Friday, July 29, 2011

Pranzo in Willoughby

Before meeting some friends out for drinks in Downtown Willoughby, my fiancee and I finally got a reservation at a restaurant we have been meaning to go to even before I started writing reviews.  The restaurant is called Pranzo.  Both friends and family have recommenced this place to us numerous times to us, but getting a reservation can sometimes be difficult.  This time we had no problems and we settled in for dinner at 7:15pm.
Pranzo, as the name suggests, is an Italian restaurant.  The menu features antipasti, wood-fired flatbreads, traditional Italian fare such as gnocchi and cavatelli, and also chicken, meat and seafood dishes.  They also have specials that change weekly.  Before we decided on our entrees, we were brought a basket of flatbread and dipping oil. The bread was thin and a little dense. We would have liked the bread to have a little more garlic and Italian seasoning on it because with just the dipping oil it was just average.
Our entrees came with a romaine lettuce salad with a slice of tomato and cucumber topped with a bit of fresh shaved Parmesan cheese.  We were surprised that the Italian dressing was not house made like many Italian restaurants. On the other hand, my fiance was very please with the size of the salad and the use of mixed greens.
I decided to go with one of the specials for the evening for my entree which was a beef medallion dish that was prepared in the wood-fired oven and served with homemade gnocchi, sauteed spinach, and caramelized onions. The beef was cooked to a perfect medium inside with a perfect sear around the entire outside.  The seasoning on the beef combined with the wood-fire grilling made the beef tenderloin mouth-watering good.  The homemade gnocchi was so tasty it could have been a dish by itself.  The density of the gnocchi was spot on as was the flavor.  The gnocchi and spinach had a very rustic flavor, but the spinach could have used a touch less oil.  Overall, I was very pleased with the portion size and the flavors of this dish which was priced at $25.00.
My fiancee ordered the Fiori di Zucca Tagliatelle ($21.00). This dish was prepared with fresh made pasta, yellow squash, squash blossoms, pancetta, olive oil, and garlic.  I was excited she ordered this dish because growing up my grandmother used squash blossoms a lot in her cooking during the summer months.  This dish was was a little bit of a hit and miss.  The hit was the pasta and squash blossoms.  The pasta was cooked properly and the squash blossoms had great flavor. The miss was the lack of salt/seasoning and the lack of integration of the pancetta.  It seemed like the dish was prepared, plated, and then some pancetta was just mixed in. The flavor didn't come through unless you actually ate a bite of the pancetta.  Overall we had mixed feelings on this dish because we felt it could have been prepared better using the same ingredients.
We walked into Pranzo expecting to be blown away by some traditional Italian food, but left feeling a little underwhelmed.  The highlight of the night was my beef dish, but the hit/miss dish my fiancee left us just moderately happy for the price of our meal. Food wise Pranzo gets a 3.75/5

Pranzo is a Bring Your Own Alcohol establishment with a small corking fee.  This is both a plus and a minus.  The plus is you can save money and bring in whatever alcohol you so desire. This will lessen your dining cost for sure, and also allow you to choose what you are drinking.  The minus is that you have to prepare for dinner by bringing what you want and keeping it cold if necessary. (I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section about what you think about this policy.)

Atmosphere and Service
Pranzo has a wonderful feel from the moment you walk in.  The restaurant is small inside and is divided into two rooms.  Although small, the tables are well spaced and we never felt cramped.   The exposed brick combined with the decor also made us feel right at home. 
First the positive, our waiter was kind, friendly and quick to come to our table when we were seated.  That being said, our service for the night was very average. Our waiter told us a few of the specials, but never went into detail about anything on the menu past what we could read.  Compare that with the table across the room where the waitress described basically the entire menu to a table as soon as they sat down. Once our entree's were delivered we were basically done eating before our waiter came back to check on us.  We expected to get a higher level of service, but we got just average service.  Atmosphere is a 4.5/5 but our service was a 2.5/5.

We left with mixed feelings and a little disappointed in our experience at Pranzo based on all the positive comments we've heard from friends and family.  Outside of my entree and the atmosphere the rest of our experience was average. This is definitely a place that we are going to have to revisit to see if our experience was the norm or if this was just an off night. 

Pranzo on Urbanspoon


CLEgal @ Why CLE? said...

This is one we've been wanting to try, but it might get bumped a bit further down the list now. I'll let you know how it goes if we end up there some night.

Oh and sorry we couldn't meet up for drinks that night...we're old ;-)

Bite Buff said...

I've heard good things about this place, but never been. It looks cute inside, but obviously the food preparation and presentation is key.

I personally like BYOB places, and I wish there were more.

Brad said...

We heard such good things too, which is why we plan to revisit to see if this was just an off night at the restaurant. The inside is really nice, makes you feel right at home.

I too like the BYOB aspect because then I can assure myself that I'm drinking something really good, for a lot less cash!

Sarah Berridge said...

I hate when that happens! Everyone says it's great and you end up disappointed. I felt that way when I finally tried Melange.

I've been to Pranzo on multiple occasions (large, medium and small groups) and have always been pleased with the food. I've also never had a problem getting a reservation, but I think I've only been there on a weeknight. When I went with the large group, we had that whole side room and had great food (served family style) and service too. You should definitely give it another try.

Sue The Caring Foodie said...

I love the concept of BYOB. Unfortunately, it does not seem to last very long with most restaurants since they lose out on a lot of revenue. Tai Fun to have this policy and it made a huge difference in the check. Love your blog.

Anonymous said...

I have a feeling they are going to keep the BYOB concept. They had their restaurant at another location on Vine Street and did the same thing.


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