Holy shit lots of text and no photos- photos might come soon, and I”ll try to minimize my complete dislike for this restaurant at a later date.
I would like to start off by saying that I like to approach each new restaurant with an open mind. I’ve often been surprised to find amazing restaurants behind dingy doors, and shitty food in a beautifully decorated establishment. I guess the old adage holds true “You can’t judge a book by its’ cover”.
That being said, when I walked in to Napoli’s for dinner, I think I walked into a trap. I’ve heard a few murmurs about this restaurant but that was about it. We were looking for someplace new, and sick of eating bar food and pizza, we decide to give Napoli’s a try. We were greeted immediately and seated snuggly with seven other full tables in the place.
As we made ourselves comfortable, the waitress arrived to get our drink orders, “Can I have the wine menu?” I said. Her response “We don’t serve alcohol here”. As the record screeched to a halt in my head, I looked at her as if she told me she was going to punch me and take my coat, “but you can bring your own if you would like”. Fair enough. I should’ve done my research. I actually like BYOBs so I made a mental note.
We looked over the menu and shifted through the typical Italian dishes. As I started to look at the “spaghetti” section, I thought to myself that while noodles with olive oil and garlic sounded appetizing, paying $8.95 for it as opposed to making it myself for $.94 was ridiculous. When eating at restaurants, and paying people to do what they do best- prepare a delicious meal- I try to stray from something I would make in my own kitchen. Grilled cheese? No, unless it’s full of fancy cheeses and imagination.
I eventually settled on Sausage & Peppers Parmigian, while my date settled on Shrimp & Scallops linguini with alfredo, and we thought both sounded promising. But first, to kick off our dining experience, we wanted to try the garlic bread. I’m not sure if it was stepping out of the truck, or placing this order that was the first step in the wrong direction. What arrived, with our salads, was a piece of bread with garlic butter. If I closed my eyes to savor the first bite, I would guess I had just taken a bit of a lightly flavored sponge from recently cleaning a baking pan of garlic heads. But after the second bite, I gave up trying to pretend it was worth eating. Instead, I turned to the rolls that were delivered with our salads. The traditional salad rolls with a sprinkle of parmesan were almost tasty enough to distract me from thinking they were underbaked thus making their underside soggy from their previously-frozen existence. Still, I enjoyed their chewiness and the peeling open of little squares of butter, turning my head to the fact that I knew it wasn’t right.
Our salads were a different story. Not a better story by any means. Again, going back to my desire to eat something in a restaurant that would not be pulled out of my refrigerator, I was underwhelmed by what arrived. Is it too much to ask for a small handful of arugula, lightly dressed and seasoned with salt and pepper? What arrived would make Governor Branstad shutter in light of his initiative to make Iowa the “Healthiest State”. Iceberg lettuce pulled directly from the bag, floating in a dressing soup, is enough to make anyone bypass the salad and pick out the crotons before they drown. To say that I was nervous about our entrees would be an understatement. Where is that wine when I need it?
Finally, our entrees arrived. Looking like they came out of a different kitchen, the plates were slightly dressed and food was piping hot. Okay, we’re moving in the right direction now. I started in on my Sausage & Pepper Parmigian, which I special ordered with the spicy marinara, and was delighted to see that it was exactly what was promised. Noodles, onions, peppers, sausage, with a mozzarella topping. Just a nice, comfortable plate of pasta. While I moved my way through my dish, my date was not have as much luck on his side of the table. Maneuvering through shrimp with tails intact, and searching for very tiny pieces of scallop, the pasta had an almost dissolvable quality. It wasn’t terrible, but it probably wasn’t going to be ordered again. Saved by the thick, creamy alfredo sauce, it was edible.
By the end of dinner, we had thrown in the towel. No dessert for us, it was time to go find a bottle of wine to wash this all away. As I left, I felt disappointed. Not because of our dining experience, but because I have high hopes for local establishments in Cedar Rapids. While the perks of this Italian restaurant could boast: Olive Garden- Without the Wait, locally-owned, and good entrees, that’s about it. I don’t say any of these things to drive small businesses out of business, in fact, my intentions are the complete opposite. I want to up the ante. Give me a plate of food you are proud of, and I’ll be there. Hand me something you didn’t give a second glance, then I won’t either.