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Restaurant Review: Ristorante Picolino’s

Picolino’s So, the first idea was that I was going to go through September without going out to eat, and save a couple bucks. For my last meal before the fast, I decided to head to Picolinos, a nice Italian place in my area, and that I would get an outside seat and enjoy a meal in one of the increasingly rare warm evenings of Seattle’s late summer—Picolino’s is known for it’s outdoor garden. The second idea was that the whole thing would be a surprise for my girlfriend. Picolino’s (Pico’s, sometimes) is almost more of a compound than a typical restaurant. There is a full Italian dinner restaurant, a deli, and a cafe, all housed in the same building but with different operating hours and menus at each. I’m a frequent-buyer card-carrying regular at the cafe to the tune of 3-5 times per week, so I was stoked to try the full-meal evening-out experience. The service at the cafe by the morning staff is excellent, and it was they who assured me that I would be able to get a table outside at around 8:30 p.m.; no need for a reservation. (Note that because it’s a wholly different experience, the Picolino’s cafe will be getting its own, dedicated review.)

Where I wanted to sit.

So, I arrived with my surprised girlfriend around 8:30, all dressed up, and was abruptly informed that Picolino’s had just finished serving outdoors for the evening. We were somewhat impatiently asked if we wanted to eat inside instead, to which my girfriend replied “sure,” while I stammered in confusion that “we were informed that we could get a seat outside,” etc. Eating outside was the whole goddam point of the venture, and I got kinda bent out of shape by this admittedly accidental bait-and-switch. We were hurriedly moved into a hot, noisy room where the volume of crowd conversation and diningware clatter made it difficult to hear my server or girlfriend. I was visibly sweating in my seat. It was uncomfortable on a few levels. Risking coming across as difficult, we soon asked to be relocated to the next room, which was dimly lit, very quiet, and cool, with a gentle breeze. Much better! Despite the earlier disappointment, the cool air helped me warm up to the place. The interior on the south end of the restaurant was suitably dark for a nice meal, with tasteful art, candlelight, expensive diningware, and a cadre of diners dressed to impress. It’s a nice place.

I had to shoot these during the day, as the place is too dark to shoot at night. It was packed for dinner.

Our server, Isabel, who I spent most of the evening wishing I could hug, was a total gem. She was friendly, funny, and sincere, and she successfully eased my visible anxieties about the fact that I was about to spend money on a very different evening out than I had intended on having. I wondered if the staff had sensed my displeasure with the scenario and assigned their best server to the case. I enjoyed a crisp, fresh salad that was suitably tasty if unmemorable, and table bread. My entree, however, which was the smoked duck ravioli, was beyond reproach. Four large, overstuffed ravioli weilded an perfect combination of salty, savory, creamy, smoky and spicy flavors. The portion size was perfect and it arrived at the ideal temperature. I was really wowed by this, and would love to have it again, although I believe it’s a rotating special. Picolino’s very nearly saved the evening from disappointment due to the unfortuante miscommunications that resulted in a different experience than I had planned on. The food is great, but not quite great enough to justify the expense. The service is disarming, professional, and polite, but an internal miscommunication resulted in a significant disappointment. Ate:

$81.40. Dinner for 2 with salads and wine.

Appetizer: Salad, bread. 7/10 Entree: Duck ravioli, a special. 8.5/10 Drink: Some wine the GF chose, it was tasty but I’m no wine guy. NA/10 Scores: Food Quality: 8/10 Service: 5/10 Cleanliness: 9/10 Atmosphere: 8/10 Presentation: 7/10 Bang/Buck: 3/10 Server: Name: Isabel Competence/Attitude: 10/10 Tipped: 15% What my Girlfriend thinks: Appetizer:  The house salad had nice greens, but the vinaigrette was not great. I have a tendency to judge a restaurant’s food by how well they make vinaigrette. Silly, I know. Also, the parmesan shavings were not real Reggiano, or if they were they’d been cut long ago and were flavorless. Score: 5/10 Entree:  Chicken Marsala. This entrée included fresh spaghetti with roasted garlic and olive oil. The chicken was nicely cooked, but everything needed salt. Score: 6/10 Drink: A really nice Oregon Pinot Noir.  Score: 8/10 Food quality: 5.5/10 Service: The service was very friendly and attentive. 8/10 Cleanliness: The restaurant is clean. 9/10 Atmosphere: The main room was very noisy. We requested to sit in the far room, which was darker and much quieter but perhaps too dark. 7/10 Presentation: Average. 6.5/10 Bang/Buck: My entrée was NOT worth the $22 price tag. 5/10 The menu contains too many choices. Server: Competence/attitude: She was very inviting and efficient. I didn’t ask for food recommendations so don’t know if she would have been helpful in that way. 7/10 Ristorante Picolinos on Urbanspoon


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7 thoughts on “Restaurant Review: Ristorante Picolino’s

    1. tombailiff

      Hi Ryan,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. In reading your review, the main theme appears to be your disappointment with not scoring a table, during peak dining hours, (8:30 pm) on the patio, on a balmy Saturday night with out a reservation. This seems to over shadow an otherwise delightful & throughly enjoyable evening.

      It appears you may have misinterpreted what the barrista at the cafe said:

      “We don’t take reservations for the patio, but you can come on in and they can seat you on a first come, first serve basis”.

      As one might reasonably expect, on a busy Saturday night, one might have to wait a few minutes to get a table on the terrace. Most of our guests are happy to wait 10 to 15 minutes, enjoy a glass of wine and then be seated on the patio terraces. Perhaps, you didn’t have time to wait or were just impatient.

      I’m glad the staff accommodated your multiple requests, including the latent request to be moved to a different table in the middle of a busy dinner service.

      Your visit under scored that our staff is able to accommodate guest requests under the most pressing circumstances…whether they be reasonable or not. We’ve always tried to take the high road of the “customer is always right”.

      T.

      Reply
      1. Bellsauce Post author

        Thanks for your polite-ish reply, but there’s a few things here I take issue with. First, of course I was disappointed that I didn’t score a table at 8:30 on a Saturday—but I was assured by a member of your staff, beforehand, that it wouldn’t be a problem. I think this is an understandable cause for disappointment—moreso than if I had just been walking by, popped in, and been informed that this wasn’t an option. I had planned my entire evening around misinformation from a Picolino’s employee. This is very different than walking in with the intent of “scoring” a table.

        1. It appears you may have misinterpreted what the barrista at the cafe said: “We don’t take reservations for the patio, but you can come on in and they can seat you on a first come, first serve basis”.
        Were you present for this conversation? I find it somewhat presumptuous to quote them, and—if that’s what you’re doing—they are being misquoted.

        2. As one might reasonably expect, on a busy Saturday night, one might have to wait a few minutes to get a table on the terrace. Most of our guests are happy to wait 10 to 15 minutes, enjoy a glass of wine and then be seated on the patio terraces. Perhaps, you didn’t have time to wait or were just impatient.

        Not the case. As stated in the review, I was abruptly informed by impatient waitstaff that they had “stopped outdoor seating.” We were not offered the option of waiting, so even if I had been impatient, the invitation for outdoor seating was not extended.

        3. We’ve always tried to take the high road of the “customer is always right”.
        Good good. I work in customer service and this is my attitude as well. However, I’d suggest that accusing a paying, repeat customer of impatience, and informing them of not-one-but-two conversations they did not have with your staff is not in accordance with this. In fact, in a single comment, you’ve told this customer that he is wrong. Twice.

        Curious—which of my requests did you find unreasonable? We requested a move to a quieter room before even ordering, which doesn’t strike me as unreasonable. Perhaps it is. But fact is, nobody puts down $80 on dinner for two for the sake of the restaurant’s convenience.

        Reply
  1. tombailiff

    Dear Ryan,

    There are many other fine restaurants in our city. Based on your response, we encourage you to try them and perhaps, they can meet your expectations. We apologize for the inconvenience you experienced and I hope you find a restaurant which meets your standards.

    No hard feelings. In this business, although we try, we can’t please everybody. Thanks for sharing and we wish you all the best.

    t.

    t.

    Reply
    1. Bellsauce Post author

      Likewise. Flukes happen. The place was packed, which wouldn’t be the case without good reason. Furthermore, your attentiveness to your establishment’s online reputation—prompt replies here and subsequent apology—go a long way with me.

      For what it’s worth, I have found the service at your coffeeshop, which I purchase from several times per week, to be among the best I’ve experienced in Seattle—or anyplace else. While my above questions remain unanswered, know that my experience at the restaurant hasn’t dissuaded my opinion of the Pico’s Cafe. I will continue to patronize it and am happy to tip well.

      Reply
  2. tombailiff

    Dear Ryan,

    Whether or not you believe your expectations are reasonable is academic and there is little point in going over what we have said. We tried to clarify, explain and of course provide a genuine apology for the misunderstanding.

    On the cruise lines, we were taught long ago, when one has a challenging guests, one always tries to always get them over the side with dignity.

    We hope you will enjoy the other establishments here in Ballard and may I take this opportunity to recommend and encourage you to try Besalu or Honore which are very nice places.

    t.

    Reply

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