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DFW -- Worst meal in a long time at Cafe Italia in Plano

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DFW -- Worst meal in a long time at Cafe Italia in Plano

Kirk | Jun 14, 2006 04:32 PM

After we found out last night that Modo Mio is kaput, we ended up going to Cafe Italia (in Plano's Lakeside shopping center, where Mignon, Mi Cocina, Kathleen's Art Cafe, etc., etc. are located).

We'd been to Cafe Italia once before, shortly after it opened about 18 months ago, and apparently we were nonplussed at that time. Neither my wife nor I could remember anything about the food, and neither of us had ever thought about going back until we drew blanks on any other place to go. It didn't carry bad memories; Cafe Italia just carried no memories at all.

Last night's meal was certainly more memorable.

We started by sharing an order of calamari, which was slightly better than passable. Apparently, Cafe Italia's "concept" is that it is "Tex-Italian," and in the case of the calamari "Tex-Italian" means "batter excessively sprinkled with black pepper." The accompanying sauce was very bad marinara -- watery in texture and brown in color. If somebody had told me it is "Tex-Italian" because it is based on the chili gravy topping the enchiladas at El Fenix, I would not be at all surprised. Nonetheless, we ate the squid.

Salads were also passable...as good as what you might get at a fundraiser or other banquet. The complimentary garlic bread that was brought to the table along with the salads appeared to be foodservice rolls cut in half and slathered with spread and garlic powder... what Sonic would serve if it served "Tex-Italian Toast."

My wife's entree was "Pasta San Miguel" -- described on the menu as linguini with fish and shrimp in a fresh tomato and basil sauce. After tasting the dish, my wife said, "I wish they had mentioned the poblano chiles and the fact that the last time these tomatoes were fresh was just before they were put in the can." The dish also contained so much black pepper as to be inedible.

I ordered "Gemelli Otto Formaggi," mistakenly assuming that the name meant the dish would contain eight cheeses. Perhaps Otto Formaggi is the name of the chef who developed Kraft Dinner, because that is exactly what this dish tasted like -- with the added "treat" of grittiness from too much flour in the cheese-ish sauce.

When our waiter noticed that we had each eaten one or two bites of our own dish and one or two bites of each other's, he asked timidly if we wanted it wrapped up for take-out. He didn't seem too surprised when we said that we hadn't liked either dish very much.

The manager very nicely asked for our feedback on the meal, which we gave diplomatically. He asked if he could buy us dessert, which we declined. So he very nicely handed us a pre-printed card for $10 off our next dinner for two or more. I get the impression that he has the opportunity to hand out many of these cards, which say, "Please come and see us again!"

Before I forget: our total bill, for food and three glasses of wine, was $62. Our waiter was good, despite the food, so I tipped him 20%. It felt like a fitting end to our relationship.

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