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“Got business in downtown Jacksonville FL during the day? Well, stick-around downtown for dinner at La Cena that will be superb!!” 5 of 5 stars
Review of La Cena Ristorante

La Cena Ristorante
211 N Laura St, Jacksonville, FL 32202-3501
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Ranked #212 of 1,678 Restaurants in Jacksonville
Price range: $31 - $50
Cuisines: Italian
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Dining options: Reservations
Dining style: Fine Dining
Cross street: Between Adams and Monroe
Transit: People Mover at Hemming Plaza
Boston, Massachusetts
Top Contributor
57 reviews 57 reviews
39 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 24 cities Reviews in 24 cities
32 helpful votes 32 helpful votes
“Got business in downtown Jacksonville FL during the day? Well, stick-around downtown for dinner at La Cena that will be superb!!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 26, 2013

Great italian food prepared by the Owner-Chef and presented by two of the best servers anywhere!
Since finding La Cena a year or so ago we're smitten! Big time! Spoiled by wonderful food, great wines, and superb attention without being obtrusive!
A 5 STAR Restaurant anywhere in the world!

  • Visited October 2013
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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49 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Mc Lean
Top Contributor
161 reviews 161 reviews
116 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 56 cities Reviews in 56 cities
75 helpful votes 75 helpful votes
“Expensive, but worth it”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 12, 2013

This restaurant was recommended by my hotel concierge while I was on a business trip. This tiny restaurant sits on a busy street, with the very nice bar the first room upon entering. Down a short flight of stairs is the dining room: cozy, well appointed with requisite white table cloths. I ordered the Caprese Salad, which was delectable with plump juicy tomato slices and imported from Italy Mozzarella...the only detraction was the basil was a bit too old and slightly bitter, but still the best Caprese salad I've had since visiting Italy. My entree was a veal dish with artichokes and capers - truly spectacular! My waitress suggested an Italian wine that was outstanding and paired perfectly with my dinner. I have to mention the bread sticks - they are homemade, delicious and about two feet long, perched in the table lantern on each table. All the waitstaff were friendly and helpful. I can't wait to come back to this restaurant.

  • Visited November 2013
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Switzerland, Fla.
Top Contributor
157 reviews 157 reviews
76 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 66 cities Reviews in 66 cities
131 helpful votes 131 helpful votes
“"Diamond in the rough"”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 18, 2013

We have been eating Chef Jerry's food for over 30 years. Why? The simple fact is that he is the only chef in Jacksonville that makes homemade pasta, and everything is fresh. The pasta dishes are extremely delicious, and I even dream about my favorites. Previous restaurants were La Pasta Frescas in Orange Park (2 locations), then a move to Longwood, Florida, back to Jacksonville in the Lakewood area, then to downtown Jax.
However, we only eat at La Cena once or twice a year because of the following unfortunate negatives-
The service is very bad. Jerry never has more than two servers. Last week we took friends there, and I was so embarassed over the slow service. After eating recently in NYC and Spain, where we were treated to real professional servers, it was almost as though we had to serve ourselves to get water, bread, wine, etc... The bread sticks stuck "center table" need to go.
The decor is very bland and tacky. In the street level dining area there is a "bar" with no liquor, and tacky plastic red flowers hanging from cheap baskets on the back wall. There are about 6 tables on that level, that NEVER have anyone sitting there. Walking down the steps to the dining area, you are "sensory slapped" by an orange wall, (NO WALL HANGINGS), and a Spanish style fountain filled with tacky plastic vines. Ick! There was some music playing very lowly when we arrived, but soon after nothing. In other workds, there is no atmosphere. This place is SCREAMING for an interior decorator. When you need to use the restroom you have to go outside into an interior walkway that is not part of the restaurant.
The menu is very confusing. You can order a "half order" of pasta as an appetizer for $29.00, or a full order for $30.00? Huh? If you share food you will pay $18.00. Most meals are $30.00-$35.00, definitely "NY prices".
Chef Jerry is very quirky, stubborn, and has "run off" alot of our friends because of bad experiences they've had. One rule he needs to implement now is that long pants are required by men, and no flipflops please. When we are paying over $200.00 for a diner for two, we don't want to see someones ugly toes while eating our meals.
This restaurant could sparkle if it had atmosphere, perfect service, and a full bar, The sad thing is that knowing Jerry for over 30 years, he is not going to change anything because he can't see the "forest for the trees" , and will not take advice from anyone.
The house salad is a pathetic small plate of mixed greens with a strong bitter taste and no tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, etc.. You have to pay extra for gorgonzola or blue cheese. The dessert menu hasn't changed in 30 years! Jerry is apparently "not into" innovative homemade desserts.
Some of you are probably thinking of not going to La Cena, but if you love perfectly cooked and flavored pasta, and can afford it, this is definitley a restaurant in Jax to visit, just be prepared to wait for food. We will continue to "treat our taste buds" a few times a year to delectable pasta.( There is also a page for chicken, veal, and beef dishes)

  • Visited June 2013
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 1 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 1 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
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Seattle, Washington
Top Contributor
50 reviews 50 reviews
31 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 31 cities Reviews in 31 cities
16 helpful votes 16 helpful votes
“Overpriced, did not live up to the hype.”
2 of 5 stars Reviewed April 12, 2013

We visited La Cena last week on a client dinner after a few people told us it was a hidden gem in downtown Jacksonville. We didn't want to drive, so decided to walk to La Cena and give it a try. We walked in and were one of 3 tables in the restaurant. The decor is outdated (fake plants, dark paint) and there was a musty smell that was noticeable from the moment we walked in.

We started with trying to order a bottle of wine from the stained paper print out that they called the wine list. After listing 3 bottles and being told they were out of them, we had the waitress choose one that was actually in stock.

We ordered the artichokes for an appetizer and while the sauce it was in was quite tasty, the artichokes were chewy and did not taste fresh.

The entree menu is quite large, which scared me a bit. My philosophy with large menus is that a restaurant can't possibly make all of these dishes well. Turns out, I was right.

I had the flouder (catch of the day) prepared with shrimp and mussels in a light tomato sauce with a side of pasta. The flounder was drenched in oil and was breaded (not noted on the menu). My co-worker also got the flounder, and her plate was covered in oil as well. Both of our dishes were over salted and definitely over-priced for what we got. I don't mind paying $30 for an entree, but this was not worth the price.

The service was good, as the waitress was able to provide us with knowledge about the wine and the menu.

For the price, I could get a way better meal elsewhere and will not be back. It's a shame, as this could be one of the few great restaurants in downtown Jacksonville.

  • Visited April 2013
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 2 of 5 stars Food
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Senior Contributor
29 reviews 29 reviews
19 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
12 helpful votes 12 helpful votes
“New experience”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed February 20, 2013

I was hoping that this restaurant was going to be as good as many of the reviews had said, especially since it was out of the way for me. We decided to try this place for a late Valentines Day dinner, as it was some place new. I did like the area and felt safe despite being on that end of town, they have done a lot of work to revitalize the area. The first level of the restaurant was a bar with a few tables, but there is no hostess stand they come running up downstairs. It was a little off-putting at first, but there are alternatives to running the front of a restaurant I guess.Reservations are highly suggested, as there are only maybe 12 tables down stairs.
I guess it had been recently renovated, because there was a paint smell. It wasn't unpleasant or strong but it was noticeable. The tones and colors were nice but the walls were a little too bare. Tables features a loaf of bread and a tinderbox. Don't eat the bread in the tinder boxes. I am pretty sure it's meant for decoration. The menu gave plenty of options, even if they were incredibly confusing and took the staff a little bit of time to go over with us.
The bread had good flavor and texture but could probably be better served warm. The wine list was extensive but the staff was knowledgeable enough to suggest a very nice red for the evening (they aren't priced by the glass, but by the 250ml carafe, so don't balk at the price) The appetizers were very good, perfectly cooked muscles and homemade pasta.
That was all really the upside of the meal. Dinner was....good, if you like authentic Italian I guess. Maybe I am just too spoiled by Carrabba's. The items were cooked well, but the flavors and textures were a little strange. The "breaded" fish was sauteed with breadcrumbs sprinkled on top. The "bolognese" had balsamic vinegar in it. The spinach was sauteed in olive oil but while still on the stem, which resulted in a unexpected bitter taste. There were regulars making suggestions left and right we probably should have taken, if we go again I will stick to a pasta dish.

  • Visited February 2013
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Food
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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