I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express near the Oakland Airport on the first two Friday's in November 2012 to attend jazz shows at Yoshi's Jazz Club down at Jack London Square and had dinner at Francesco's twice. I was lead to the restaurant by the hotel clerk who recommended Francesco's and a couple of other nearby places that were on their list of preferred eateries. I'm always in the mood for good Italian and Francesco's was just a couple of blocks for the hotel, so where to go for dinner was a no-brainer. I arrived at the restaurant around 6:30 p.m. and the place as packed with patrons with most looked like regulars of the restaurant. There's a sign on the outside of the restaurant indicating that this year is its 43rd anniversary, so Francesco's has been around since 1969 and when I stepped into the restaurant I actually stepped back into 1969 because the decor, including the booths and chairs, is from that era. Fracesco's would be a good candidate for one of those restaurant makeover shows you see on The Food Network channel. However, it was packed with a bunch of locals (usually a good sign that the food is good) and when I checked in with the hostess for a table I was told that the wait time would be about 20 minutes unless I wanted to sit at the counter, which I didn't. When finally seated, the server was friendly enough when she brought over a basket of bread and took my order. The bread appears to be homemade, or at least from a very good bakery, because it was very good. I ordered the Manhattan-style clam chowder which was tasty as well, and the pasta primavera for the entree. My big plate of pasta (there was enough for two) was chocked full of veggies but not flavor-- it was very bland and I had to add salt, which I don't like to do, to lend the dish some taste. Knowing that I would be back in town the following week and staying at the same hotel, I knew that I would give Francesco's another shot when I came back. Wanting to avoid the dinner rush and wait-time, for my second visit I arrived at the restaurant around 4:45 p.m., which was a good move. I beat the dinner crowd and was immediately seated in the lounge area where happy hour was in full swing. There were a few business men sitting at the bar along with when appeared to be some regular bar flies, a couple of groups of co-workers winding down after the long work week, etc. Again, my server was pleasant enough but when I asked her what the specialites of the house were, the more popular dishes, she was vague and said something to the effect that people usually "order the seafood or the pasta dishes" (duh!). Getting nowhere with her, I decided to order the Manhattan-style chowder again and a half order of the spaghetti/ravioli combination plate. Again, the chowder and bread was good but my entree was certainly nothing to brag about, it was just "OK." I can do just okay with a meal, but what I can't do is witness the server place her closed fist to her mouth and cough, which she did while standing around after bringing me my bowl of chowder, and actually taking a tissue out of her pocket and wiping her nose in full view of people eating while talking to the bartender (I was seated right in front of the bar). Fortunately, I had finished my meal and had been handed the check when she had the audacity to clean her nose in front of us dinner guests. I will be going back to Oakland to catch a show at Yosh's on occasion and likely will stay at the same Holiday Inn Express but will I go back to Francesco's? Probably not.
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