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Viareggio: Osteria Piazza Grande

Via Garibaldi 122

Closing day: Tuesday

Reviewed by: Alice Twain from Italy, review #1384

When: 2005

Pretentiousness can never be accompanied by mediocre food, bad wine and slack service. You can find all four here.

We were a party of 16. Now a decent restaurant is supposed to be able to serve a party of 16; in case it can't (maybe the presence of another large party...), it's supposed to say so in advance and to fix a menu accordingly with the person who is reserving. Not here. We, a party of 16, were immediately faced with a waiter who gently but firmly drove us to have his choices. And his choices were mediocre.

The "sea" antipasti were too abundant, mostly not fit for a very hot summer evening (when serving fried polenta crostoni should be accompanied by a tall glass of Gatorade to replenish the salts the client loses with subsequent perspiration), especially in a crowded and not too well (I mean, not even by Italian standards) conditioned room. And what's even worse they were not particularly good. Arselle (mussels) were served in a thick and very flavorful tomato sauce on top of the said polenta crostoni, thus completely killing their delicate flavor, a similar sauce with some undiscernible fish topped the crostini, baby zucchini flowers were filled with a munchy mixture of ricotta and breadcrumbs in which a tiny piece of shrimp got completely lost (and its taste, too).

The two primi served were gnocchi with shrimp and fish pappardelle. The gnocchi had a slightly rubbery texture, chewy, and were garnished with a butter sauce with few and far between pieces of shrimp and other crustaceans. Their flavor, once again, was completely overwhelned by the red pepper flakes that had liberally added to it (probably in attempt to add flavor to an otherwise bland dish). The pappardelle were garnished with the same sauce found on the crostino, once again added with red pepper flakes. They had probably been kept warm in waiting for the ghocchi to be ready, so they were overdone, the sauce (already too thick to be used on pasta) had dried out and the pasta layers had stuck to each other. When attempting to disentangle a pappardella string a clump of pasta stuck to it.

The secondi served were opened by a honestly good fritto misto, a mixture of small fried fishes; this frittura was almost perfect. The fish very fresh and tasty, no grease to be found anywhere, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. The other secondo was sold as a catalana, which is a salad of boiled fishes (usually octopus, squid, or prawns) cut in pieces and served with tomatoes, onion and celery, garnished with a light citronnette or vinaigrette. In this case, it was a large dish of mixed vegetables, cut in sticks as though they had to be dipped in the vinaigrette, covered with a very strong vinaigrette where a very bad cheap balsamic vinnegar predominated over all the other tastes, with whole squids and prawns laid on top. So, basically it was boiled prawns and squids (good, mind you) and a pinzimonio of various vegetables, which didn't mix at all.

Desserts were industial sgroppino and a too sweet pine nut gelato served with an extremely too sweet cocoa sauce (it could have been better had it been covered by a web of barely melted and crunchy bitter chocolate).

The wine was served as a "firm white wine". It was baaaaaaaaad. It was a completely nondescript umbrian white wine lacking all flavor and body, as a wine that could have been decent if drank very young and fruity, but which aging made completely empty, with a slight but persistent bitter aftertaste. And in any case, the foods that were served (especially the antipasto and primo) would have been better served by a red.

Considering also that we had to wait for 45 minutes between one serving and the following (we arrived shortly before 9 pm and finished our meal after midnight) and that the foods served basically climbed down from the most tasty and spicy to what was supposed to be delicate and fresh.

28 per person were certainly a very bad deal for this meal. Stay away from this place.

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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