(Photo courtesy Allegria Facebook)
Now that the election is over, we can get back to Long Beach’s second most polarizing topic, the Allegria. It being Long Island’s restaurant week, I figured it may be a good chance to see after two years in business how the Allegria’s restaurant, Atlantica fared. (Note: For the rest of the post I’ll refer to the restaurant as the Allegira)
Restaurant Week is a great way to try places you may not otherwise go to, with relaxed prices on a select menu. From my perspective, a pared down menu to order from promises the eater the very best made dishes the restaurant has to offer, though usually in smaller portions.
How’d the Allegria do? Alright. Full impressions below:
There was a decent crowd in the restaurant and we were seated without a wait. All along the staff was very nice and professional.
A small plate of olives as well as bread came to the table along with our comically over-sized menus. I mean, these things are huge and simply do not fit on the table if you want to put them down. The olives were tasty – though could be the same variety sampler from Waldbaum’s olive bar. My first surprise of the night, there was not one, but two different “restaurant week” menus, a lower tier at $24.95 and a higher tier at $34.95.
The wine menu made me chuckle a bit. You could buy wine by the glass with a large slection between $8-$12 dollars, but the cheapest bottle of wine I could find on the menu was $33 (and a few others were below $40). This is a long way of going around to say that buying 4 glass of wine was cheaper than buying the cheapest bottle on the menu.
So the order. I’m easy to please and like everything so I really wanted to just get served whatever was the freshest/best showcase on the menu. The waiter said the scrod was particularly special and great, so that was easy for me. I don’t particularly know what scrod is other than some sort of fish.
My better half went with an arugula salad with walnuts, and Gorgonzola, and for her main course a roasted chicken dish.
Wine came out quick, and the appetizers flew out. I got a classic: fried calamari. First look? Uh oh, looked like it may be over-fried and burnt, though the smell that came off of them was incredible. How’d they taste? Absolutely delicious. Perfectly crisp, tender calamari, and no greasy taste. The dipping sauces that accompanied them were a welcome addition, without being overwhelming.
The salad that came out was that – a salad. The salad itself (and my app) was a large portion for a restaurant week menu, certainly a nice surprise. It was fresh. It was green. It had a vinaigrette of some variety over it that didn’t have a particularly strong taste.
The main course came out in no particular rush that made for a nicely paced meal – not hurrying the food out, but no real “wait.”
My next surprise of the evening – french fries. My big plate of scrod came out served with mixed vegetables and french fries. I basically didn’t bother reading the menu and was almost confused why they were there. I assumed I’d get some sort of frou frou “polenta” or “potatoes a la blah blah,” not fries. Looking at the plate I realized it was more of a fancy take on fish and chips.
I didn’t complain about the fries though, because they were actually fantastic. A thin cut piece of potato (think McDonald’s size) fried to perfection and lightly salted. The scrod was good. Well cooked, moist, and light. The let down on the plate was the vegetables. I have a sneaking suspicion that the mixed vegetable medley came out of the freezer, into a microwave, and had the label “Green Giant” on it. They were watery, bland, and awful.
The roasted chicken across the table was excellent. Another large plate of food – much more than I was expecting on a prix fixe menu – well presented with roasted chicken resting on mashed potatoes and spinach. The chicken was incredible. Well seasoned, juicy, and all around tasty. The potatoes were garlicy (not a word) and good, the spinach was fresh.
Dessert was a creme brulee and a pumpkin napoleon. Both were excellent. The creme brulee was custardy (also not a word) goodness and the pumpkin napoleon was an exciting take on a classic dessert.
So I’ve used the words good, incredible, and perfect quite a few times describing individual elements of the three courses, but walked away from the meal with an overwhelming “meh.” A lot of the food was good – better than average – but nothing was just “wow, that’s the best ____ I’ve ever had” or will really stick with me for any length of time (the exception being the desserts actually).
I think they set themselves up for a disappointment with the high style, high prices, and flashy decor. The food itself though isn’t refined and haute cuisine. Take my plate for instance, the special for the night trying to wow me boiled down to fish and chips.
The food has more of an clean, direct, and stripped-down feel to it, not complex and delicate like most places that pitch themselves as a four star restaurant. And there’s nothing at all wrong with making simplified, good food, but it just doesn’t seem pitched that way. I think instead you can say “hey, we make great food without flashy gimmicks,” Instead, I feel like it comes off as bit pretentious and then doesn’t deliver on four star promises.
Bottomline: Restaurant Week at the Allegria is good. It is a great way to get in and have a big taste of what they have to offer, while delivering satisfying, though not exceptional food.
Added bonus, our waiter informed us they will be running a restaurant week style prix fixe menu all winter.