Thursday, March 14, 2019

Warming up with Some Italian Food

Ristorante Genovese 
214 North Tustin St. 
Orange, CA 92867

Italian food is always a good choice during the colder months. In case you are not reading this in Southern California, for the last month and a half we have been hit by a series of rainstorms that have freaked a lot of people out. We are getting three days of rain pretty much every week and for us Californians, that is a big deal. People are planning their days around the light to moderate rain storms by doing all of their errands on the four days a week it is not raining. We were pretty lucky to dodge the raindrops on a recent restaurant meetup with my parents to a spot I had never heard of before, Ristorante Genovese in Orange.

I must have passed this place hundreds of times since they opened their doors in 1984. Situated right beside the Sky Palm Motel and breakfast favorite Arthur's, Ristorante Genovese is a small, white, green trimmed restaurant with plenty of signage facing busy Tustin Avenue. The Genovese's are a restaurant family. They operated Genovese Steak House in Santa Ana from 1947 to 1984 and then reopened as an Italian restaurant in their present location. Their website lists three generations of family members that have worked here, along with a list of employees that have put in at least 10 plus years at this establishment.

The menu at Genovese's is slanted towards Sicilian style Italian. There's a good assortment of appetizers, pasta dishes, house specialties, Italian seafood offerings, and last but not least, they have their chef's extraordinary specials, which are big-ticket items like Osso Bucco, bone-in ribeye, and a veal dish. These all go for right around $30. Checking out the menu beforehand, I still was undecided when I was driving up for our dinner with my parents.

Ristorante Genovese was packed on the recent Friday evening we were here, but we were lucky to be seated rather quickly in a pretty spacious booth near the back entrance of the restaurant. There's plenty to take in here. There are lots of knickknacks all over the place, plenty of Elvis pictures lining the walls, and a small eight-seat bar in the front of the restaurant. There's also a patio out back, which would be ideal for the warmer months. They also were fully decorated for Valentines Day, with plenty of hearts all over the place. Love was definitely in the air, and I was hoping that was going to carry over with a love for the food. Let's see if that would be the case.

The menu at Ristorante Genovese makes a point of stating that only two servings of Garlic Bread will be served per guest. I guess they had a bunch of deadbeats sitting there all day scarfing down their garlic bread. Can't really blame them, as this was a pretty solid version. This is probably going to sound like a diss, but it's not. This bread really reminded me of the garlic bread my mom used to make when we were growing up. She would spread some of the Lawry's Garlic Spread on some bread and place it under the broiler for a bit. I loved it as a kid, and that's what was conjured up in my mind as we found ourselves each having our allotted quota of bread.

Most dinners come with your choice of soup or salad, and the two of us that had got that option went with the Dinner Salad ($3.95). This basic salad came with some fresh greens, a few shredded carrots, and just enough blue cheese dressing. Nothing earth-shattering about this, but I always enjoy when a dinner salad is included with a meal.

Let's start the entree portion of our meal off with Katie's selection, the Tortellini ($16.25). The fresh tortellini was meat filled and came bathed in one of the better Alfredo sauces we have had. The bite that I tried was good, but I would not have known that there was meat in the tortellini, if it were not stated on the menu. The Alfredo sauce was definitely the star of the show with this entree, as both Katie and I scraped her bowl clean with our allocated garlic bread before her bowl was taken away. 

My mom was torn between the spaghetti and the lasagna. As you can see from the above pic, the Lasagna ($17.25) won out. This came out of the kitchen on fire, with noticeable steam rising from it once it was placed on our table for a good amount of time. My mom liked this at first but then thought it was a little too soupy. It lacked the structure and crisp edges that are some of her favorite parts of other lasagnas. The bite that I had was fine, and I could see what she was talking about with it being soupy. The cheese really took over here and made the noodles and inside guts of this lasagna kind of insignificant. Not awful, but she's had better.

My Dad got the Chicken Piccata ($23.50) for his meal at Ristorante Genovese. The chicken was topped with plenty in the way of mushrooms, capers, garlic, white wine, and some lemon. The big guy made quick work of this, which he thought was pretty good. The chicken was tender and he loved the mushrooms and sauce this came out with. It also was accompanied by a portion of spaghetti with meat sauce and the vegetable of the day, which when we were here was green beans. Both were fine. 

I don't order veal nearly enough. I decided I was going to rectify that situation by getting the Veal Saltin Bocca Alla Romana ($28.50). With this one, medallions of veal are topped with prosciutto, provolone, and mushrooms. I was pretty unimpressed with this dish. The reason you get veal is that you want it to be very tender, and this was not that. In fact, if I didn't know any better, I'd say they made a mistake and had given me chicken instead. The veal in this was lost in the shuffle and was outshined by the mushrooms and cheese. My dish also came with spaghetti with meat sauce and green beans.

Because my meal was a little on the small side, I definitely had room for dessert, and apparently so did everyone else, since we got two. The first was a Gelato Truffle ($5.95). This ball of gelato came out hard as a rock. We had to let it sit a few minutes until it got softer to break into it. It was fine, but not very noteworthy. I did not even write about it in my notes. The Chocolate Fudge Cake was better. It was joined on the plate by some streaks of raspberry and chocolate and three piles of whipped cream. The cake was moist and the icing was not sickeningly sweet. I would have liked this even better with ice cream, which would have made this more like the hot fudge cake at Bob's, one of my childhood favorites.

Our visit to Ristorante Genovese was fine, but not mind-blowing. My meal was a real let down, as it was not what I expect when ordering veal and the serving size and price were all out of whack. I was still hungry after leaving the restaurant and definitely did not feel like I got $30 worth of food. In fact, I thought all of the meals were a little on the puny side. Not one of us took food home for the next day, which is rare when my light eating mom is eating in a restaurant. The garlic bread and Katie's meal were standouts, but that's all I think I'll remember about these meal months from now. Service was pretty good, especially considering how busy they were. Since we probably only have another month before we start heating up in OC,  I do look forward to more Italian food on these frigid high 50 degree evenings.

Out of five palaces, (because the surname Genovese means a person from Genoa, and one of the most popular attractions there is a small street lined with giant palaces, the Via Garibaldi Palaces), five being best to zero being worst, Ristorante Genovese gets 2.5 palaces.

For more information about Ristorante Genovese, head to their website here:

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