29 June, 2011

Over AND Under? How???

There are a TON of Italian joints in Ottawa!  I couldn't believe it!  They even have their own Little Italy here.  Driving through I discovered it IS rather "little", but from what I was led to believe, they pack in quite a punch for such a small pocket of the city.  I have a lot of places on my list to visit that are in Little Italy but the very first Italian place on my list wasn't too far from home.  Again, right on Hazeldean (that road has quite a few restaurants on it...) in a little strip mall area is a small place called La Cucina.  We tried to go there one night, it was just before 6pm and even though I could hear people inside and the sign said they opened for dinner at 5, the door was locked.  I wasn't in the mood to work too hard for a meal that night, so I decided we'd come back later.

The night we decided to try again I had been thinking about Italian food ALL day, I wasn't sure what I was going to get but I knew I wanted to love my food.  I'm a pretty serious lady when it comes to certain genres of food; Italian is one of them.  It is in my blood (no seriously, my dad's mom was part Italian...it was one of the things she talked about ALL the time...) and when I eat it I just FEEL myself reconnecting with something deep in my soul...joy I think.  We didn't want to spend too much time deciding because the Sprout was ALREADY acting up (he's 17.5 months..."terrible 2's" behavior is SUPPOSED to wait until 2 I thought???) and I hadn't eaten in a pretty long time.  My hypoglycemia was kicking in...so we went quickly.  

Their dinner menu wasn't too big and it wasn't too small.  There was something on it for everyone be it vegetarian, meat eater or the gluten free eater.  Nice.  I can appreciate that.  I ordered up a Garlic Cheese Bread without the cheese so the Sprout and I could eat it; for my entree I went with Veal Cognac.  I don't normally eat veal, but as with ordering lamb when eating Indian or Greek, ordering veal is a great way to see just how skilled the chef is in the kitchen.  When the meat is cooked correctly, you have a winner....most of the time.  The order went in, I looked around at the place and took some pictures.  Without disturbing other guests privacy, here's a bit of what I saw.
Table for Four


Somewhere in our waiting for the bread I saw a table next to us get a little basket of bread.  Our son was getting rather...testy...so I asked them how much the bread was and could we get some ASAP.  Apparently it is free..comes with every meal no matter what you order, she just forgot to bring it.  Had I known there was complimentary bread I wouldn't have ordered any other bread.  But, shortly after she brought the garlic bread I ordered to the table she produced the basket of bread.  We were extremely grateful because the Sprout tore through the plate of garlic bread like we'd been starving him for weeks!

It was ok as garlic breads go.  It didn't "wow" me, but really...not many breads ever have.  The ones that have (like the rosemary garlic sourdough I had last week), I eat by itself with nothing on it or perhaps just a small amount of spread.  Run o' the mill garlic bread like this I use as a tool...for sauce.  But thanks to the Sprout we ran out of bread before the entree came.  Like I really need MORE bread in my diet though.  Moving on...

The complimentary bread tasted fine.  No fireworks, but I wasn't spitting it into a wad in my napkin either.  It was good.  Quite frankly I'd ask for that again before ordering the garlic bread from the menu.

It was really quite some time before our entrees came out.  I wasn't paying attention to a clock, but our son had hit a wall and was screaming at it.

Veal Cognac with Fettucini Alfredo

The first thing I tried was the meat.  I couldn't believe how wonderful the sauce was.  Really...it made my mouth water between bites and it really made the natural flavor of the meat sing.  Sarah Brightman sing!  I had tunnel vision for next couple minutes...all I could see was my veal and all I could do was devour it.  When I finally made eye contact with my Mister to see how his Lobster Ravioli was...I didn't have to ask.  

With every bite he had a contorted look on his face.  I asked him what was wrong as I reached over with my fork and started cutting into his ravioli.  I quickly shoved it into my mouth before he could say anything.  I let the sauce go to work...tasted fine.  Tasted great.  Then...I chewed.  Guh!  No way!  They weren't cooked all the way through.  I picked the rest of the ravioli up with the fork and stared at it.  I could see the line of cooked end shortly into the piece of pasta.  Not cool.  

The Sprout wailed out because we were no longer letting him play with forks and butter knives at this point.  He was trying to play a Springsteen tune on the plate so the Mister had confiscated them.  The annoyance of the evening was welling up in my stomach.  I looked at the lump of pasta on my own plate...scared out of my mind.  I hadn't touched it yet.  I took my spoon in my left hand and my fork in my right; I grabbed then twisted my first wad of noodles 'n' sauce.  I shoved it into my mouth.  The sauce tasted fine.  It wasn't impressive but it wasn't a nasty jarred, no name somethin' or other all over the noodles either.  It just didn't have much flavor other than parmesean.  Which is fine.  With alfredo, sometimes less is more.  You can really kill a sauce if you add too much of ANYthing to it.  But...I started to chew.  UNBELIEVABLE!  My noodles were OVERcooked!  What the heck!  They undercooked my Mister's raviolis by a good 5 minutes and my noodles were SO cooked...they'd have likely been soup if they'd been cooked 2 minutes more.  

(We won't talk about the fact that noodles actually continue to cook even after they are removed from heat...carry over cooking.  Much like letting cookies stand on a cookie sheet when they are out of the oven...  Most people know about this, especially experienced chefs and bakers...ahem...)

I was so disgusted and disappointed...and our son was nearly out of control at this point.  On any normal night I'd have sent our entrees back.  That night if I sent them back I wouldn't have wanted them back, I would have wanted a refund and to get the heck out of there.  As it was approaching the 2 hour mark of being there, I shared my son's attitude...it was time to leave.  The call for the bill went in.  

I'm not quite certain how whatever that "pasta" was on my plate came from the same kitchen or chef that my WONDERFUL veal cognac came from, but I feel disenchanted enough to not try to find out.  On the whole...the veal won the night.  But, "fool me once"...you know the drill.  I can't stand it when my pasta is cooked wrong.  It still amazes me that they both over AND undercooked our entrees.  Lol...I suppose that DOES take a bit of talent...a "special" kind of talent.

It has a nice bit of romantic charm about it on the inside, the staff are nice but the food is hit and miss.  La Cucina won't be on my "must go back" list.  But, I won't tell you not to try it either.  I'm interested to know if this was an unhappy fluke or a normal problem during the dinner hour rush.  Though, there didn't seem to be much "rushing" happening that night. Good luck!

La Cucina Ristorante on Urbanspoon

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