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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fontina Ristorante: Not worth the money!


Lunch date #15, May 11, 2012

Wow—where did the last month go? We've been eating lunch fairly regularly…but I really need to update these postings! Good thing I have detailed notes so the review is not left to my memory! Yikes!

In our quest to sample all of what downtown has to offer, we again amended our rules. We elected to try Fontina Ristorante (349 Main Street; www.fontinas.com) even though we had both eaten there before-although I don’t think Mom had been there for lunch, so I suppose it still qualifies as a new-to-her lunch spot. Lots of friends recommend Fontinas…most of the Yelp reviews are pretty good, but even though I have had enjoyed dinner there several times, I didn't recall particularly enjoying their lunch. But considering my less than reliable memory these days (and what is up with that?), we figured to give it another try.

Location 5 points. Perfect downtown location with inviting outside dining on the front sidewalk area.

Ambiance 4 points. Mom was quite taken with the lovely flowers planted in pots around the outside dining area. Lucky for us, it was a warm afternoon and we were able to get an outside table. They do an admirable presentation with linen on the tables and market umbrellas. The inside dining area is also nice, but since we didn't even go inside on this particular day, we will limit our comments to the outside area.
Fontinas lovely outdoor seating

Menu offering 3 points. We thought very few items on the menu that would quality as the usual lunch fare: few salads and sandwiches. The other entrées were full-on heavy meals. The specialties were rather pricey at $18-20 so we certainly were not going to pick those! I asked the server for some advice and she highly recommended the grilled vegetable sandwich. As I'm a fan of that type of sandwich, I agreed to have that. Mom went with the grilled chicken sandwich and both of our choices were served with a bit of fruit and a small serving of salad greens.

Service 4 points. We were seated right away and promptly had service. Fresh baguettes and olive-oil for dipping were brought out quickly as well as our drinks. Refills were frequent. The server was very cheery and helpful. When I mentioned to her that I didn't care for the sandwich—yes sadly quite awful, see below—she offered to discount the bill. I declined but thanked her for the offer.

Mom with her chicken sandwich
Food 3 points. As I stated, I often order a grilled veggie sandwich and really enjoy the freshly grilled portobello mushrooms or eggplant, usually accompanied by some red bell peppers and onion. Unfortunately this sandwich was a big pile of mush—all grey and gooey, couldn't even identify which type of veggies were in the mix. Seemed like they grilled the veggies earlier in the day and then just reheated them for me. The fresh ciabatta bread was good, but I didn't even want to take home the leftover mushy mess! The side salad was the best thing on the plate!  Mom said her grilled chicken was nothing special: slice of ciabatta, topped with a piece of grilled chicken, caramelized onions and fontina cheese (hence the restaurant name, I suppose!). Unfortunately, there was nothing on the bread-such as an aioli-to hold on the chicken, so it sort of slid off when she cut through it. I had a bite and wasn't impressed. She did take her leftovers home, however…after all they weren't that bad!! Also, strangely enough…the iced tea had a very strange taste—kind of like there was paper in the glass?? I tried the water, and that tasted fine-so it wasn't the less-than-lovely Pleasanton water flavor coming through. I don't know what it was, but it wasn't good!

Value 2.5 points. The prices were too high for what we got. Both of our sandwiches were $12--which is higher than other downtown locations. Fontinas certainly gives an attempt at a fine-dining experience, and it started out well. The pretty setting and good service were encouraging, all to fall apart with the delivery of the food.

Overall score for Fontina Ristorante 3.6 points. Bottom line: the food has to be worth the money to make us like the place, want to recommend it to friends, or want to return. Fontinas certainly does not have that—as least not for lunch!

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