The waitress will scrawl her name in crayon on the paper tablecloth and ask whether you’ve been to the original Romano’s restaurant in Texas. You might start worrying about the authenticity of the Italian food, but there’s a certain charm to a restaurant that teaches you Italian by playing language tapes while you’re in the can.
There’s also a certain catharsis inherent in scribbling your acerbic criticisms of a rubbery panna cotta pudding on the tablecloth in lurid green wax. It’s a good thing, then, that the said waitress follows that with grinding some black pepper into a saucer of olive oil and delivering some pretty good bread.
More impressive is the mushroom ravioli, which arrives on a plate as long as a canoe. Each generously stuffed parcel of al dente pasta basks in a creamy, cheesy sauce littered with soft mushroom slices that are eagerly collected with pinched clumps of peasant bread.
Likewise, the shrimp and artichoke dip is another smooth concoction peppered with juicy seafood under a springy layer of lightly grilled mozzarella, topped off with grated parmesan and accompanied by thin leaves of toasted bread. As the disembodied voice in the bathroom might have announced, ‘Bellissimo!’
The salmon dish lives up to its ‘simple’ tag. The fillet, which rests across several substantial spears of crunchy green asparagus, is appropriately crisped on the outside yet perfectly pink and moist within, while the lobster ravioli is packed with tender, sweet meat, but rather drenched in a slightly overpowering lemon butter sauce.
Shame about the rogue panna cotta and functional tiramisu. Other than the mediocre desserts, a surprising good meal can be had here.