After heading to Warren and finding Stella Blue closed, my friend and I headed to Simone's for dinner last night...hoping to find a new favorite for that area (we both were regulars at his breakfast place). What we found instead was a major disappointment.
We arrived a few minutes after 7:30 to a nearly empty parking lot on a Saturday night. When we walked in, the restaurant was pretty empty except for a few tables and some people at the bar. There was more staff than patrons in the place. The host asked if we had reservations, and when we told him we didn't, he told us there would be at least a half hour wait. In an empty restaurant? When I asked him why, he said they were booked with reservations for 7:30 - 8, so they would have to seat those parties first when they arrived. He told us we could sit at the bar and be served there - we told him no, we'd wait right there in the foyer where they had a nice sofa (neither my friend nor I drink). Needless to say, we got seated within a few minutes - 7:40, to be exact.
The place is white, bright, and stainless steel - which makes it very cold and unwelcoming, not a comfortable ambiance to sit and relax at all. It almost had a 'diner' feel to it. It was very loud as well - with the piped in music and the clatter and chatter from the workers. The menu had offerings of 'starters' ($13+); 'smaller plates' ($16+) and their main entrees ($27-45).
Our waitress was very efficient and pleasant (I have to say everyone there was - no complaints on the service at all) and recommended their 'homemade pasta bolognese' which was listed under their smaller plates for $17. I asked her how small was the smaller plate and she said it was big enough for two people to split - it was a generous amount served in a big pasta bowl. We both opted for our own order of the pasta, as we were both very hungry and her recommendation sounded appetizing. My friend inquired about a side salad to start, and was told they only offered one size salad for $13. (Later on, the couple who was sitting next to us ordered the salad - very small - and sent it back. I heard the gentleman tell the waiter it was not a $13 salad).
We get our dinners within 7 minutes tops (no diners and too many cooks = very quick service) and we couldn't believe what we were presented with. Two small bowls (the size of a cereal bowl) with three forkfuls of 'homemade' pasta and a slice of foccaccia bread. A great lite lunch - but not a $17 dinner. The food was very good (not wonderful), but come on - they couldn't give a full portion? We were done within a few minutes. Our waitress cleared our table, presented our check (2 sodas + 2 SMALL portions of pasta bolognese = $44. Plus $9 tip = $53) and we were out the door by 8:20...STILL HUNGRY. (BTW, she never asked how the food was, or if we needed anything else..I think she was too embarrassed to come back to the table).
As we were leaving, the amiable host asked if this was our first time dining there, and did we want to share our experience with him? We told him the truth: it was disappointing - way overpriced for the portions we were served, and we probably won't be returning for a second visit - even though the service from everyone was wonderful. He actually acknowledged this has been a "common complaint" from patrons, and he will let the owner know. Before we left, I asked him what happened to all his reservations - the place was emptier than when we arrived? He acknowledged this is a 'strategy' they were using to try and lure people to the bar before they get seated to a table. Hmmm.
Overall, this place is a complete fail - very PRETENTIOUS. It's trying to be a 'hip and cool' Manhattan restaurant (with it's design, it's strategy, it's menu, it's portions and it's prices) when it's not...and if it were, it doesn't belong in Warren. Maybe they would get away with this in Providence or Newport with the tourist market, but it's not going to fly for long in Warren with the locals in our current economy. There are too many better choices. Way too many.