Far be it from me to turn up my nose at a free meal. But the more I think about this one, the more my nose goes up.
I dined at Il Fornaio in Sacramento recently, a business dinner. There were 10 of us there and we were offered a fixed price dinner menu. I don't like mushrooms, so I didn't pick the lasagna. And in the past I've been known for my pasta/chicken/sun-dried tomato dishes, so I wasn't picking that. I really wanted fresh pasta with a flavorful ragu, or something with wonderful fat prawns. But there was none of that, so I went with Ravioli alla Lucana
fresh tomato sauce with imported peperoncino pecorino pepato cheese and fresh basil.
When it arrived it looked good. I was the only one to order it, and there were some long looks in my direction. The raviolis were big and the sauce was bright. But the rave reviews ended there.
The pasta itself was hard, as though it had been left on the counter for a number of hours. The parts that were buried in sauce were soft enough, but a diner shouldn't have to be pushing sauce around to avoid mouthfuls of cardboard pasta.
The filling was incrediably strange. The sausage was hard and crumbly, and the taste was akin to bad college food. It seemed to have been put through a fine food mill, dried out, and not reconstituted. There was no sign of a soft ricotta or fennel--dried or fresh.
The tomato sauce was good. But it's a good thing this pregnant girl has been craving spicy. With my first I couldn't have anything with *any* heat, whatsoever. This sauce was SPICY. I sniffled and snuffled my way through the dinner. Luckily my companions had all found their dishes extremely salty and they were downing the wine so fast no one noticed my runny nose.
But I wonder, if someone who didn't like spicy food had ordered that, what would they have said? Certainly there's nothing in the description that says dried red pepper.
I'd try Il Fornaio again just for the bread (but skip the bread STICKS). And I wouldn't mind moving off the catering menus. I guess that's what you get when you go to a chain...?