Bar La Grassa is the Italian restaurant spun off by the folks at 112 Eatery a few years ago. As we like 112 Eatery a lot, and as the Italian stuff on that menu has always been good, we’ve wanted to go for a long time but somehow have never gotten around to it–well, other than the “one hour from the cities, two small children, no time to do anything” bit. Now that we’re sort of back in circulation and slowly hitting all the well-reviewed places it was only a matter of time till we got to Bar La Grassa, and that time came this month.
(As usual, this is a review of a single meal; the restaurant may be capable of better or worse on other nights.)
We had a nice dinner there last week. That is to say, the food was quite good. We were somewhat shocked, however, by how much of the food there was. Over-large portion sizes is not something I’d seen noted in the write-ups I’d read, so it’s entirely possible that this is only due to what we specifically ordered, but it was an unfeasible amount of food. Now, I realize that having complained on Heavy Table some weeks ago about their review of Piccolo being too obsessed with small portion size there’s no small irony in my now complaining about being served too much food elsewhere, but the quantities really threw us off and kept us from enjoying the meal as much as we otherwise would have. Now you might say the name of the restaurant is as much of a clue as Piccolo’s (“la grassa” means “the fat one”, a nickname for Bologna and its cuisine) but if so we did not pick up on it.
The menu is divided into four main sections: antipasti, bruschetta, pasta (dry, fresh, filled) and secondi. There is also a small selection of vegetarian side dishes. As the pastas are available in half and full portions we took this to mean that two people could compose a meal out of a couple of antipasti and/or bruschetta, followed by one half pasta and one entree each. Certainly nothing on the menu suggests proceeding otherwise and nor did our server say anything as we thus proceeded to order way too much food.
What did we get? Click on an image below to launch a larger slideshow with detailed captions.
All of this plus two glasses of prosecco and a glass of red came to $136 with tax and tip, which is a good deal if you go by the quality and sheer quantity of the food. However, as tasty as the food was it didn’t amount to a very pleasurable meal. The cold meat plate, even though we ate only a part of it, kept us from fully enjoying (and the missus from finishing) her pasta, and together the first two courses made it impossible to eat more than a few bites of the pork tenderloin–though I can’t imagine who would eat that whole thing even if they were to skip the pasta course.
Now, again, as I said, we may have ordered incorrectly. The structure of the menu certainly suggests that you get a starter, some pasta and an entree (as would be traditional). But perhaps the notion here is that you don’t do that individually but family style: i.e get one antipasti to share, one half pasta each and one entree to share along with a vegetable side. If so, our waitress should have told us. That said, I can’t imagine that the other antipasti are as colossal as the meat plate–the crudo certainly wasn’t–and it should probably not be placed in the same column; and again, if a customer orders it thinking it’s a regular appetizer (i.e, as one of two appetizers for a table of two) the server should say something. Then again, I’m not sure that we were the only ones who got a lot of food. The tables around us all seemed to be getting a lot of their food packed; and from what I could tell from the “bruschetta” coming to the tables near us, the cold meat plate is not the only super-sized thing on the menu. I put “bruschetta” in quotes, by the way, because the ratio of topping to toast seemed excessive, to put it mildly.
Our waitress certainly should have indicated that an order beginning and ending with two colossal platters of meat was perhaps too much for two people. And she probably shouldn’t have put up any resistance when we asked to cancel our other entree, the market fish of the day (sauteed halibut, I believe, with sides that sounded very nice). Her first response without checking when we asked was to say the kitchen was probably already cooking it. This seemed dubious–do they really cook and hold a fish entree that early (we’d just begun to eat our pastas)? We asked her to check and then it was fine. Other than this, service was fine.
In terms of ambience, the restaurant seems set up for larger groups–it’s loud and bustling, and while there are a number of two-tops in a row they’re a little too close together (as with rows on most airlines they could make things more comfortable by taking one out and spacing the rest out a little more). That the restaurant may be more appropriate for dining in groups is not a criticism, by the way, just an observation. Other things that underlined the casual nature of the place that I will be critical of are the cheap diner-quality glasses in which water was served, and the tired, pre-grated cheese plopped down on the table with the pasta–this last just doesn’t seem of a piece with the quality of the pasta itself.
At any rate, a group of eight people could eat very well just getting the cold meat plate to start, followed by four half portions of pasta and that mega pork-tenderloin platter and a couple of other entrees with some side dishes. And that may well be the way you’re meant to eat there. Alone or as a couple you’re not going to be able to eat too many different things unless you’re in training for the World’s Strongest Man or planning to take a lot of food home–which, again, doesn’t seem like the optimal way to enjoy the food of a serious restaurant. So, we’re willing to go back but not on our own.
If you’ve been a number of times and your experience corroborates or completely contradicts ours, please chime in below.
BLG is the one place where you feel you have actually gotten fabulous food value (both quality and quantity) for your dollar. One does not leave that place with a feeling of emptiness in wallet or stomach.
Yes, but in our case any possibility of a feeling of emptiness was gone after the first course, which made the rest a bit hard to eat. Are other apps, pastas and entrees not as mega-sized as what we ordered?
FYI, on our visit the server told us we were ordering too much for 4 people!
I need to go back soon. I thought it was great, but the Italian couple we were with (he’s a chef from Milan) thought the food was horseshit. But they didn’t like Pizzeria Lola, either.
Sounds like your server was paying attention.
And I guess I’m not surprised that an Italian chef was less than impressed. I’m only an Indian home cook and it’s the rare Indian restaurant in the US that I don’t find to be horseshit too. Did he find the cooking per se to be bad or was it that he didn’t like the untraditional sauces or the super-sized nature of the bruschetta and similar?
He sent back the pasta and he thought the replacement dish was just as inedible. He had serious problems with the prosciutto (which was from Iowa), and calamari (which probably wasn’t from Iowa). I can’t recall all the issues. Mind you, he’s someone who thinks Greek food is exotic.
And people think I’m hard to please….