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Old 05-18-2008, 10:42 AM
 
Location: Cape Coral
13 posts, read 66,444 times
Reputation: 24

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Wine and Roses is a new Italian Restaurant on Cape Coral Parkway, located in the space which formerly housed Two Guys Pizza II. For a couple months there's been a sign in the front window alerting drivers-by that the restaurant would be "Coming Soon". Ads looking for service staff ran in the local papers. But none of my local foodie-informants had any inside information on this promising sounding new restaurant. There was no internet chatter. No press releases.

As I drove by the other day, two nicely dressed male waiters were out on the sidewalk, trying their darnedest to flag down hungry customers. The restaurant was finally open, but the parking lot and dining room were empty. I thought about stopping in, but didn't think it would be fair to write a restaurant review as their first customer. I gave them a few days to shake off the opening day jitters, and then I returned.



First, I tried to find a website. I wanted to peruse the menu and get a phone number to make reservations. No luck. No website exists. Next I tried to use the internet to find a business listing so I could give them a call. Not possible. No listing exists. I figured I'd call information and have the operator give me the phone number. Then I could have them fax me the menu. Didn't happen. No number exists.

"Could you check under new listings please?"

"I'm sorry sir, we have nothing listed under that name in Cape Coral."

As such, my dining partner and I found ourselves driving to a restaurant which we had no way of determining was opened or closed. We had no idea if reservations were needed. We had no clue as to what was on the menu. The entire ordeal was a shot in the dark. My whole way there, I found my mind trying to formulate back-up plans in case they were closed or had no available seating. I guess we could go to the Working Cow to review their ice cream...they have a new owner.

My fears were put to rest as I pulled into the limited parking lot in front of the restaurant and saw some small activity within. There were two parties seated and eating, and two members of the wait-staff happy to see another car pulling in to the parking lot.

The restaurant is a straight, long, rectangular space with a long bar on the right hand side. The bar has lots of wine prominently displayed behind it. There is one row of booths down the middle and one row of booths down the left. The booths are done in red vinyl. All the tabletops are tastefully done in white linen tablecloths with fancy-folded red napkins. Silverware and water glasses are preset. Each table is adorned with an empty wine bottle serving as a vase for a single live rose...hence the name, Wine and Roses. In all, the setting felt like a fine dining restaurant, lots of wine decor, wait-staff in formal black uniforms...but the lights were turned a little too high for a restaurant with such a romantic name. Atmospheric lighting, much dimmer than what presently exists, would go a long way towards increasing the coziness factor of this place. Put some little flickering candles on the table, and the effect would be complete.



As we walked into the restaurant we were greeted enthusiastically and seated immediately. My dining companion was a female. We were both slightly dressed up and presented a vision of a trendy couple looking for a slow-paced romantic dinner. I was a touch dismayed when our server/hostess tried to seat us smack dab in the middle of the nearly empty restaurant...directly beneath the offensively bright lights. When the restaurant has lots of room available, and a young couple comes in for a night out...perhaps you should give them a nice quiet booth off to the side somewhere. I redirected the server to exactly such a booth, and she said it would be OK if we sat there. We were presented with menus and a wine list. The extra settings were promptly removed.

Wine and Roses Italian Restaurant is owned and operated by Jeff Radke (who formerly owned Island Pizza and Pasta on Periwinkle Drive in Sanibel). The catch-phrase at the new restaurant is "Enormous Menu - Extensive Wine List".

The wine list is nice...I wouldn't go so far as to call it extensive, but the bottles are reasonably priced. Most of the offerings were priced well below industry standard price points, and several were downright steals. We ordered the least expensive bottle of chianti, a Ruffino at $17. Well-polished burgundy glasses were brought to the table. The young, female, server presented the wine and began awkwardly apologizing to us, stating she really didn't know how to open a bottle of wine. She placed the bottle onto our table cloth, stabilized it with one hand, and used her Pulltap corkscrew knife in an odd fashion to slice away at the foil on the top of the bottle. Once the foil was removed, an all-out tabletop wine opening commenced, complete with a broken cork and several more apologies. Mind you, this is a restaurant that prominently displays a bottle of Opus One in its advertisements.

This is a pet peeve of mine. I have absolutely no tolerance for a wine-themed, or any fine dining, restaurant that allows servers on the floor before they know how to conduct proper wine service. Mind you, I do not ever blame the server in these instances...they are only working with the tools they've been given. It is up to the restaurant management to ensure their staff has been well trained and prepared to succeed before they are put on the floor. The server was conscientious and personable, putting her best foot forward in the given situation...but just hadn't received much in the form of formal training from her superiors, and was suffering and embarrassed as a result.

Her inexperience, and further management shortfalls, were on full display once again as we asked about the menu.

"So, you must have been able to try a bunch of the items on the menu during training...what's good?"

"Well, I got to try the Grouper Oscar, but it wasn't really that good...there was no flavor to it...hopefully they'll work it out in the kitchen and make it better."

And that was it. For our one recommendation, she told us what not to get (incidentally, one of the more expensive items on the menu). We asked for a few moments to enjoy our wine and peruse the menu.

The menu at Wine and Roses is practically a carbon copy of Radke's old menu at Island Pizza and Pasta...but almost doubled in size through the addition of slight variations of existing dishes. It is overly ambitious in size and scope...and I had concerns from the beginning. I'm much more at ease in a restaurant with a limited selection of offerings, recipes that have been time-tested and proven, than I am at places with gimmicky huge menus. I'm always concerned at the big menu places that I'll accidentally order the one thing no one else ever does - and the ingredients will not be fresh. Most of the time I'm right.

Back to the menu...it's mostly the type of menu you'd find at an Italian fine dining establishment, but with a few, misplaced, sports-pub items scattered throughout. By sports-pub, I mean things like jalapeno poppers, buffalo chicken fingers, hot wings and Bar-B-Que ribs. The rest of the menu is made up of over 25 soups/salads/apps, 12 signature pastas, 12 Italian classics, 5 types of parmigiana, 8 chicken dishes, 7 fish offerings, 5 veal meals, , 3 grilled entrees, 2 kinds of calzones, and a partridge in a pear tree. All right...maybe there's no partridge. But there are also 9 Signature pizzas, 5 different house pizzas, over 20 pizza toppings, and a full dessert menu. Did I mention they have a separate lunch menu as well?

All these items and I couldn't squeeze one tidbit of product knowledge out of our server...not one positive recommendation.

When all else fails, I always suggest to go with signature dishes and classic favorites. My dining companion ordered the House Salad with a honey mustard dressing and the Chicken Francese. I took the "Signature" Seafood Chowder and Linguini with a White Clam Sauce. The two courses were presented with appropriate timing.

The House Salad was made with mixed field greens, tomatoes and cucumbers. The ingredients were crisp and fresh. The honey mustard dressing was tasty and came served in a ramekin on the side.



My "Signature" Seafood Chowder was a large portion served in an impressive, ornate, starfish dish. It was described on the menu as "an ocean's bounty of mussels, clams, shrimp and whitefish in a creamy, rich, white, New England chowder". It was bountiful, indeed, but mostly with very large mussels (which aren't commonly found in chowders, and significantly detracted from the taste and appeal of this particular one). The clams were large, coarsely-chopped, canned, sea clams. The shrimp were not firm or tight, but mushy enough to crush with my tongue against the roof of my mouth and swallow without chewing. The whitefish (I also dislike non-specific fish terms, such as this), was nowhere to be found. The chowder itself wasn't really a rich white...but more of a sallow yellow. Not my idea of a good chowder.



My companion's Chicken Francese was up first. Described as "dipped in egg, sauteed in lemon butter and white wine". The red bliss potatoes the server offered when she took the order never arrived. An older woman came to the table to apologize that the chef had run out of the roasted bliss potatoes, and had substituted a twice-baked potato in their place.

"I'm sure you'll love it."

My companion enjoyed the tart, lemony flavor imparted to the chicken. I thought the taste was pleasant, but nothing to write home about. Chicken Francese always has a texture problem to me...the soggy coating never quite holding its own against the citric sauce. It was a passable entree. OK to eat, but neither of us would ever order it again.



The Linguini with White Clam Sauce was a tragedy. I cannot accept that a restaurant, just miles from the Gulf of Mexico, would ever dare to make a clam sauce using absolutely no fresh clams. Pine Island, right around the corner, has several aquaculturists growing excellent quality farm raised clams. The seafood stores around us are filled with bags of Cedar Key littlenecks with wonderful flavor. And what this restaurant chooses to serve is a completely bland pasta dish with a couple small handfuls of rubbery, canned, sea clam fragments. Utterly reprehensible.



Ground pepper was offered with all courses. Proper silverware service ensued. The checkout procedure went smoothly.

First impressions are everything in the restaurant industry. During a restaurant opening, all eyes are on you. Opinions are shared. Word of mouth spreads like wildfire. And reviews are printed. Good help needs to be hired. An effective training program needs to be in place. Servers need to be acquainted with the product you're asking them to sell. Anyone who is going to be seating guests needs to be briefed on hosting strategies and seating etiquette. The food needs to utilize fresh, preferably local, ingredients. And you need to shock and awe diners...especially in this restaurant-saturated market...especially in this faltering economy. That is how you succeed in the restaurant industry...by treating every guest as though their experience is important to the future of your business...because it is. People aren't coming to your restaurant to hear excuses. They're coming to have fun, share moments, and enjoy an excellent dinner without having to cook and clean up.

In light of the experience I had, my rating for Wine and Roses Italian Restaurant is Not Recommended. This restaurant is just not ready for prime time. The food is inexpensive...but you get what you pay for. Everyone who works there is friendly...but the staff needs more training and development. The menu needs to be trimmed, so that fresh ingredients can be used. Part of the problem here is in expectations. This is a restaurant that hasn't decided what it wants to be, a restaurant with an identity crisis. The advertisement with the Opus One bottle also has a large picture of a pizza right next to it (for those who don't know, Opus One is a $200 bottle of wine). The name of this place marks it as a fine wine and dine restaurant. The white tablecloth atmosphere reinforces the fine dining expectation. But the untrained service staff and mediocre food need much refinement before they'll live up to the expectations the name and atmosphere of this place have created in the minds of potential customers. Until then, Wine and Roses will just be a pizza parlor with an enormous menu.

R.D. Lang is the nom de plume of a regular joe who dines on his own dime.


Originally Posted at The Cape Coral Barometer
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Old 05-18-2008, 09:26 PM
 
Location: Amherst, MA
3,636 posts, read 8,740,771 times
Reputation: 1755
Gotta love food reviews... Each human has his own personal taste. What is good to one person is not to another. I always try it for myself...
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Old 05-22-2008, 05:43 PM
 
22 posts, read 82,060 times
Reputation: 19
Anyone else try this restaurant?
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Old 05-29-2008, 06:09 PM
 
1 posts, read 4,068 times
Reputation: 10
Thumbs up wines and roses restaurants

i agree with for each one his own i have been there three times already seens they open and every single time me and my friends had a great time,food was great from their salads to the seafood soup that it is amasing filled with real shrimp,clams,mussels and chuncks of fish ,to the steak that can be cut with out a knife it was so soft and tender,to the tiramisu homemade man i am sorry but this r d lang guy must have some kind of a vendeta against them i just dont get it i went to see other reviews he had and he was nice to everyone else this is got to be personal ,in my side and all my friends we have a new place to eat and drink good wine at great price...
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Old 05-30-2008, 08:11 PM
 
Location: The Conterminous United States
22,564 posts, read 48,403,331 times
Reputation: 13435
Quote:
Originally Posted by atleta67 View Post
i agree with for each one his own i have been there three times already seens they open and every single time me and my friends had a great time,food was great from their salads to the seafood soup that it is amasing filled with real shrimp,clams,mussels and chuncks of fish ,to the steak that can be cut with out a knife it was so soft and tender,to the tiramisu homemade man i am sorry but this r d lang guy must have some kind of a vendeta against them i just dont get it i went to see other reviews he had and he was nice to everyone else this is got to be personal ,in my side and all my friends we have a new place to eat and drink good wine at great price...
You registered just to say this? Hmmm....
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Old 05-30-2008, 08:14 PM
 
Location: Amherst, MA
3,636 posts, read 8,740,771 times
Reputation: 1755
Probably an employee or owner....
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Old 06-13-2008, 04:37 PM
 
2 posts, read 7,527 times
Reputation: 10
Talking my own review

ok i read this review,but hey i love to try new places and it looked really nice inside... so why not? yeah everyone has their own opinion but i thought the food was great...especially the tiramisu! It really did seem like this rd lang guy has a personal issue with the owners unfortunately!
this is what he wrote...(I gave them a "few days" to shake off the opening day jitters, and then I returned.)you should give them a few weeks...!
we all know restaurants arent great the first few weeks! haha
I also tried the boston pub... he rated this place so highly,so i was dying to try it! The fish was tasteless(probably old) the fries were ok but how do you screw that up?did i mention overpriced? (RD lang says you get what you pay for!)The bun my fish sandwich came on was good.
so you cant always go by a food critics opinion. Try it again RD lang ...now that they been open for awhile!
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Old 06-13-2008, 10:06 PM
 
Location: Cape Coral
13 posts, read 66,444 times
Reputation: 24
Quote:
you should give them a few weeks...!
we all know restaurants arent great the first few weeks! haha
Perhaps everyone should get their food for free during the first few weeks then.

A restaurant should not open until they are ready and the staff is properly trained. Your first customers should be seen as your most important...you never know who they might be. They are the first people who will go out and spread the word about your restaurant....Good or Bad.

If you don't care enough to take care of your first few guests properly, how can you expect to garner any interest in your restaurant? First impressions are everything in the restaurant business.

I can't accept this, "You need to give them a few weeks" argument. I went to Wine and Roses and paid the check with my hard earned money.

The burden to properly train your staff should not fall on me and my wallet. Work out the kinks on your own dime.

---R.D. Lang
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Old 06-14-2008, 04:12 AM
 
Location: Amherst, MA
3,636 posts, read 8,740,771 times
Reputation: 1755
Like I said, it's all PERSONAL TASTE. We are all different... What tastes good to me, you may not like... I always thought movie and food critics should be chefs or producers in order to judge. It seems like a critic is a person who can't do it themselves, but criticizes what others do wrong....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cape Coral Barometer View Post
Perhaps everyone should get their food for free during the first few weeks then.

A restaurant should not open until they are ready and the staff is properly trained. Your first customers should be seen as your most important...you never know who they might be. They are the first people who will go out and spread the word about your restaurant....Good or Bad.

If you don't care enough to take care of your first few guests properly, how can you expect to garner any interest in your restaurant? First impressions are everything in the restaurant business.

I can't accept this, "You need to give them a few weeks" argument. I went to Wine and Roses and paid the check with my hard earned money.

The burden to properly train your staff should not fall on me and my wallet. Work out the kinks on your own dime.

---R.D. Lang
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Old 06-14-2008, 08:29 AM
 
Location: Cape Coral
13 posts, read 66,444 times
Reputation: 24
Quote:
I always thought movie and food critics should be chefs or producers in order to judge. It seems like a critic is a person who can't do it themselves, but criticizes what others do wrong....
I think if you look at the background of most successful critics, you will see they do have experience they draw on while creating their reviews.

I have over 20 years experience working in all capacities at multiple restaurants and resorts...with the majority of that time being spent as the manager of fine dining restaurants.

When it comes to the actual flavor of the food, yes, personal taste is a factor...not the only factor, but certainly part of the algorithm.

However, When it comes to customer service, table etiquette, steps of service, ambiance, and etc...then there are standardized protocols a reviewer can draw from which outweigh personal opinion.

---RD Lang
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