Friday, August 24, 2007

La Scala


La Scala
1012 Eastern Ave.
Little Italy, Baltimore
410-783-9209
Italian
www.lascaladining.com
Cost: $$$
Reservations: Varies
Date of meal: Friday, August 24, 2007 (6pm)
National Price-Quality Frontier: Inside It
Baltimore Price-Quality Frontier: Inside It

I made reservations for 6pm on Friday night at 5pm the same day. While it was filling up by the time we left at 7:30, reservations are probably not going to be very necessary except perhaps for large groups or at 8pm on a Saturday.

There are two levels. The main level has a bar with a dining room behind it. There is a second floor for overflow seating, which is where they stuck us. It was overflow seating, and felt like it.

At La Scala, they have a very long list of specials in addition to the main menu. These are full of crab and lobster; prices are not mentioned. I like the idea of specials as a way to serve the freshest ingredients available that day, but that is clearly not what is going on here. Specials are used here to get (a.k.a. trick) people to spend more on entrees than they had planned. Of course, other places do this also. A more consumer-friendly approach would be to say the prices when listing specials, or put them on a board. Given that several specials showed up on online reviews, I'm guessing they are always "specials" in which case it would be more transparent to put them on the menu.

Our server, while perfectly professional, was not really able to give any suggestions. When my spouse asked if he had any pastas he particularly enjoyed, he said everything was popular and good. I'm not sure what this meant except that he didn't have much knowledge about or interest in the food, which was the sense I got generally. I think we may have just gotten a bad draw, the server helping the table next to us seemed quite a bit better. (As we walked out of the restaurant, a regular was greeted with hugs by the manager; as someone who had been shuttled up to the second floor for indifferent service I felt like I got 2nd class service as a 1st timer.)

For wine, I had a glass of Chiani Classico (Valliano, $8) that was drinkable but not memorable. My spouse had two glasses (I was driving) of the Poliziano (Montepulciano, $13) which was quite good but not surprisingly so at that price point.

Before food is brought, they serve excellent warm bread with olive oil. There is also a cold vegetable plate with potatoes and green beans. These have a sharp flavor, of what I suspect is balsamic vinegar. I thought these were good and a nice touch.

As an appetizer, we had the Funghi Abbruzzesse (about $7), sauted mushrooms topped with cheese. While neither the mushrooms nor the cheese was terribly good, the sauce (rosemary, olive oil, maybe some wine) was richly flavorful.

For entrees, I had Fettuccini alla Amatriciana (about $18), which has prosciutto, onions, and tomatoes. To my taste, this Amatriciana was way heavy on the tomatoes to the point where the other flavors couldn't come through. It wasn't terrible, but it felt smothered. My spouse had a the chicken Raffaelo (also about $18), which was chicken with artichoke hearts with prosciutto in a wine sauce, served with a side of penne pasta. It was kind of like a veal marsala but with chicken; we both thought it was excellent. Portions were large, and we took much of it home despite enjoying it thoroughly.

For dessert (which our server did have opinions about, perhaps to help make a sale), we split a cannoli (about $6). You can have one cannoli filled with up to two fillings. Options include chocolate (which we got), espresso (which we got), hazelnut, and something else. The chocolate was excellent (and recommended by our server) while the espresso was not. It had a hard graininess to it, like flavoring came from dumping in lots of store-bought pre-ground espresso beans.

Overall, our meal was fine but not as good as it could have been. At $90 (not including tip) for two people, I was a little underwhelmed. Fortunately, Little Italy has many other great options. At the price point, I think La Tavola offers better service and better food (in our limited experience) at the same price point, in the same neighborhood, and with similar menu.

1 comment:

Andy Mon said...

Went to a work dinner there tonight. The fried calimari starter ($11) was great, I liked the bruschetta but others in our party did not, especially the kind that had goat cheese or something on it.

I didn't think highly of the shrimp toast, and the grilled caesar salad was fucking disgusting. (They grill the romaine, not a chicken breast topping) It tasted waxy and slightly burnt and looked like a triffid's uterus.

The jumbo shrimp and crabmeat alfredo ($28) was awesome. I'm sad that I couldn't finish it and it didn't seem like enough to bother bringing home.

Others in our party had Little Baby Cow Parmigiana, which looked OK but I don't care for it; shrimp fra diavolo, a huge ribeye, and the catch of the day, snapper which came wrapped in parchment paper and contained mussels and vegatables as well. It looked like a mess but probably tasted good.

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