Inconsistent and mediocre food, often-neglectful service, but infinite starters! I have been here a few times and it is an okay place. I have never had a great meal here. But it is always eatable and most meals are served with unlimited bread and soup or salad. Unfortunately for Mario’s, I had one of the lamer performances on the visit I happened to take my camera and scratch pad with me to. Poor luck for them. But, a good place is consistently good. Paradoxically, the only thing consistent about East Side Mario’s is their inconsistency. It amazes me how busy it always is. Come one people, there are MUCH better places here in the city. However, the price is really good if you take advantage of the endless bread & soup/salad.
When we arrived, a table of four, we were asked to wait for a half hour to forty five minutes. There were NINE empty clean tables in one section, not being used? There were an additional three empty dirty tables just waiting to be cleaned. So, we waited with a cluster of other people on a list. When I got fed up of waiting, I went to the bar to order a drink, to help me wait. The others waited at the door to be seated at one of eleven open tables. I sat and waited there while the bartender chatted with friends and washed dishes. You know that awkward, “hey come take my order” smile and head nod you do while looking right at the server ignoring you? I think I looked like a bobble head doll I was doing it so much. Eventually I even included the small “pay attention to me” wave. The bartender thought it meant keep chatting and ignoring the clientele. At long last, fourteen seconds before my need of booze overpowered my desire to be polite, she took my drink order. At just about the same moment, they sat us at one of the tables that had been empty the entire time. It all seemed so random. I realize that not overwhelming the kitchen is an important aspect of running a successful kitchen. But, if there are 12 empty tables on a Saturday should customers be made to stand around like morons for forty-five minutes? Apparently, the answer is yes.
I like Italian wedding soup, and though not the best ever, theirs is okay and salty enough. I like salt… probably too much. I ordered the soup but at 7:31 on a Saturday the half-empty restaurant with a 45 minute wait had run out of soup. Cool. So, I got Caesar salad to start. It had way too much dressing on it. The bread with butter is white bread with butter. Bread with butter that comes with supper is always a good thing, always. My in-laws had the other salad. That worked well for me because I got to eat their unwanted pickled pepper garish. Score.
Back to my Caesar, drink not salad. It was alright. It is called the Ceasar al Diavolo and with a name like that and bragging about its spice I wanted more heat. Oh well. My pasta was spicy though. I ordered one that the menu indicated with a little pepper symbol as being hot: Firecracker Shrimp Penne. I liked it. Our dinner guests both ordered the same thing: Scallop Carbonara. I love seafood, the sauce was creamy and tasty. The scallops where well cooked, not hard little mounds of chewiness. The green onion garnish was too plentiful, though, and kind of took over until much was scooped off. My wife had the Vernazza Peppercorn Alfredo. I liked it because there was a LOT of cracked black pepper in it. There was too much of it for her. She spent her time picking massive chunks of peppercorn out of her pasta and, unfortunately, a hair. It occasionally happens in restaurants and I tend not to freak out about it… but not a garnish we were happy to see. Gross.
I was a bit confused about plating. My salad came on a warm plate. My pasta was on a cold plate. Epic fail. Our server, like the bartender, wasn’t very good. I drank other people’s water to stave off death, as I have had to at many other places. (Okay, so I am a bit melodramatic.) I tip big for people who give me water. I really wish servers would realize that if they bring water on the way to take an order they can fill waters on their way. Happy people tip more. Plus if you bring water when you are already making a trip then you won’t have to make a special trip for just water. Less work more money. Enough said. Start doing it.
Despite my criticism, I will be back. I know many people that like going to East Side Mario’s so I go there with them. I don’t suggest it but, having been suggested, I don’t fight it. It has some very good points: fresh pasta that is sometimes done really well; the fact that I can fill up on soup/salad/bread and take my meal home is a drawing card as well. There is nothing wrong with being cheap. Two meals for the price of one! And, as the food is lackluster anyways, eating the leftover pasta you bring home is not a crime towards the food gods. It’s not like you are bringing home half of a medium-well tenderloin to murder in the microwave. (Okay, I’ve taken home steaks, but in my defense I fry them the next morning with eggs.) East Side Mario’s is okay and a good deal with the infinite starters.
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