This week's restaurant review considers Trattoria Neapolis, the new palatial Italian restaurant in Pasadena. Here we present the cheat sheet version, plus a couple of details not found in the review. You can read the full review here.
Vibe: This place is over-the-top, completely designed to impress. It takes a lot of cues from the tradition of grand Italian restaurants, and then amps it up and modernizes a touch. From the review: "The restaurant is all about the whoosh of its first impression: impossibly high ceilings; wrought-iron balconies; big, comfy booths; a mirrored bar; an open kitchen with a pizza oven. Trattoria Neapolis gets that sweeping, grand-restaurant thing exactly right, taking the nostalgic model and modernizing it just enough by amping up the romance and toning down the shtick."
Food: Upscale Italian with California influences. From the review: "The chef, Bryant Wigger, previously worked at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles and, before that, as chef at the Italian restaurant at the Four Seasons San Diego. His aspirations here are Four Seasons-large -- he aims to present modernized, upscale Italian food. Press materials claim a combination of Italian and Californian sensibilities. Don't expect eggplant Parm or cheesy, red sauce-laden pastas, and don't expect chain-restaurant pricing. The meatballs have pine nuts and currants in them; the tiramisu is full of pears and caramel; and the prices fall in line with the ostentatious looks and ambitions of the place."
Drink: There's no lack of ambition on the drinks side, either. The cocktail list, wine and beer programs have all been put together by consulting experts, and the result is pretty great. Cocktails are top-notch, and this is one of the cooler beer programs around.
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Service: Service varies from slick, slightly oily obsequiousness to snobbish European indifference. It's a strange juxtaposition, honestly. I found it oddly difficult to make a reservation as well. One time I called and got passed around an automated phone system that eventually hung up on me. Another time I called and made a reservation for that evening, and when I arrived found that someone had mistakenly made it for two weeks away. The restaurant doesn't take online reservations, citing the costs that programs like Open Table charge restaurants for the service. If my experience is anything to go by, it might be worth those costs to avoid frustrated customers.
Takeaway: Trattoria Neapolis is an impressive restaurant, there's no doubt about that. The drinks are great, the pizzas are good, and there's some decent food here as well. But there's also a lot on the menu that doesn't work, and many dishes struggle with issues of blandness or genre mashups that don't really work. To find out the specifics of which dishes to try and which to avoid, read the full review.
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