Okay, so we went.
Paoli's, in the 21000 block of Ventura Boulevard in the Yuppie Fores...er...Woodland Hills.
We sit down, four of us, intent on having dinner, a bottle of wine, and a nice kibitz. Right.
The wine list was ten bottles long. Two of them were Fetzer. One was Sutter Home White Zinfandel. The descriptions were apparently written by a teetotalling sophomore drama major. (The wine we eventually chose, a Kenwood Cab, apparently had "a tight, compact core of fruitiness". I swear I'm not making this up.)
A platter of four large soft rolls came -- with what looked like an entire stick of garlic butter melting over the top. Absolutely a heart attack on a plate but damn, it was tasty.
Given the description of our wine, I debated ordering the Climax Pizza, but instead I took the CH recommendation to heart and ordered a sausage pizza, forgetting that it was vaguely Chicago-style -- buttery crust, inverted (sort of -- on the bottom was the oil layer, above that was the cheese layer, then the sauce layer, then the six pieces of sausage serving as the justification for the $2.75 extra). There wasn't room for it on the table, so they set it on a chair right next to the entrance, where people kept knocking into it. As for the pizza itself, it was edible and that's all I can say for it.
My wife got the chicken Paoli, which arrived absolutely swimming in a layer of oil. You could drain the filter on an H2 and not come up with that much oil. The pasta on the side was gummy, cold, and the sauce was, well, stingy.
Friend #1 got an appetiser order of baked clams -- see, because I was warned, I had some antipasto set out at my house before we all left for this place -- and pronounced them competent if a little salty. At least they weren't visibly swimming in grease.
Friend #2 got what had to be the world's strongest-smelling cup of pasta fagioli ever, and a giant antipasto salad, with the dressing on the side. It was fortunate that the dressing was on the side, because they gave her an entire metal gravy boat full of it. The salad looked tired, but Friend #2 didn't care, she just wanted the food (she met us there and didn't have any antipasto).
I didn't expect anything from the service and I wasn't disappointed. There was service, it didn't suck, but it wasn't any great shakes either. My only complaint (besides the placement of the pizza) was that he started pouring the tight, compact wine before I had finished tasting it for approval (a process which takes all of ten seconds -- swirl, sniff, sip, is it corked? no, good).
I tried to like it, really I did... and the piano bar in the back was amusing until people got up to sing karaoke and we couldn't hear ourselves think any more. So much for the kibitz. We paid our bill ($101.50 plus tip) and fled across Ventura Blvd. to Taboo Lounge where we tried to float all the grease on top of some excellent martinis.
I think next time we'll drag Friend #2 to Mazzarino's so she can see what red-sauce Italian is supposed to taste like.