Well here I go again, a review of San Marino Ristorante in Waterbury, CT. We just visted San Marino twice in two days. It was chosen by family members, not I. I am going to break the review into both days as it was night and day the two times we went there (literally as well).
San Marino Ristorante Italiano
Location: I can not fault the location, however sketchy it is, because this restaurant has been in business in this location far before the area became run-down. San Marino's has done some work to the outside of the building which is nice. They have made improvements, but something needs addressing, the dumpster. The dumpster is in plain site, and smell, when you approach the front door. Please put a fence around it or something to block it.
The Building: As I said above, they have done some work to improve the look of the restaurant, nice job San Marino's (SM hereafter). Walking into SM you instantly feel that Italian-ness that is common to this type of restaurant. There are statues and murals on the wall and nice lighting. A little more concrete around and it could pass from Grandma's house :)
We arrived at SM with 13 people at 8:15pm and waited several minutes to be seated in a relatively empty restaurant. When we were shown to our table we were separated into two groups/tables (seating for 8 at each table). I politely asked the hostess if we could push the tables together into one line so we could all be together as a family. She said she would ask if that was okay, but when she returned she told me no because the waitress would not be able to walk around. I was flabbergasted at this because the restaurant was almost empty, there are three ways into the area we were sitting, and we were only 13 people (I wasn't asking for 20). Honestly, this started off the night for me on a sour note, it should have been a no-brainer to sit us all together.
Service: Service was slow, drinks came in waves, and bread didn't come till after salads (not a big deal, but I like my bread early in the meal). Through out the night the service was the same, slow, but polite. They did start off with several people helping us, but by the end it was just one waitress.
Drinks: No complaints on the mixed drinks, but I started with the house merlot; what was I thinking!?! I am almost positive it was box wine, I just had no visual proof. I then moved onto the Pinot Noir which was much better.
Food: Overall it was a very underwhelming experience, but there were some highlights.
Menu: Extensive selection (too much to be honest) ranging from $12-$27 for entrees (family style also available, menu is on their webpage).
Appetizers: Table 1 ordered a family style appetizer sampler which they enjoyed. It consisted of fried calamari, mozzarella en carroza, broccoli rabe, and a few other items I didn't get to try. Table 2 (my table) ordered individual appetizers (we weren't aware that you could order family style). We ordered the mozzarella en carozza which was very good. It was crusty on the outside and melted on the inside with a nice red sauce. I ordered the Fried Calamari which was very good. It was light and not chewy, the only compliant came from my wife and that was that the calamari strips were too thick for her liking. The red sauce that came with the calamari and mozzarella was good. It was seasoned nice, but lacked that freshness that I had at other restaurants.
Dinner: The presentation of the food was very nice. Plates came out clean and presentable and everything we ordered looked very appetizing. HOWEVER, looks aren't everything because as I stated above, ALL of the pasta was overcooked. The meat that several diners ordered was overcooked and dry as well. I am not going to go into detail as I normally do with each entree we had because it would be the same across the board, overcooked pasta and lackluster taste.
We returned to SM for a larger family gathering after the passing of one of our relatives. We had worked with SM to come up with three choices of menu for the diners, Stuffed Sole, Chicken Siciliano, and Penne with Meatballs. We all arrived around 12-12:30 and were divided into three large tables holding 10 people each. Once again, the place was clean and well lit. The Italian ambiance that you expect was there, music and all (although Bad Bad Leroy Brown did play, I just didn't know Leroy Brown was Italian, my mistake). Going in we told the waitress and waiter (we had two today) that we wanted to make sure that the pasta was cooked al dente, and not mushy like the previous night.
Service: Similar to the previous night the waitress and waiter were very nice, but service was slow for drinks. Bread once again came out after the salads (which is okay because there is nothing special with the bread). Our foods came out this time all together.
Drinks: Similar to the previous night, no complaints with the mixed drinks and the Pinot Noir was the better way to go without paying a huge sum of money for their more expensive wines.
Food: We had a choice of three items this time, Stuffed Sole, Chicken Siciliano, and Penne with Meatballs.
Stuffed Sole: No complaints other than the veggies were undercooked and hard.
Chicken Siciliano: Chicken topped with eggplant, chicken parm style with red sauce and penne. The chicken was a little too well done and the sauce was nothing spectacular. It was as night and day from the previous night! The sauce WAS from a can with little work done to it. I am no fool, most restaurants that make their own sauce get their tomatoes from a can, but some know now to make those tomatoes into something great, and some restaurants just pour it into a pot and add a little of this and that and pass it on as sauce.
Penne with Meatballs: Penne was undercooked and chewy, the red sauce was the same as the Chicken Siciliano sauce, and the meatballs were bready and lacked any flavor.
Dessert: Can you go wrong with ice cream? Coffee was put on table at the beginning of the meal in carafes, but you could have ordered espresso or cappuccino also.
If you are in the area and looking for okay Italian food with an Italian ambiance, then San Marino's is an acceptable choice. Don't go in expecting out of this world food, even if the presentation on some nights is great. The prices on the menu are too high for the quality of food that is being put out. My family has always gone to SM for dinners and functions throughout my childhood and adulthood. I hope that if an employee or owner of SM reads this that they take the criticism and fix what is wrong because I know my family will continue to use their restaurant for our family occasions.