found more inexplicable since presumably all they had to do was put it on a plate and sprinkle some (again, apparently obligatory) icing sugar over it; and the restaurant was three-quarters empty by then.
We shared a plate of the Sicilian cannoli for dessert. They didn’t give us a second plate. While this is just an added nicety that considerate restaurants will do for you when you tell them you’re sharing a dessert, it really would have been good in this instance as the cannoli was, of all things, crumbly, as the pastry was too thin.
The filling was bland, which I found irritating, since Sicilian desserts are nothing if not strongly and fragrantly flavoured (when you’re in Sicily, you can smell the cake shops coming for blocks before you get there). They didn’t even bother putting any Italian glace fruit in there (or if they did, you couldn’t taste it).
My cannoli’s massively better — and I use pre-made shells, for god’s sake.
Oh, and as we were leaving, we heard them apologising for totally stuffing up someone’s bill.
I don’t think we’ll bother going back.
Oh — and in case you’re wondering why I didn’t bother taking any pics of the food, like I normally do — it wasn’t particularly worth photographing.