This week, The New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells dines at Quality Italian, which, according to him, offers dinner and a show, with the show first. Neither are very much to his liking.
"The owner likes us to do things tableside," says Wells’ server as he parks a trolley next to the table and prepares the steak sauce for the steak dish that is to come. "It’s a little kitschy, but it’s fun," he says.
With an extravagant show involving lobster and fire, Wells says his next server answers the question, "What if we set lobster fra diavolo on fire?" "He pours vodka infused with hot Calabrian chiles over a pan of sweet red-pepper sauce. Now the match. The flame climbs the stream of vodka and engulfs the bottle’s neck. It threatens to engulf the server, too, but he’s quick, and there is no damage: neither to his hand, nor to the lobster, which was not stunningly flavorful the night I had it, nor to the sauce, which was."
Wells appears to see through the showiness of the restaurant. "Distinguishing between entertaining ideas and silly ones is not Quality Italian’s strength," says Wells.
He’s unimpressed with the chicken Parmigiana as its "shroud of browned cheese was more like Tombstone than Totonno’s; its fried breading was limp, and after [the] server had sliced the pizza into wedges with a wheel, the chicken turned out to be spongy ground breast and thigh meat almost completely free of seasoning." Luckily, he says, "A fair number of dishes don’t do anything but sit there and taste good." "Oysters baked under sea urchin butter and breadcrumbs are a briny thrill. Nearly as good are the baked clams, with their doubly crunchy topping of bread crumbs and crisp angel-hair pasta."
Wells concludes with a note that "the kitchen needs to work on the first half of the restaurant’s name."
For Wells' full review, click here.