Saturday, October 31, 2009

Don't Be Fooled By The Chain


Our first real night out in Stamford was borne out of a foodie’s frustration: it was Halloween night, it was raining, my husband Maarten and I were starving, and Google wasn’t exactly cooperating in popping up spectacular restaurants. Earlier in the week, during my first Connecticut Wal-Mart excursion, I noticed an Italian restaurant to my left just before I jumped back on I-95 to head home. Unbeknownst to me at the time, that restaurant, Bertucci’s, was a chain restaurant, one which I had never heard of before because its tentacles hadn’t yet reached the murky depths of the South – namely, Atlanta.

After much cajoling, I finally convinced Maarten that we should go to Bertucci's for dinner. His argument that “it’s too far” fell on deaf ears since it was barely 8 miles away. So at 8:30 p.m., I grabbed an umbrella, slipped into my coat and off we went.

First impressions can truly be deceiving. We walked inside the restaurant through the carry-out entrance. When we reached the main dining area, the place looked deserted. I swear I could almost hear my own echo when I gasped audibly. A semi-cheerful hostess materialized from behind a counter and nearly scared me back into the womb. Maarten couldn’t hold it in any longer. “Are you open?”, he asked in disbelief. Because it sure as heck didn’t look like they were open due to the lack of customers. The hostess assured us that, yes, they were open, and proceeded to march us, combat style, to a spacious booth.

When our waiter appeared, he was at least a skosh bit more lively than the hostess. He gave us a brief rundown of the menu, took our drink orders and gave us a few minutes to let it all sink in before we began our food fest.

While drinking my Stella Artois – which, by the way, was so cold and refreshing that it made my eyebrows crystallize – we decided to start the meal with the Tuscan Chicken Wings. The waiter brought a complimentary plate of an olive oil, herbs and garlic concoction that could ward off any vampires within a twenty-mile radius. It wasn’t just essence of garlic; there were actual fresh minced balls of garlic – tons of ‘em. One thing I’ve discovered about garlic: if you eat too much of it, your tongue burns. Needless to say, my tongue burned.

We placed our entrée orders after the Tuscan Chicken Wings arrived because, in my honest opinion, there’s far little worse than being in the middle of chowing down on an appetizer and your sizzling plate of food arrives in mid-gnosh.

Now, Bertucci’s claims that their wings are an original, but they tasted suspiciously like the Mardi Gras wings I used to get at Publix Supermarket all the time. That doesn’t take away at all from the wonderfully juicy, crispy and flavorful Bertucci’s wings; I’m just saying. As Maarten and I licked our fingers like they were straight off the menu, we marveled at how delicious the wings were. Definitely worth a second trip to Bertucci’s if just for that one little pleasure – chain or not.

Finally, our meals arrived. I was ready to rip into my Romagna pizza which consisted of tomato sauce, fresh spinach, mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese and roasted garlic (in addition to the chicken that I added). Maarten took the more radical route of ordering a create-your-own special pizza loaded with chicken, broccoli, goat cheese and mushrooms. He’s such a rebel, that husband of mine.

The Romagno was a surprising hit. The crust was nice and thin and had that distinctive brick oven pizza flavor. Maybe it was the cheese, or it could have been the tomato sauce, or perhaps even it was the simple addition of chicken that made that pizza so good. But what made it a real winner for me was the flavor that held its own two days later in my leftover slices! When you can pop leftover pizza in the oven and have it come out tasting even better than when it was fresh, that’s the sign of delicious pizza. Will I go so far as to say it was even better than the mass quantities of Quattro Formaggi pizza that I ate while in Italy? Naw, not even close. But that’s not to say this pizza was put to shame.

And for as much as I enjoyed my pizza, Maarten sat on the other side of the table nearly oblivious to me as he only had eyes (and taste buds) for his equally palatable pizza.

Would I recommend this restaurant?  I would recommend Bertucci's without any hesitation.

Is Bertucci's a good value or do you need to take out a loan to eat here? A great deal for date night, a family outing, or whatever tickles your fancy.  While not super inexpensive, the meals aren't unreasonably expensive either.  Some items, naturally, are pricier than others (such as a filet mignon with Chianti sauce @ $20.99 versus a calzone for @ $10.50). meals are very reasonably priced and you won't necesssarily break the bank.

What about atmosphere and ambience? The decor seemed a bit impersonal and crusty-rustic – not particularly aesthetically pleasing, but I wasn't totally put off by it, either.  I guess if you catch the staff on any night other than Halloween when they were probably chased around the oven by kids dressed as ghosts and goblins and pulling cheese out of their hair all night, the wait staff would be more cheerful.

Bertucci's has about a dozoen restaurants in Connecticut.  There's a lot to choose from on the menu so bring your appetite.

1 comment:

  1. They are definately a Northeast establishment - i looked at their website. The food does sound good - surprising for a chain...