Following a two year hiatus, and in the mood for authentic Italian, we returned to Auntie's. Word was that it had changed hands and had improved. Our past experience was quite good, so the promise of improvement was most encouraging.
Arriving on a bustling noisy Sunday night we were warmly greeted and ushered to one of the few remaining available tables. The awkwardly positioned open and expansive kitchen was source of much of the noise and bustle. A re-thought kitchen design with walls or partitions could reduce some of the noise and frenetic feel that pervaded the dining area while providing additional seating. Less a theater kitchen and more an invasive view into the restaurant's unappealing entrails. The entire venue seemed shabby and attended to in a careless manner.
The menu offered most of the usual Italian suspects. Calamari surprisingly is absent. Pasta and sauce variations claimed the leading role. Straightforward spaghetti and meatballs was her choice. An appetite for Italian sausage led me to pasta with sausage sauce and a possible meatball side. I noticed, however, that sausage meal was priced higher than the reverse, meatball sauce with a sausage side. Frugality prevailed. Pasta and meatballs with a sausage side would be the order. Nevertheless, the server reported that sausage was not available. I settled for penne and meatballs. Our server promised that bread would be delivered as soon as it was finished in the oven.
He kept part of his promise. The bread was delivered. Unfortunately, the bread was brought from the oven before it was finished. Pale dough balls wallowed in a butter-flavored puddle with salt and garlic powder. This provided no appetite tease but was foreshadowing for the slip-shod product the kitchen produced.
The pasta, cooked just-right, was delivered in two family size serving bowls. The portions looked very generous. The portions became more than generous. They became unmanageably enormous with the first disturbing taste. A decidedly off-putting bitter flavor pervading the sauce. A heavy-handed treatment of oregano cooked to absolute death fouled the entire dish. Neither of us chose to finish.
The three large meatballs topping the pasta were just O.K. and would have passed Chef Boy-ar-dee's quality control for his canned products. They were not up to genuine Italian restaurant standards.
No check-back from our server and prolonged attempts to secure his attention for the check to conclude the disappointing event seemed appropriate to the entire experience. Clearly Auntie Pasto's is not one of our favorite Aunts.
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