Monday, March 2, 2009

Ristorante Pavarotti: Underwhelmed

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.

Ristorante Pavarotti
601 Main St.
Reading, MA
Phone: 781-670-9050


JacquelineC said...

I think two interesting points are made here: the debate about cutting out bread misses the mark. We enjoy bread, good bread. It sets a tone for the meal. Two, red sauce with Saltimbocca? Too bad this meal didn't "jump in the mouth" and delight you the way saltimbocca should.

- Jackie

Richard A. said...

Thanks Jackie. Good bread should be so easy too. Why get lazy with it when it can be such a prominent greeter for the rest of the meal? I hope things improve here with time.

Anonymous said...

Richard, we ate at Pavarotti last night. I could not agree with your review more. There is nothing special about the food. The prices, for what you get (both in terms of quantity, and quality), are high. We ordered the fried calamari appetizer, costing $11. It was really very good. But the portion size was small, and should have been price no more than $8 for such a small portion. Our entree experiences were the same as yours--good overall, not exceptional, and I'll go one step further--overpriced for what they are. Unfortunately, it will not be long before there is a "Restaurant Available" sign hanging where the Savory Tastes logo used to be.

LauraP said...

I have eaten here twice and I think it's excellent. It's authentic Italian and I'm so glad Reading finally has a nice restaurant like this. And IMHO Venetian Moon doesn't even compare!

Anonymous said...

We ate at Ristorante Pavarotti in Reading last night, and my husband said hands down, "the Veal Parmesan was the best he has ever had". The red sauce was unbelievably good tasting and veal was extremely tender, with a tasty, crispy coating, just the way it should be. I had the Chicken Picatta and that was very, very good as well. Tender chicken (you can cut with a fork)and a very lemony sauce, with lots of butter. The prices were $ 20.95 and $ 17.95 which is certainly not shocking, especially knowing the quality of the ingredients used in the meals. I got a side salad loaded with field greens and house creamy balsamic dressing that was excellent. That was $ 3.95. My martini was literally filled to the rim with the vodka I specified, unlike a lot of restaurants. The setting is fabulous right in the center of Reading with huge windows to look out. The inside is dreamy and romantic with just the right lighting to see what your eating but not too bright. Our server Jacqui, was welcoming, friendly and gave us exceptional service. Am an avid cook, and appreciate a restaurant that knows only using high quality ingredients achieves a high quality dish.