Monday, January 11, 2010

Old Faithful or Old and in the Way?

Posted By on Mon, Jan 11, 2010 at 12:31 PM

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Last month I told you about one option for a fairly quick meal before attending an event at the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall, Arpeggio.

In an attempt to add a little more culture to my life (i.e. college football season is over), I decided to take in another program by the symphony Friday night. Knowing that the weather was forecast to be frigid and full of flurries, I looked for a suitable dining spot before the show. Proximity and availability of free parking were my primary criteria.

Sole Mio at 311 Third Ave. S. fit the bill on both accounts. They are very familiar with patrons timing their meals to make the downbeat of the symphony which fell at 8 p.m. SHARP. Parking is available behind the restaurant off Malloy Street, and it is only a quick block-and-a-half walk to the warm confines of the Schermerhorn.

Those were the highlights of the meal unfortunately. In my opinion, Sole Mio has become rather tired over the past few years. With an ambiance that is dim rather than romantic complete with strange paisley designs scattered randomly across the wall of the main dining room and a thermostat set at Nome rather than Rome, the atmosphere was not very welcoming.

The food was uneven at best. Our antipasto platter for two was interesting if not transcendent. The addition of craisins to the plate was a head-scratcher, but they did add a tart counterpoint to the expected prosciutto, mozzarella and olives. A split Caesar salad was more than enough for us both as the mesclun mixed greens struggled to break the surface of a pool of soupy dressing. Our secondi piatti also had trouble keeping up with the temperature of the dining room. Both the Petto di Pollo and Veal Saltimbocca were overcooked and underseasoned, almost as though they wanted to stay in the nice warm oven a few minutes too long before facing the cold reality that was our plates.

Regrettably, our service had slowed down as well so we found ourselves with no time to send our meals back for a refire even though we had made a reservation for 6 p.m. before the 8 p.m. concert. We did at least make a comment that we had been disappointed as we pounded our $6.50 coffee drinks on the way out the door for a Schermerhorn sprint.

Did we expect too much? Sole Mio has been a dependable option in the past. In retrospect I've been thinking that we all get in a lather about new restaurant openings but it is equally as valuable to visit some of the long time denizens of downtown because people still eat there every night.

Which dining options do you depend on when you're looking for a decent meal between Vanderbilt and the river? I'm thinking that Demos', Jimmy Kelly's, the Stockyard, Merchant's, SATCO, etc., probably deserve checking in on to see if they're still on top of their games in the face of new competition. What do you suggest?

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