I stopped into the new Adriatic Grill (the former Cucina Cucina space near the Tacoma Mall) the other night with my friend Kevin, for a quick bite in the bar .
As we entered, the Hostess bolted from her perch to make sure she opened the door for us, and welcomed us in. We just want to sit in the bar thanks, we said. We were the only people in the bar. There were two other tables in the dining room at about 7:45pm.
Although I never ate at the Cucina location, I understand the remodel was extensive and the space looks handsome, they sure have done their best to make us forget we are eating at the Tacoma Mall, I thought.
The masculine bar, all marble and dark wood, didn’t scream “wine bar”, but it is definitely comfortable for a mall location, and I ordered a good Cabernet by the glass, which was served in a side carafe with a Riedel stem (probably as an easy way to accurately gauge a 5oz pour without looking like it is being “measured” ). Besides it just looks good.
Kevin orders a draft, and we settle in and read through the extensive menu of Antipasti, Soups & Salads, Entree Salads, Grill Specials, Specialties, Pizza, Pasta, Pasta From The Oven, which all sound delicious. The Mariners are playing on the flat screens, which is distracting in a good way.
[A few quibbles about Menu Writing in General and this Menu in Particular]:
Too many items are redundantly "topped" by this and that, and crusted or lightly crusted--words that don't add much to the description or understanding of the dish. As you proceed through the various Menu items, one gets reader fatigue-- reading the same food modifier over and over again, and the menu begins to have a certain sameness to it.
Also, descriptions such as: Made for a Queen, A Cheese Lover's Delight, or zesty, seem to me better suited for a restaurant with less lofty ambitions. Let the diner come to their own conclusions.
The "CREAMY PORCINI MUSHROOM SOUP with shitake" [sp] mushrooms etc...
is correctly spelled Shiitake. Spelled with one less letter i and the mushroom becomes a four letter word.
Having now read through the Menu, but not being very hungry, we decided we really just wanted some good Bar Apps --so we ordered the Italian Burger Sliders with grilled onions and the Flatbread Al Forno with Cambozola blue cheese, and roasted garlic cloves.
The flatbread (really just a disk of pizza dough) was under-baked. It had a few chili flakes scattered over it with some reggiano and was also a tad dry. If only it had been left in that wood burning oven a few minutes longer to develop some char and delicious burned bits here & there around the edges! I asked for some extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle--to moisten it up a little, and then it was much better. And it was very good indeed after smearing it with the roasted garlic cloves and the Cambozola!
The Italian Burger Sliders however, were a disappointment.
They were made from their Meatballs the Bartender explained.
But what under-seasoned meatballs were these!
I couldn’t tell what kind of meat these were made from? Pork? Beef? A combination? Meatballs should be garlicky and bursting with flavors of oregano, Parmesan and maybe some basil too and smell like your Italian Grandma's house when she's simmering a pot of tomato sauce on the stove. I think they should give Grandma a call and get her recipe. At least the buns were soft and good Kevin pointed out. But the tangle of dry arugula, piled next to the (3) Sliders, had seen better days, and was beginning to yellow looking old and wilted. It needed a refreshing bath in ice water and a ride in the salad spinner. It wasn't even fit for staff salad, and should have been thrown in the garbage can!
The Bartender commenting on the warm day, said he couldn’t wait to get the outdoor patio opened…I had to resist wondering aloud if the view would be of the Krispy Kreme Store in the distance, or the Pier 1 parking lot?
I could see myself eating here if I was shopping and famished, as there is nowhere to eat inside the mall --and the menu sounds like it has a lot of interesting things to offer in this handsome dining room [which is light-years ahead of neighbor RED ROBIN].
And, as the Bartender pointed out, Happy Hour $4 pizza is a steal!
But that Mall ambiance does rattle a bit.
On the way out, the Hostess almost tackled us to get the door open first. A simple have a great evening from the Host Stand would have been a little less stressful I think.
I will go back, because I can tell the food is good. And we have a lack of well-prepared interesting Italian in Tacoma.
Flat Bread $9
Meatball Sliders $8
Pint Stella $5
St Michelle Cab Gl $11
Recommended. But watch out for that tackle-greeting at the door!
Adriatic Grill Italian Cuisine and Wine Bar
4201 S. Steel St