I went there a few days before Christmas based on recommendations I had read on this board. I wanted a romantic, reasonably-priced place downtown, and this place seemed to be what Boston hounds were recommending.
First issue -- the bread. Laurel gave us foccaccia. OK, fine, foccaccia is always welcomed in place of plain, chalky, white Italian bread sawed into giant pieces and gamely served with ice-cold unspreadable butter, which many establishments are fond of doing. Warm focaccia? Even better -- shows that you care enough to give the patron the illusion of freshness. But do not -- under any circumstance - MICROWAVE the foccaccia to achieve the desired warmth.
Why? Because any of us who have ever microwaved bread, or any substance for that matter for whatever reason, can recognized the dry, unmasticatable texture of nuked bread. It doesn't taste good, it can't be chewed, and it smacks of laziness. Put out cold foccaccia, for crying out loud. Just don't give me an oily brick with the palatability of a hockey puck.
Second issue - freakishly early preparation. Not being particularly hungry, my companion and I each ordered a pasta dish. We placed the order, and then took turns visiting the restroom. When we had both sat down -- not 10 minutes after placing our order -- the pasta dishes were set in front of us.
Now, I hate waiting for my food as much as the next person. But having made pasta many times before... I know it takes longer than 10 minutes to cook pasta itself, let alone whip a sauce and assemble a dish. Which made me conclude that all this stuff was just sitting around waiting to be slapped together. Which it may have been. But I think maintaining at least the illusion of "made to order" would have been more appropriate and more professional.
As for the taste of both my dish and my companions -- they were OK. Not remarkable. Like standard-issue North End stuff.
I think Laurel is in a beautiful space -- the tables in the huge corner windows are just wonderful. But I think the space could be spifffed up. It would benefit from some well-placed plants around the periphery, creating more intimacy for diners. Also, candles, not christmas lights -- more flickering flames could make the place seem much more romantic. Finally, the white lattice by the entry made me feel like I was in the Holiday Inn. I guess my commentary comes off like a design snob, but I think the space has potential -- it could be great.
If they could fix the bread and the timing, too.