This is certainly a tough time to open a new restaurant and if you are going to do so, you better make sure it stands out. Massimo Fiume, an Italian native, recently opened Ristorante Pavarotti in Reading, at the site of the former Savory Tastes Cafe. I dined there the other evening and was underwhelmed. I think they will need to work much harder if they hope to survive, especially with Venetian Moon as their nearby competitor.
Some interior changes have been made to the restaurant from when it was Savory Tastes. The small bar at the back was removed, a wall was put in its place and the kitchen is no longer openly visible to the customers. It still seats approximately 40 people. The walls are decorated with pictures of Italian scenes and people, as well as shelves with wine bottles. It presents a bit of a higher end ambiance and not just some casual Italian joint.
I first checked out the wine list and was disappointed by their very limited wine-by-the-glass options. They basically carry only a single producer, Delicato, plus a single Chianti. Both are very inexpensive, ok wines but also very forgettable wines. As the restaurant only has a wine and beer license, I had hoped they would carry a better selection of wines by the glass, especially if presenting themselves as a higher end restaurant. The wines by the bottle offer more variety, many priced in the $20s and $30s, yet there are still a number of forgettable wines there as well.
As for the food menu, there are a limited number of appetizers, generally costing $10-15, and the least expensive salad is $7.95. They have plenty of entree choices, incuding pasta, seafood, chicken, veal and more. There is actually a list of about ten different and interesting preparations for chicken or veal, and all are priced the same, $16.95 for chicken and $19.95 for veal.
Prior to my food arriving, I received a basket of sliced Italian bread with oil. The bread was fresh but it was neither warm nor special. I think this was a missed opportunity to help differentiate this restaurant from others by offering some compelling bread choice. In this economy, even the little things count for a lot. Why go here for ordinary Italian bread when I can get a hot, homemade loaf at another place, or maybe a basket of hot garlic bread?
I ordered the Chicken Saltimboca, which consisted of two, thin cutlets that had been folded over prosciutto and melted cheese, and in a sherry wine sauce. The dish came with ziti in a red sauce, and that was your only pasta option. Why is that? Almost every other Italian restaurant I know at least gives you the option of spaghetti or ziti, and the better ones give you even more choices. I think that is another missed opportunity. The dish also came with some roasted potatoes. Overall, the chicken was good, tender and flavorful, and the sauce was tasty. I liked the dish though I did not consider it exceptional.
I also got an antipasto ($11.95) to go. As I carried it to my car, I could tell by its light weight that it might be lacking. Most times a good antipasto is quite heavy, filled with plenty of meat, cheese and veggies. When I got it home, I confirmed that it tended to be on the smaller side and was an ok salad. But still not comparable to much of the competition out there.
Service was very good and the owner, Massimo, was also present and making sure that everything ran smoothly.
The restaurant has only been open about two weeks so they must be granted some leeway as they work out the usual kinks of any new place. I do think there is room for improvement, especially if they want to be competitive with all of the other local Italian restaurants. And Venetian Moon is a formidable competitor. Ristorante Pavarotti needs to do everything they can to stand out, to be above the ordinary.
I'll return here in the future to check on their progress, to see what changes, if any, occur over the next few months.
601 Main St.