Thursday, 17 May 2012

Andiamo, "True Taste of Italy"?

Life is made up of experiences, some good and some bad. 

I wrote on Twitter the other day, "time spent with family  #priceless", and it is...especially when it's been awhile since visits.  One of the things we love to do when we get together is reminisce...share stories and laugh until our sides hurt and tears stream down our cheeks...and then tell another.  Whether it's in our homes or out treating ourselves, it's quite often over a meal where we share the most laughs.  While visiting with family for the next little while, I know there will be a lot of meals shared...some home cooked that provoke memories and those shared while out and about.  Some will be preplanned and most will be spontaneous, such is the way when one is on a vacation : )  I'd like to share those with you over the next few weeks, some will be recipes for meals we make and some just thoughts on places we patron.
The Place...
The Andiamo restaurant website reports that it is consistently named one of Metro Detroit's "Best Italian" restaurants.  It's business is based on what they say are three simple Italian principles which are great food, great family, and great zest of life.  They pride themselves on their philosophy of buying fresh seasonal ingredients and preparing them from scratch each and every day.  It's an exciting concept and a promise to the consumer that when you arrive you'll feel like your with family, know you will be served exceptional food and leave a happy camper.

The Location...
With nine locations in my home state of Michigan, one has to believe that they must be doing something right.  Many of the locations are in wonderful cities and I'm sure sit on great real estate, but how can one do any better than sitting on the edge of the Detroit River across from Windsor, Canada?  Located in one of our greatest buildings downtown, Andiamo is in The GM Renaissance Center

The Gm Renaissance Center consists of 72 floors and is a beautifully designed building with fantastic views.  It has a collection of shops, dining options, a salon, movie theatre and is home to anywhere between 12 to 15 thousand workers on any given day...that's a lot of people!  Andiamo's is located in the 5 story glass atrium called the winter garden that is the hub for people in and out of the building on the river side and has available seating for diners from the food court or the cafes adjacent to the garden.  It is also home to the Marriott and you can learn more by clicking this LINK : )

I was happy and proud to take my mom there for a nice lunch after a visit to explore the building and, after noticing that the restaurant had a patio with tables & umbrellas.  With the weather as beautiful as it was this last Tuesday, our original idea of sitting indoors for lunch paled in comparison..and as you know, Italian is one of my all time favorites!  With the sun shining, a soft breeze blowing and sailboats sailing past we settled in to see what Andiamo was all about.

"The uncompromising cuisine is authentic, artistic and world-class."  This is a line I copied from their website, I had high hopes : )

The Food...
We started with a classic...the bruschetta al pomodoro, and at $5.95, it's a great price.  Three slices of toasted Italian bread topped with a mix of garlic, fresh tomatoes, Parmesan and a sprinkle of fresh basil that comes with a pile of undressed greens on the plate.  It's truly hard to mess this one up, it was good but not spectacular.  I would have expected a bit more flavor (couldn't detect the garlic), but it did look nice even if it was plated a bit strange and a little messy.

They do offer a nice choice of salads ala carte, I chose to have the house made salad which comes with my entree, I chose their house made dressing, it was very tasty, it was a creamy, garlic Parmesan dressing.  It was a pleasant mixture of greens with firm ripe grape tomatoes, black olives, cucumbers and red onion.

Sorry, but I'm not a huge fan of browning lettuce in my salad

Our server brought us a bowl of warm slices of Italian bread with a salsa verde in olive oil for dipping.  It was a nice touch ( I adore warm bread).  It was a tasty blend of fresh herbs at the bottom of the bowl you get to spread around while dipping your bread served with your salad course.

Mom had for her entree, The Ravioli Alla Aldo, which is homemade pasta pillows filled with meat, cheese and spinach, topped with tomato or meat sauce for $14.95.  She chose the meat sauce which had a very nice flavor to it.  She liked the flavor yet said the pasta seemed tough.

I chose the Tortellini Alla Panna which is homemade meat-filled pasta with fresh basil, wild mushrooms and truffle crème sauce for $15.95 

I am sorry to say that although the concept of the dish is stellar, the visual appeal wasn't.  Upon first peeking at Andiamo's website, their top photo was this dish and I thought, AHA! That's what it should have looked like.  Their photo shows a beautifully creamy sauce enveloping these stuffed beauties but when my dish arrived, I don't know, it just seemed a bit congealed, had too much Parmesan cheese sprinkled on it and, I thought it maybe sat a little too long before it was served.

 I have a hard time believing that this pasta was made that same day, as a fan of fresh pasta...I find it very-very hard to believe.  The pasta was tough and the twist knot which makes this pasta shape what it is, was actually hard when biting into it.  It could have used more of the crème sauce, it was very tasty yet seemed sparse.  The picture appears as if there is a fair bit but it seemed to have been poured around the pasta (though in Italy, pasta is the star served with a minimal amount of sauce : ) It's the American in me that craves the sauce).  This dish has tons of potential!  The mix of wild mushrooms was very nice and their texture was great.

One thing I found strange for an Italian restaurant was when our server approached with a bowl of cheese asking if we'd like some.  I asked if it came out of a can, and he replied, "no, it comes from a bag".  Really?  They can't grate fresh Parmigiana Reggiano at the table?   I declined his offer but was left with that feeling that it doesn't take much to buy and grate fresh cheese if sourcing fresh ingredients is their motto.  I do it at home, it's the only way we buy our Parmesan.

Would I Return?
Would I return? Probably not.  Would I invite someone to this restaurant?  Probably not, unless they really-really wanted to go.  The view is awesome from their patio which is one of the reason's I ended up choosing this restaurant, but when you want great food, you want great food.  I don't mean it to seem as if I am picking on Andiamo, but I've been to some fabulous Italian restaurants and feel secure in the notion that I am able to discern between great, good and fair.  I would say that Andiamo is good. 

My take home bag has written on it, "The True Taste of Italy"...was it?  I think if the dish had been executed better, I would not have taken any home, I would have scarfed it up as I do most of my Italian choices.  ADDED NOTE: I will say to be fair that my sister said just today that their location in Warren at 14 mile rd is just fantastic and worth the maybe...just maybe a return visit is in order : D

The Experience...
They need some serious training for their servers.  When I asked our server what a truffle was, he didn't know.  I asked him to inquire from the chef what one was to have it explained to him.  I let him know that I was a food blogger and loved food so therefore probably had a head start on him, BUT really?? How could he not know?  It's their menu item!  He returned with a description and I was glad he had learned something new : )  I of course ordered the entree with the truffle creme sauce.

Our hostess who sat us brought our side plate and water glass to the table.  The plate was dusty/dirty from being outside (I was truly shocked) and she grasped my water glass with her entire hand wrapped around it near the top...ah, yea...yuck.

The entrance to the patio section is a bit disorganized and messy/dirty looking.  It did not seem as if there was a lot of personal pride being taken from the staff there to ensure a fantastic experience for their diners.  It's a shame really as there is a lot of potential. 

If you would like to check them out and let me know how your dining experience was, that would be super : )  They have a special event tomorrow night and if you check them out on line you'll see they cater special events and host different types of gatherings.  They are on Facebook and Twitter as well : )

Until next time : ) Ciao & Happy Cookin'
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