My girlfriend and I were in the Murdock area and decided to have a "nice meal", which we usually don't get to do, and decided on Donato's based on a friends recommendation. Here's what I thought...
Foods: After a lengthy wait in the bar, we were sat at a table in the corner of what I'm calling their themed "box office" room. We started with the polenta fries. They were a bit dry, and lacking in... something. It's hard to figure out what exactly. They were just... plain. The aioli sauce that came with them was pheonominal, but couldn't quite make up for the dryness and lack of flavor on the fries. I give them a two out of five, sauce a five out of five.
For entrees, she had the lasagna, I had the Tour of Italy (chicken parm, lasagna, and fettuccini alfredo). The tour was amazing, save for a lack of salt on the chicken parm and lasagna. The chicken was breaded perfectly, with just enough sauce to not make it mushy by the end of the meal. I found the size to be a little small, but it's a mixer plate so that was expected. Chicken gets a four of five.
The lasagna had all the texture and flavor of my Aunt's - pasta cooked perfectly, not too much sauce not too little. Meat seasoned nicely. Mind you I don't use the word perfectly often, so when I say Donato's cooks it's pasta to perfection that's saying something. I did find an overall lack of seasoning in general, specifically salt, However; living in Charlotte county you will notice many restaurants not using salt like they should due to the demographic of the residents here (old people, heart attacks, etc). Lasagna gets a four out of five.
The fettuccini was out (whaa...???) and I was offered my choice of other pasta, I went with Ziti. Once again, perfectly cooked, and the alfredo sauce was delicious, smooth, and velvety. I think the ziti alfredo was the highlight of my entree. The fettuccini gets a zero, but the ziti alfredo gets a five out of five! Warmed/fresh baked bread was served with the meal with a side of oil - always a nice touch.
Drinks: We started our evening at Donato's waiting in the bar which meant walking by the most amazingly creepy animatronic subway denizen ever. Seriously get rid of that thing - you're going to give kids nightmares. The bar was crowded and hot, but comfortable, and the staff was amazingly nice for how extremely slammed they were.
Drinks consisted of a starter round of Jim Beam and Coke for me, Malibu Baybreeze for her. Both were generously poured and went down fast in that heat. From there we went to bottled beer. Sam Adam's Boston lager for me, Strongbow cider for her which we stuck to throughout dinner. The beer selection was small but varied enough to keep an import drinker happy. Drinks get a five out of five.
Service: This is where Donato’s really shined for me. We walked into a crowded foyer, and were immediately greeted by two smiling hostesses who asked if we would like a table for two. They pointed us to the bar with one of those buzzy/red-light blinking coasters and told us it would be about twenty-five minutes. The fact that it took fifty (yes - five, zero) minutes didn’t really bother us as the bartender and barback were extremely affable and kept us in good humor. When we finally got to our seat the waitress was friendly and calm, despite the busy dinner service. She was on top of things without being pushy and this is a huge thing for me as I have worked in the service industry for many years. Five out of five on service, I can’t say enough nice things about the staff here.
Atmosphere: I’m torn on this one. The seating was crowded seemingly everywhere. I had a fake window planter jutting into my elbow all night at the table. Tables sat with old glasses, plates, silver, etc for very long periods of time. The animatronic subway sax guy. They all were horrible, and yet the overall ambiance was nice. The interior decorator did an awe-inspiring job. You would not expect to see this level of detail in a restaurant in Port Charlotte. The room we sat in had a fake building scene on the wall with backlit opaque windows, and LED stars in the drop-tile ceiling. The other room had spacious booths and a street scene... We should have called for a reservation and asked for a booth but eating here was a last-minute decision. New York-ian Italian music is quietly pumped throughout the house. I have to go with my gut and say three out of five. It could have been a four, but, you know, nightmare-inducing subway guy.
Overall: Four out of five overall. I would happily eat at Donato’s again. The food was well done, and the staff was top-shelf. If you plan on going I would highly suggest a reservation and a booth, but otherwise any fan of NY, NY or Italian cuisine should find comfort in Donato’s.
Note: If you would care to contact me about anything I said in this review feel free to contact me through trip advisor, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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