I called early in the week and made reservations for 7 not knowing at the time that we would be expecting 5″ of snow (the 10″ didn’t come, just like I suspected!) and was looking forward to my meal all week long. I had talked up Stephano’s numerous times before including when I trashed Viva Italia in Eagan and several time to friends looking for a nice experience in the South Metro.
Kim and I took our time getting to the restaurant due to the first snowfall rendering every single Minnesota driver on the road snow retarded forcing us all to drive 45 mph under the speed limit for no reason. We trudged through the unplowed parking lot and took a seat at the bar to wait for Chris and Laura making the trek from Bloomington. I ordered a beer and Kim ordered her standard Amaretto sour which was quickly downed and another replaced, per her request, in front of her before I could even finish my crappy light beer (I miss Guinness). After Chris and Laura arrived I paid the $19 bar tab and we were seated at our reserved table and handed three menus for the four of us. They were apparently running low on menus tonight to which they apologized. No biggy, we’re happy to share.
After looking over the menu I decided to go with their Florentina which was listed in the menu as two 6oz beef filets grilled with spinach, onion, and roasted red peppers in a red wine sauce for $18. As many of you know, I routinely order beef rare and I did so again this evening. I also ordered the Calamari Alla Livornese for both Kim and I to share as an appetizer (please note, I wanted the Lumache but Kim insisted. Kim chose their chicken marsala, Chris went with the veal marsala and Laura decided on their pasta primavera. Nothing too out of the ordinary…
We were enjoying sitting around chatting and eating our bread with herb butter when our unexpected salads came. Perfect, I forgot to order a side salad anyway. We all agreed that the “Caesar” salad was nothing spectacular and the dressing was watered down for sure. We all finished it but none of us were jumping for joy over it.
Soon after our appetizer came out and we dug in. The first thing I noticed was that the “fresh herbs” listed on the menu apparently meant dry parsley flakes and salt as that’s nearly all I could taste while biting into the rubbery and nearly nasty calamari. Now, normally I wouldn’t have said too much about it but just two weeks ago we had some sauteed calamari at Biaggi’s and found the tender squid fantastic — something we were very pleased with.
Our meals came out soon after Kim and I finished up the appetizer and no one was all that impressed at first glance or taste. I cut into my beef and immediately noticed that it was “Minnesota done” and certainly no where near “rare” like I asked for. Now even when The Wheel Room fucked up my meal at least it was somewhat rare. This, on the other hand, looked like it had been cooked and then microwaved just to make sure it was extra done to the point of being tough and dry too. Awesome! Kim’s marsala didn’t taste like any chicken marsala I’ve ever had and she certainly wasn’t pleased and left over half on her plate. Laura’s primavera was extra watery and you know that she isn’t pleased when she doesn’t eat much and doesn’t ask for a box. Chris’ veal marsala was also a downer and he didn’t finish his either.
Now, back to my meal. Aside from being overcooked, tough and basically awful, it wasn’t what I ordered at all. The menu (as I stated above) said that it would be grilled with spinach, onion, and roasted red peppers in a red wine sauce. Now, I didn’t immediately notice the issue as I was too concerned with trying to tear my way through the tough meat but after I started eating it I realized that the meal was a beef gravy poured along with portobello mushrooms and pearl onions. The waiter had made himself quite scarce after delivering our entrees so I had to flag down the hostess to find him for me. After I asked him what was delivered to the table he seemed confused. I read off what was supposed to be in it and he went and retrieved a menu and began pointing at a crossed out item on the menu (NY Strip Steak) and was trying to claim that what I had ordered wasn’t on the menu and they had given me this instead. Now, even if what he was saying was true why wouldn’t you stop them as they were ordering to let them know the meal was no longer on the menu? Unfortunately that didn’t occur at all and trying to explain to him that the NY Strip is not what I ordered and that what I received was no where near what was listed on the menu wasn’t going so well.
After spending the next several minutes arguing my case to no avail I forced him to apologize as he should have done immediately and sent him on his way. Now he comes back out and says to me (with Stephano — based on the photos on their website — behind him parroting the same thing), “we could sautee up some spinach and put it on the side for you.” I’m not entirely sure how they felt that would be an acceptable replacement for their colossal cluster-fuck but I declined. He repeated this offer again later as well. Uhh, no, for the second and third times, thanks.
In the past we really enjoyed their tiramisu and Kim was looking forward to it. She ordered it while Chris and I opted for 12 year old Glenlivet Scotch (Biaggi’s had an 18 year old Glenlivet which I prefer to the 12 but I figured we’d make due heh). The tiramisu wasn’t nearly as good as she had remembered and the little piece I took was acceptable but certainly not as good as some others we’ve had. The Scotch was good and was in a nice sized glass for $5.95.
After handing me the bill our waiter stuck out his hand for me to shake. I took him up on the offer but said to our party, “well, you’re still not getting a tip.” Unfortunately I was coerced out of tipping the deserved $0 and ended up tipping the customary 15% to make both Kim and Laura feel less uncomfortable. Merry fucking Christmas Stephano’s. Our bill was just under $70 (not including the pre-dinner drinks) and was just under $100 after that thrown in. Certainly not worth even 1/3 of that to be perfectly honest. I’m absolutely embarrassed that I suggested people who were interested in Viva Italia eat at Stephano’s instead. I will be retracting that statement from that post shortly.
After dinner we were talking about a review from November 2003 where the person claimed that the Stephano’s staff stated they belonged at Perkins. We joked that we would have received a similar quality meal at Perkins for 1/3 the price and would have had nothing to complain about being that we would have expected the quality level to be on par for the location.
An absolute fucking disappointment and one that I will never repeat. Honestly, we’d probably be better off eating at Two Guys from Italy and any of you that read this site frequently know just how much it pains me to say that. Fuck, I just threw up a little in my mouth.
See all the pictures from tonight here (camera).