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Friday, June 1, 2012

Chianti's Ristorante: Nice for our party!

Lunch Date #13: April 27, 2012

Wow—am I ever behind on these postings…will try to catch up on the next few. The best part of procrastination is that there is always the thrill of completion when you finally succeed in getting something done!

Happy Birthday to Kelly!
We were happy to meet with some friends downtown to celebrate Kelly's birthday. It just so happened that the group chose Chianti's Ristorante (436 Main Street, www.chiantisristorante.com)…so Mom and I used the opportunity to have guest input to our critique. I had dinner with Kris at Chianti's for her birthday last year—catch the birthday theme here? I thought at that time it was so-so; the place was rather empty that night, but was still fairly new then. I still miss the yummy tapas and sangria when the locale was Casa Madrid—sad to see that one go. So, what about yet another Italian-style restaurant in Pleasanton?  Not an issue with me…other than what is with the name of these places? (See my confusion regarding the name of Baci!) Since they went with the Italiano spelling for restaurant (ristorante), then why the Americanized "apostrophe-s " after Chianti….I doubt you would every see that on a real Italian restaurant: should be "Chianti Ristorante" or if they really want to show possession: "Ristorante di Chianti" or even just "Ristorante Chianti", but Chianti's makes no sense… then again neither does Strizzis (which in some of their literature is written Strizzi's)…I'm just totally confused, or maybe just a grammar geek…so there you go…

Location: full 5 points—can't get too much more in the heart of downtown. Nice sidewalk presence.

Cute bar area
Tuscan Ambiance
Ambiance: 4 points. A good attempt to look Italian. I liked the faux painted Tuscan-style brick on the interior walls. Kris thought the place was well lit and cheery while Kelly enjoyed the background music of recognizable Italian favorites. The place is small and nicely laid out. The small bar area is attractive and the offer of outdoor tables is great for a nice day or summer evening. Nice touch also to have the linen tablecloths and napkins…definitely going for the fine-dining type atmosphere.

Menu selection: 3.5 points. The main menu appears the same for lunch and dinner, with many full entrée-type items that seemed a bit heavy for a standard lunch. They do offer some lunch specials in addition, including some non-Italian looking items such as a grilled chicken sandwich and a soup/salad combo. I went with the Carciofi Ravioli and mom ordered the chicken sandwich. The other ladies chose a variety of dishes, including the soup/salad special. Kathy ordered bruschetta for us to share.

Mom's chicken sandwich
Service: 3.5 points. Here we were, the only party in the restaurant (at the beginning) and the waiter was busy stacking menus while we were ready to order. We sort of stared at him for a while and he finally came over. I was completely ready to forgive this, figuring that he was Italian—but no! He did not speak or understand any (well, at least not "my") Italian at all. Such a disappointment! After that, things did get better. There was pane e olio (bread and oil) on the table, and the assistant waiter was quick to refill our drinks. The food was served relatively quickly, but my ravioli was just luke warm and Mom said her coffee could definitely have been hotter.

Food: 4 points. Jody really liked the bruschetta pomodoro. Mom was happy with her chicken sandwich-especially since there was plenty to take home for left-overs. I was surprisingly quite delighted with mine: the carciofi (artichoke) ravioli had good texture and the creamy marinara sauce had great flavor. I was especially happy with the wilted spinach in the dish—just the right texture: not too firm, not too wilted… just perfect.
Carciofi ravioli with spinach

Value: 4 points. Reasonable prices for the food and atmosphere. The lunch specials are a very economic value: Mom's chicken sandwich and large side salad was $10.95 and my delicious ravioli was $11.95.  I think the addition of some smaller pasta plates or smaller meat-entrees at a reduced price for lunch would be a good idea for more selection.

Overall score for Chianti ('s) Ristorante: 4.0 points. We had a great birthday lunch. As we were leaving, we discovered the only other party at lunch that afternoon was a party of two also celebrating a birthday. Maybe this is the official place to go for a birthday party? Mine's coming up soon—might have to return for a celebration!

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