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.)
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.
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:
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