Italian chain restaurants are rubbish. On this, I’m sure we can all agree. Places such as Prezzo, Jamie’s, Zizzi and Bella Italia promise an authentic experience but all serve sloppy pasta and floppy pizza that you could easily cook better (and much cheaper) at home. The one exception we found was Carluccio’s, they do an awesome eggs benedict on their brunch menu, and we really enjoy their lobster spaghetti – we order it every time.
We sat down for lunch today and ordered two bloody mary’s and two lobster spaghettis with a couple of tap waters as it is a hot day. At £15 the lobster spaghetti costs a lot more than their other pasta dishes, but we know we like it so we don’t worry about this and order anyway – why try something different when we know it’s always been excellent in the past(a)?
After a long wait our bloody mary’s and water arrived. On first sip I realised that this Mary was a lot hotter than I normally like (and I like them hot), so I quickly finished off the water to dowse the fire in my mouth. Emily’s was nowhere near as spicy as mine, despite our waiter not even asking us how hot we wanted them. It was also served with a flaccid excuse for a stick of celery, which had gone off – yum, mouldy veg in our drinks. When our waiter passed we asked for replacement celery sticks and more water. Neither ever appeared despite constant asking and promises they were ‘on the way.’ Sometimes mistakes can happen, fair enough, we understand and we will always very politely give the restaurant the chance to put it right without holding a grudge – Carluccio’s, although apologetic on mention, did not seem to care.
Our food arrived and the first thing I noticed is that the top layer of pasta and lobster was cold, which I assume is due to it sitting on the pass waiting for a waiter to collect it. Considering service was slow and we had been waiting over half an hour, this was disappointing – but as the layers underneath were warmer I didn’t complain (besides I was really hungry). Our next disappointment came when we realised what a small amount of lobster was actually on the dish. I had one big piece on top (which was cold) and then just tiny mushy pieces mixed throughout. This in our opinion is not acceptable. Especially as this meal costs £3-5 more than their other pasta dishes. We had eaten this same dish multiple times before and never had the same problem – we always found the lobster chunky and plentiful, which justified the higher cost to us. We complained to the manager who informed us that the amount of lobster used is not within their control and is instructed from head office. If this is the case, then head office must be pulling austerity measures based on our previous servings. Despite being a chain restaurant Carluccio’s market themselves as a traditional, family run operation – so the manager’s talk of head office dictating due to profit margins undermined this and it felt like they were passing the blame and shrugging it off. The spaghetti itself was cooked well, but without the presence of lobster and good seasoning it was bland (although bland spaghetti did help to cool my mouth between sips of bloody mary, which was lucky as the water we had ordered three times was still nowhere to be seen).
So bad service, and poor quality food made for a such a disappointing meal. The manager did listen to our feedback about the food, drinks and service and charged us only 50% of the bill, which we thought was fair, but I don’t think we’ll ever eat there again.
So back to my opening statement – Italian chain restaurants are rubbish. All of them.
Overall score: 1/10
Emily & Stuart