My family celebrated my father’s birthday at Grotto’s Italian Ristorante in The Woodlands. The occasion offered a perfect time for a critique of the restaurant. Everyone has his or her own expectations of what makes a grand dining experience. We go to a restaurant to eat. Thus, the quality and taste of the food is a central core to any review. However, there are other criteria just as important. The environment must be friendly and clean. We expect waiters and servers that are happy, attentive and responsive. Obviously, the restaurant must have food prices that are a reflection of the restaurant rating, food quality and overall dining experience. Grotto Ristorante is one of The Landry’s signature groups of restaurants. Being a signature restaurant elevates it above the other brands that Landry’s offers and raises the diner’s expectations. In my opinion, the restaurant does not deserve the accolades.
Entering Grotto’s the customer is in the bar area, with many tables arranged for happy hour revelers. Through the bar is the dining area. The acoustics are non-existent. The ceiling is high. Each sound made in the restaurant echoes throughout the large dining room. There are no dividers or booths in the main dining room just tables and a polished concrete floor. Every sound travels through the whole room. If, expectations are a quite romantic dinner this is not your dinning venue. However, the décor does have some old world charm. The main kitchen is visible from the dining area, through large glass windows. The diner can watch the chefs preparing meals with all of his huge copper and stainless pots and pans. To add to the ambience, there is a large wood burning pizza oven in the center of the room, circled by the antipasti bar.
The bar area was busy, however; the dinning area only had a few patrons. Our party consisted of five people. The waiter promptly arrived as the hostess seated us. I thought this was an excellent sign until he informed us he would try to provide good service! He explained he was also waiting on a table of eight with additional reservations for another party of eight. He did not need to warn us to expect sub-standard service. Lack of attention was obvious as we waited for menus and drinks. One of the features at Grotto’s is the antipasti bar. We arrived a little before 6 P.M., but the sous chef was late setting up the antipasti bar. With menus in hand, the waiter informed us he had not been advised of the evening special and could not describe it to us until the head chef arrived. Without the antipasti bar or knowing the evening special, it seemed our waiter was on a time schedule as he rushed us to place our entrees. We decided to wait for both the antipasti bar and the daily special to be named. The hurried atmosphere never changed the desert tray showed up half way through the meal. Even with the rushing he was never at the table when drinks needed to be replenished. The waiter never established a rapport with our table. He was distracted and obviously wanted to be doing something else.
It is too bad that the service and obvious late setup had set the tone for the evening because the food was extremely good. Grotto’s offers dishes not available at most neighborhood Italian diners. The Italian seafood dishes are above average. The Parmesan Flounder was great, so was the Linguine Pescatore. Even the pizza was better than most. The menu has a wide range of offerings normally only found in Northern Italy. The antipasti bar contains unusual dishes like the eggplant ragout, but some that are familiar such as sausage and peppers. The wine list is also encompassing with wines from Tuscany and the more scare Piedmont regions. The pricing for the meal was expensive but in line for a signature restaurant with exceptional dishes. The dishes are sophisticated that require an involved preparation process. We spent $220 plus gratuity, including a bottle of Santa Margarita Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige region in Northern Italy. The region is one of the oldest wine producing regions in the world, beginning in the fifth-century BC. (Info from the wine menu).
It is a good thing that cleanness is not one of my review topics. We all expect food establishments to be clean. We only make comments if the facility is dirty. Grotto’s is clean, and the kitchen sparkles through the windows. The service was bad, and the restaurant was noisy. Diners go to restaurants, for many reasons; to celebrate, entertain, meet with friends and simply eat. Grotto’s certainly has the potential to satisfy any occasion; hopefully, our waiter just had a bad night and his service not systemic to the management and training at Grotto’s. The food good enough for a return trip, and hopefully better service
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.