Back to Stugazzi’s, Restaurant Review Part 2

After my first review of Stugazzi’s Italian AMERICAN restaurant, I received a lot of disagreeable comments.   I always try to be fair and don’t have any reservations about admitting I’m wrong.  So I decided to give Stugazzi’s another try.

I know that in order to have credibility, I would have to order a small variety of dishes and on different nights.  In the meantime I asked one of the cashiers at Rite-Aid (across the street from Stugazzi’s) if she had ever been to Stugazzi’s.  She said yes, and I asked what she had and was it good.  She raved about one dish; it was pasta with chicken and broccoli in what she called an alfredo sauce.  So I gave it a shot.  The next evening after work, I called in a to-go order.  I order the chicken and broccoli over linguini.  I also ordered a caesar salad.  When I arrived to pick it up I noticed they had renovated a bit from the last time I was there.  What didn’t change was the confusion.  Not only I, but other customers who walked in, had no idea where to go, where to stand, do we seat ourselves, where do I go to pick up my take out.  The only thing that changed is that they had added a big wooden bar on the left side of “the room”.  I still don’t know if you are supposed to seat yourself or wait for the waitress.  I remember people asking what they should do but I was more concerned about my order and since I wasn’t eating in, I didn’t care.

Back to the food.  After asking what I had to do to pick up my take out order, I walked over to the “window”.  Both the pasta dish and the caesar salad came in a typical supermarket, salad bar, aluminum, round thing with a see-through plastic cover.  In addition, each aluminum “bowl” was covered in layers of plastic wrap.  I knew at that moment the packaging would come back to haunt me but wasn’t sure how or why, yet.   The salad (cold) was placed on top of the pasta dish (hot).  So the heat from the pasta dish wilted the caesar salad.  Anyone in the food industry with any experience at all knows that you put cold on the bottom, then a piece of cardboard, then the hot stuff on top.  When you do it the other way, heat rises and so does the heat’s wilting ability. DUH!

Because I live close by I just paid and took my stuff and went home quickly.  I tried hard to salvage the salad but to no avail.  I threw it in the fridge as soon as I got home but in checking it later, the dry, wilted, dressing-less salad could not be salvaged.  That’s $7.00 I’ll never get back.

Next, I unwrapped the pasta dish as if it were a mummy at an archeological dig.  Luckily, the “sauce” was not really alfredo.  It was more like a light butter sauce with some lemon, maybe white wine, and garlic.  I started to have renewed faith that maybe Stugazzi’s would surprise me.  Barring the caesar salad incident, and the fact that my first visit ever was opening week, this pasta dish was pretty good.  I enjoyed it.  It’s not something I would crave but I enjoyed it enough for a last-minute meal decision on the way home from work.  The salad gave its life for me that night.  I buried it in my garbage can.

So I had one really bad experience a few months ago, followed by one OK experience on Wednesday, earlier this week.  I was thinking about this blog and the comments and I really wanted to have a fantastic experience. 

So yesterday, on Friday night, just two days after my pasta experience, I tried again. 

 I really wanted the food to be great.  I tried something different.  I called in and ordered a bacon cheeseburger to go, and, since the Mozzarella was supposedly fresh and hand breaded, I ordered the Fried Mozzarella, totally misnamed by Stugazzi’s as “mozzarella logs” – not very satisfying when said like that.  Fried mozzarella showed up in Italian American restaurants in the 80’s. When done right, like it used to be, it was a fantastic dish.  when they started selling it frozen, in supermarkets, mass-produced by food conglomerates, I knew the honeymoon was over.  Every chain restaurant and second rate “family owned” restaurant in the country  started using some version of a commercial, frozen, fried “mozz” product.

Anyway, I’ll start there.  The Fried Mozzarella was actually very, very good.  The cheese tasted fresh and breaded just enough.  The marinara sauce for dipping was also quite good.  A little spicy, and tangy with a hint of sweetness.  Very good.  I only ate one out of the 5 or 6 “logs” and saved the rest for leftovers.  I warmed them up for breakfast this morning and they were still very good.

Back to the burger, and here is where it all falls apart.  I am going to assume  that eating in the restaurant would produce better results than take-out.  But I also believe that any restaurant worth its salt should do both well.  If you are going  to offer take out – FIGURE OUT HOW TO DO IR RIGHT.

The burger came in the disdained aluminum bowl/tray, with the plastic cover, and then mummy-wrapped in Saran Wrap.  I then immediately remembered my earlier reservations about the plastic wrap.  I figured out how the plastic wrap would haunt me because it was staring me in the face.  The plastic wrap entombed the burger in heat.  I didn’t order fries but there were fries in there.  As I unwrapped the plastic to get to my meal, my heart sank.  I knew then and there this wasn’t going to be good.

The burger was opened faced.  The fries were completely limp and tangled into a ball.  The ball of fries had one section that was attached to the cheese inside the bottom of the burger; so much so that when i tried to separate the fry-ball from the burger-bottom,  several fries were stuck for good to the burger.  There was no getting them out of there.  The two miniscule tomato slices were warm and the lettuce, oh the lettuce.  You really couldn’t call it lettuce.  There was nothing light green, or crisp about it.  What was supposed to be lettuce was now one thin, veiny, dark green, almost black, piece of organic matter.  It was flat, wilted, black, and looked more like it was spread on the top half of the bun, sort of like you would spread peanut butter, except it was supposed to be lettuce.  It took me a few minutes to peel it off, or rather scrape it off?  I’m not sure.  Let’s just say I removed it and tossed it in the garbage disposal.  The fry-ball that I didn’t order, and didn’t expect because it doesn’t mention it on the menu, was again part of the burger.

I should have peeled everything off and I should have just eaten the patty with a knife and fork.  I certainly couldn’t eat it like a sandwich, but I tried.  I got through about half of it.  The taste was fair, but this mass was not worth eight bucks or whatever I paid.   I can only imagine how I might have enjoyed it had I ordered and eaten it inside the restaurant.

To summarize, I still can not, and will not say that Stugazzi’s is a good restaurant.  I will say that some of the food is fair, and DON’T ORDER TAKE OUT.  THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THEY ARE DOING AND SHOULD NOT EVEN TRY. 

The sandwich-board sign out front that says “Authentic Italian Cuisine” is a lie.  If anything, it is authentic Italian American food.  They don’t serve a “chicken finger sandwich” in Florence, Rome, or Venice.  And why would they.  Who serves something that is already breaded and fried, on bread.

I will try Stugazzi’s again.  I will eat inside the restaurant – no take-out.  And I will give an honest review, just like I did the first time, and this time.  I have no axe to grind.  In fact I would love to have a very good eating establishment in my neighborhood.

My suggestion to Stugazzi’s:  prevent, somehow, confusing the patrons when they walk in – nobody likes to immediately feel uncomfortable.  Get rid of anything on the menu that has “chicken fingers” or “BBQ” in the title.  Nobody in Springvale knows who Whitey Bulger is, this isn’t Boston.   Neither “Belly” nor “Fat” should not show up in the title of any dish.  Add authentic Chicken Marsala and Chicken Francais to the menu.   And for god’s sake, stop doing take-out until you can figure out how the meal can, at least, be almost as good at home as it is in the restaurant.  I’ll give you some tips on packaging if you’re interested.


10 thoughts on “Back to Stugazzi’s, Restaurant Review Part 2

  1. I appreciate your comments. My dislike of this area has nothing to do with the the food at Stugazzi’s, but whatever. I thought about what you said and you are right. I should leave this place. When I moved here, it was to be closer to my family. However, I have since realized that being closer to family wasn’t enough of a reason to move here. So after 9 years, it’s time to go. Had I not lost my job in 2007, and had I not been out of work for 18 months after that, and if employers in Maine paid workers enough money to actually live on, then I would be able to save enough money to get out. But right now, I can’t. So in the meantime I will not stop speaking my mind, and I won’t stop trying to turn my community into one of which I can be proud. What happened to people displaying common decency and courtesy to one another? What happened to intelligent conversation? And why can’t I open my windows without being bombarded by excessively loud motorcycles? (Yes, that is 100% true).

    As for living alone and being alone, that’s my choice. I am in no way complaining “oh, poor me I’m alone”. Quite the contrary, in fact. I’m with people all day at work and I come from a big family. It’s because of these reasons that I thoroughly enjoy my quiet time.

    The comment about Sanford High was a joke. I have a very good friend who is a well respected teacher at Sanford High and I learned that joke from him. So if you are taking that comment so personally, I must have struck a nerve regarding your education. Why is it that so many people have no sense of humor.

    I won’t comment about the spelling and grammar issues with your comment because I’m afraid I’ll hurt your feelings. I do apprecaite you taking the time to speak your mind; I like that.

    Good luck to you.

  2. First of All, Sir my up most respect, when i said your opinions are unfounded, its because i have visited Stugazzi’s regularly; the food in fact is made from the freshest ingredients. I am truly sorry you distaste their food.However, you might have a different opinion if you followed the others advice and did try to eat in.

    Sorry for my improper grammar, i am a full time college student and mother. Also your personal attack on me was clearly ridiculous. Please accept my deepest apologies for not writing my comment after being completely rested to suit your grammar needs!!!.

    As i am sure you will attack this comment as well. Oh and no i did not grow up in Sanford. Not that it is any of your business.

    But your negativity is noticed. Maybe you can write something positive for a change.

    Oh and this comment is written by the same person.

    Sincerely Neene.

    I hope you have a wonderful week. I am not trying to be rude by any means. Just defending myself. thank you for your kind words 🙂

  3. Thanks again for your comments.

    I thought I had made it clear that I came to the conclusion that I needed to try this restaurant by eating-in instead of take-out before I could make any final decisions, but somehow that point didn’t come across.

    Second, my reply to your original comment was totally founded considering the thought you put into writing it. In my opinion, what I wrote was a joke in response to a lame comment. You have to admit that there was a lot of “shut up you stupid head” in there; not exactly conducive to open, constructive dialog.

    Third, I’m glad you came back and I am going to assume there are no hard feelings. As for my negativity, if you read what I have written on a variety of topics, especially topics like “family’, politics, patriotism, and my personal beliefs and ideology, I’m not a negative person.

    I wrote a restaurant review. The response to that review is a microcosmic look at what America is all about today. The “I’m right, you’re wrong, I don’t care what you say” mentality of American life has become tiresome. People troll the Internet looking for others who agree with them, or they look for people to attack with whom they don’t agree. Freedom of speech is a founding tenet of this country and should be enjoyed, and exercised whenever possible. But instead of engaging in dialog and instead of using persuasive language to counterpoint an opinion, everyone is so eager to pounce like a bobcat waiting in the underbrush. And yet I am called the “negative” one.

    When you go over everything I wrote about Stugazzi’s, all I really said was that I had a few bad experiences. Is that so difficult to believe. How can the response be that I’m rude, or that my statements are unfounded. I made it quite clear why I feel that way I do. Am I not entitled to feel the way I do. Nobody has to agree with it, but you do have to agree that I have a right to say it. If I didn’t believe that I would have just disallowed all of the comments that didn’t agree with me. And in the end I, myself, said that I needed to eat inside the restaurant and avoid take-out before I render my own, final, personal opinion. One would think I tried to make slavery legal again by the way people reacted to a posting that was nothing more than restaurant review. I find that sad.

    “You are wrong because I don’t agree with you” is not OK. And the relative anonymity of the Internet has created an even bigger monster because people can hide behind their computers.

  4. You are an idiot and obiously not a food critic. Where do you think we live????? WHat you said was not our interpretation of the resturant and the food was the best we have had in a long time. We got their motts sticks & they were the best I have EVER!! I’m not saying that everyone will love them but we do. It was homey, with a seat yourself atmosphere and very easily decorated to make you feel welcomed & not over or under dressed. I think the peraon who wrote this review was forgetting that they live in Springvale & hoping they lived in Portland. WE LIVE HERE FOR A REASON!!!! We love a simple way of life and Stugazzi’s is simple and I personally like that-A LOT!!!

  5. Ah, the simple life – in Maine. It all boils down to great mozzarella sticks. Thanks for helping to make my point. And by starting a comment with “you are an idiot” you clearly demonstrate what Maine values are all about – open-mindedness, constructive conversation, and defending your mozzarella sticks. Well done.

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