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Restaurant Review: Small Portions and Big Disappointments

Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici. With a name like that, my expectations were

high as I first learned that this is where I would be dining for my friend’s 20th

birthday. And as I entered the tall, mahogany doors and laid my eyes on the elegant

dining room, my expectations continued to grow. Fancy chandeliers and tables filled

the space, which, might I add, was lit beautifully. By the time my server politely

asked what I would be eating, my expectations were somewhere between Mars and

Jupiter. After my meal, however, I found myself disappointed, unsatisfied, and worst

of all, hungry.

 

It had been my personal mission to dine at the Culinary Institute of America

for the past two years. The Culinary is a college that specializes in cooking and

baking arts education. In order to provide experience for its students, the school

opened a number of restaurants that would be staffed by qualified students. It is a

student who will be seating you, a student who will be taking your order, and yes, a

student who will be preparing your meal.

 

Although we were just a bunch of hungry college kids, from the moment we

stepped foot in Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici, we were treated like royalty. We

arrived fifteen minutes early for our 7:00 reservation but were immediately

escorted to our table. Our menus were already waiting for us, and as I picked up the

single-sided piece of paper, well, that’s when I began to panic.

 

How can an entire menu, from appetizers to sides, fit on just a single piece of

paper? That was the first thought that popped into my head.

Octopus?! was the second thought, only this one managed to slip out of my

mouth.

 

My friends laughed at my visceral reaction, and in an attempt to cover up my

horror, so did I. But as I continued to scan the menu, I realized I was doomed.

Absolutely doomed.

 

So the octopus was a definite no-go. And there was absolutely no way I was

going to try the rabbit. I mean, those things are pets! While I’m certainly not a

vegetarian, I could never bring myself to eat a cute, little bunny that was happily

hopping around just a few days ago.

 

Swordfish? No.

 

Veal? Hell no.

 

Basil-crusted grouper? Uh…what even is that?

 

Eventually I settled for what appeared to be the simplest (and safest) item on

the menu: pollo ai peperoni, which is simply roasted chicken, stewed peppers, and

onions.

 

As we waited for our food, we were certainly not forgotten about. Our

waitress served us basket after basket of bread, which my friends described as

“delicious” and “addicting” (hence the need for refills). I opted to not take part in

this pre-meal feast because I did not want to spoil my appetite. I was at Ristorante

Caterina de’ Medici and I was going to enjoy my entrée!

 

After waiting over 30 long and excruciating minutes, it was the moment of

truth: our food had arrived. As my waitress reached over and placed a large, white

dish in front of me, I could not contain my excitement. I had been waiting for this

meal for the last half hour – for the last two years! – and the moment was finally here.

The moment I had been waiting for.

 

And then I looked down. My smile promptly disappeared from my face and

the pangs of hunger in my stomach turned into knots of regret.

Sitting below me, in a gigantic dish, was what appeared to be a piece of

chicken. Actually, scratch that. It was a piece of a piece of a piece. In other words,

this was the smallest portion I had ever received at a restaurant.

I immediately dug into the chicken, expecting to find the rest of my meal

hidden beneath. But no, to my disappointment, no hidden food was found. I then

looked up at my waitress, hoping she’d yell “April Fool’s!” and bring out my real

dinner. Again, I was disappointed. It’s September.

 

At that point, I did all I could possibly do: I dug in and took a bite. If I’m

paying $20 for a scrap of chicken, then it better taste like angel tears (not that I

know what angel tears taste like).

 

So…you’re probably wondering: well, what did it taste like?

 

Well, I’ll tell you. It tasted like chicken.

 

Yeah, that’s right. I said it. It tasted like chicken. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Was it good? Yes, it was good. But so is the chicken I cook for myself every

day. So is the chicken I get at Applebees. So is the chicken at the deli, grocery store,

and practically any establishment that serves food.

 

The only difference? They don’t cost me my live savings and they actually give me what I came for:

a meal. At Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici I paid a huge sum of money to merely taste

a meal, rather than eat it. Like I said, if I was given angel tears or magic meat I’d

gladly spend the money. But nope, I was just given chicken.

 

Overall, the experience was enjoyable and something different, but ultimately

could not deliver what I ultimately came for: a worthwhile meal.

For me, Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici provided a small portion, big checks,

and an even bigger disappointments

 

I mean, as I was leaving, I was having regrets about not eating the pre-meal

bread. What does that say about a restaurant?

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