My wife and I and our two next door neighbors have birthdays in August and pick a restaurant each year at which to celebrate all of them together. This year it was Fratelli's Italian Steakhouse. New to the Winston-Salem scene, it seems to aspire to be a very high end establishment, given the range and pricing of its menu. It doesn't quite succeed, but some elements of greatness are present.
When we arrived, at our reservation time, we were promptly seated in the main dining room at a commodious four-person table with a nicely stained hardwood top. The room has muted earth-tone walls featuring an abstract seascape septych. The industrial ceiling is painted flat black, so that the wiring and ductwork are almost invisible. Until the room filled up, the noise level was soft, but when it reached capacity, it was hard to conduct a conversation without raising our voices.
Our server, Al, was among the most knowledgeable we have ever encountered. He walked us through the menu and explained the specials without once referring to notes. My wife selected one of the latter, a 10-ounce filet dressed with a lobster sauce ($38.99). I opted for a 10-ounce rib eye ($19.99). Our dining partners chose the same rib eye and a plain 10-ounce filet ($29.99). All steak entrées come with Fratellis family salad and one side. My wife's special included an extra side.
When the salads arrived, they were served in chilled pewter bowls and included amazingly crisp iceberg lettuce, apple chunks, craisins, candied pecan bits, and three shredded cheeses, dressed with an ambiguous, but very good, creamy house dressing. Because two fussbudgets in our party insisted on dressing on the side, we got individual servings. Other tables got a large bowl from which they served themselves.
Our mains were good, but not great. For example, the steaks were juicy, tender, flavorful, and cooked to the requested temperature. But they were not properly seared. A great steakhouse steak has a distinctive char; ours barely had visible grill marks. My wife's special had about two tablespoons of sauce containing a small amount of minced lobster. She judged it not worth the extra $9. And a great steakhouse serves sides as outstanding as their steaks. Ours were anything but. My herb Parmesan French fries were acceptably crisp, but lacked any cheese flavor while the "herbs" consisted of so much rosemary that any others that might have been present were completely masked. My wife's mashed potatoes were "creamy" but had "very little flavor." Her asparagus was steamed to tender crisp, but again that's all it was: steamed asparagus. Finishing in a skillet of browned butter would have been more appropriate to the restaurant's aspirations (and price point).
Desert, on the other hand, was both original and gigantic. My wife and I shared a Krispy Kreme bread pudding that tasted just like that famous Winston-Salem confection. Its texture and the accompanying vanilla bean ice cream made for a delectable finish. Our companions split an apple pocket pie the size of a large calzone, also a la mode, which they also found delicious.
Service was well paced until dessert, when we had to flag down a waiter to get menus. The desserts then arrived promptly, but, after we finished, we once again had to alert a manager that we were ready for our bill. However, overall we were well attended by Fratelli's staff.
We spent a very enjoyable two hours in this restaurant. We just wish we the check had been about 20% less. Then we would have considered our visit a good value as well.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.