Lunch with Louie at Palazzio
Santa Barbara food reviews with Louie the pessimist food critic
Mar 02, 8:50 PM (PT)
So America is undergoing an obesity epidemic, too much food, and the wrong kind. You immediately direct your thoughts to McDonalds, Jack in the Box etc, etc. Wrong! Right here at 1026 State Street we have one of the culprits, a major one. Palazzio seems to be convinced that if you serve a whole bunch of stuff, no matter what it is or what it tastes like, that it will qualify you as both a good restaurant and a successful one. Their motto is “people never leave here hungry.” Well, I did. I couldn’t eat their overcooked pasta, or the torrent of sauce my poor noodles were drowning in.
It seems food is the last thing in their mind; it’s all about gimmicks. The two little rolls dunked in a mixture of garlic and oil come to your table almost at the same time that your posterior touches the seat. What’s the hurry? And, who ordered garlic rolls anyway? And, why should they come every ten minutes like they advertise? I want mine every 20 minutes even though I’m not going to eat them. And, why do I have to get up and serve myself a glass of bad wine? That’s not funny or even cute. Why don’t YOU go and get me my wine? Get me my wine! I ain’t getting up and getting it myself. I am paying for it, so you go and get it for me. Right? Lets go back to the food.
We went for lunch this time with Ed’s son Z. Z was born ten years ago, but just five minutes with him and you would think you are sitting with a 28 year old who is not only intelligent and witty but also charming, funny, and just plain delightful. I understand you can now read his column in edhat.com. Back to the so called food.
Lunches are all $7.95 and for 2 dollars extra you get a salad, soup, or a Caesar salad. The pastas are listed as a QUARTER of a serving. Can you imagine? A quarter of a serving was that giant monstrosity they put in front of me. What does a full size looks like, and where do they find the plate to put it on? We ordered Rigatoni with chicken, Penne al Fumo and Spaghettini al Pollo, all with a side order of salad. It was a good five pounds of food each. Our waiter didn’t need to go to Gold’s Gym. Carrying those plates was major weightlifting.
Two of the dishes tasted exactly the same, even though they were completely different on the menu. When you put a gallon of cream and a half-gallon of oil on some ingredients, you drain the life out of them; you can call them anything you want. At the end, it’s just gook.
And by the way, when are so-called Italian restaurateurs going to learn that when we go to your place of business and order pasta, we expect you to take the raw pasta, cook it, drain it, and serve it. We don’t want your noodles that were cooked in the morning and have been waiting in giant pots for some schmuck to order them. Your so-called pasta winds up overdone, mushy and soggy. We like our Spaget fresh and al dente. Capice?
I remember the first time I went to Palazzio in Montecito in 1993. Not much difference except the lettuce was browner then.
I couldn’t eat much, so I asked our muscular waiter if I could have some plain bread instead of the every-ten-minutes garlic rolls, and to my surprise he said yes. Five minutes later I got 3 rolls; the same ones that come every ten minutes minus the oil and the garlic. Maybe they gave them a quick rinse. Three rolls and 7 pats of butter, that’s what I got. Hey, “people never leave here hungry!”
Somebody told me afterwards that Palazzio has been voted “Best Italian Restaurant” in the Santa Barbara Independent many times since its opening in 1993. I am beginning to lose faith in the taste buds, expectations, and food knowledge of its readers. Thank God for my three saviors - Prilosec, water pick, and Crest!
--- L --- L --- L --- L ---
Good News! A Lovely place at 14 E Cota, the Firebird, where you can get good cheese and fruit, a glass of a great Cabernet Sauvignon from Spain called Abrazo, sit in a beautiful plush couch and listen to great music, all for $3.50. Just show up between 5:30 and 7:00 during the mellow hours and you are home. Some people call it Happy Hour - like the rest of the hours of our life are not?
Edhat reader comments:
“An unnecessarily harsh review. I do not agree with Louie at all, although it has been over a year since I have been to Palazzio. I don't recall mushy pasta or overly dense applications of sauce. The only thing I have actually ordered there is the angel hair capellini dish. The rolls are great, and my experience is, you have to ask for more. I never seem to get the "every 10 minutes treatment". The issue of wine: while I have never had it there, helping yourself is just their novel way of serving wine. It is their signature way to deliver that product. I don't think it deserves such negativity. What is an issue for me is slow service there. When you dine there, you know you better not be in a hurry.
In closing, I have a problem with critics who criticize just to do so. Louie has certain requirements for dining; they don't match up with mine.”
“I completely agree with Louie. I once went, against my better judgment, to the house of noodles called Palazzio. My food was terrible; the noodles (I refuse to call them pasta) were, indeed, cooked at start of business, and were fat, bloated and tasteless, like some culinary Marlon Brando. Because of the nature of the cooking process, these poor drowned noodles soon release all of that excess water, and dilute an already poor excuse for a sauce.
The fact of the matter is that this town, where I was born and raised, wouldn't know good food or a great restaurant if it fell from the sky and landed on them. They see a busy place, and like lemmings, they go. Think Pascucci. I have been to good Italian restaurants, some here, like Ca'Dario, and some in Italy. Applying murderous amounts of garlic, or serving voluminous amounts of nasty noodles do not a good Italian restaurant make.
One of the real problems, Louie, is that here in Santa Barbara the restaurant owners are in such a hurry to move to Montecito and get the Benz that they don't think they need to hire a real chef. With VERY few exceptions, the vast majority of the food cooked here is by a legion of line cooks, who rotate between restaurants. The vast majority of these line cooks are from similar national origins, and those origins are not in Italy. Therefore, the food around here all tastes very similar. Bad.”
“Oh, man, Louie, I couldn't agree with you more! That this place has been voted "Best Italian" in Santa Barbara so many times is beyond comprehension. Maybe those votes are by the thousands of students living here who have unexercised taste buds. And no offense, BB2, but capellini di pomodoro is probably pretty darn good wherever you get it - it's a simple, beautiful dish that you can make at home with virtually no effort. The rest of the food at Palazzio is goppy, goopy, and overripe. I'll stick with my favorites - Ca'Dario and Enoteca Primo. Oh, and Pane e Vino. Love your column!”
It's obvious Louie was not around or has forgotten what Palazzio is/was all about. When it started in Montecito it was meant to recreate a provincial Italian eating experience where a plate of pasta is served to the table and is meant to be eaten by the whole table not just one person. The wine is the same. In rural Italy at a family style restaurant one would order red wine with no pretensions and it would come to your table in a plain bottle with no label obviously refilled in the back from a larger container. In Italy this is a common type of eating experience in the rural section and this is what the original Palazzio was all about and it did a pretty darn good job of recreating this experience. Unfortunately, as with many good things, that experience and it's aura has changed with its popularity and things get lost in the translation.
- Signore Pazzo
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