My mom was in town this past weekend and once again begged me to take her to Giorgio Baldi on West Channel Rd. in Santa Monica (ever since one of her friends gushed about it 5+ years ago she's been itching to try the place). So I agreed to take her, and here's what transpired:
1) We were told the only available table at an early-ish hour was at 6 (their opening hour) though when we left an hour later there were only 3 occupied tables.
2) For about 17 or 18 (small) tables, there were at LEAST 7 waiters and a hostess, all of whom just stood there watching us like vultures the whole time. How do they afford all this personnel expense? Read on...
3) Just before opening, Giorgio himself comes out of the kitchen and throws a hissyfit with one of the waiters, right in front of us.
4) After being seated (in possibly the most uncomfy chairs in town) we were offered water, which we accepted. Two $5 water bottles were immediately opened, poured, and plunked on the table.
5) The waiter then told us to put away the menus, because he was going to recite the day's specials, which he said were the only things he'd consider ordering. Five minutes later, he was done, but his accent was so thick we could only discern 3 or 4 of them. No prices were quoted, but my (brief) look at the menu hinted that most appetizers were in the $8-10 range and most entrees $20-25.
6) We decided to start with the pumpkin ravioli and grilled shiitake mushroom appetizers ... the ravioli were yummy but basically swimming in butter soup; the mushrooms were overcooked and dry, though still somewhat tasty with the pecorino cheese on the side.
7) Mom ordered the Dover sole special, I ordered the Mediterranean sea bass special. Both just seemed ... I guess *indifferent* would be the word. Limp, mediocre, might have been fresh caught but the way they were cooked and overseasoned, there was no way to tell. Both were served with (similarly limp) spinach and rosemary potato chunks that seemed a little too much like Tater Tots.
8) We shared a panna cotta for dessert; it was actually quite yummy though a lot more flan-like than most panna cottas I've tried.
9) We had already decided not to come back, but then came the real pain: the appetizer specials had been priced at $15 apiece, the entrees at $35. This is about a 50% markup above menu prices, and not for anything particularly costly to prepare. (You should have heard the couple at the next table kvetch about paying $40+ for the overcooked lagostino special).
For two appetizers and entrees, plus dessert, no wine or other alcohol .... $126 plus tip. Ouch. At this point, we were as oversteamed as the sea bass was.