Orthogonal Thought | Random musings from the creator of Cooking For Engineers and Lead Architect of Fanpop





What I Ate: July 17, 2009 (Romeo's, Home Slice Pizza)

Posted 18 July, 2009 at 1:28am by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Food, What I Ate)

Dinner: We went to the self-proclaimed "most romantic restaurant in Austin" Romeo's (1500 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX‎ - (512) 476-1090‎) for dinner. It was a dinner of contradictions. First, it was a more of a family restaurant than a romantic restaurant with plastic coated table coverings (you know the type with the almost sticky plastic coating and the white fuzz on the other side), wooden lattice on the walls and ceiling with white Christmas lights (I think it's to make you feel like you're outside while sitting inside), and a wall mural of rock & roll cupids. The place has a few hearts (it's their logo) and cupid statues, but that doesn't really make the place romantic - just tacky. There's no privacy and the place is packed so it's loud.

Service was both fast and slow. The moment I opened the door, the receptionist greeted me by name and showed us to our table. That took me by surprise, but I was secretly pleased (hoping for great service). Then we got our waiter. She wasn't unfriendly, but certainly not friendly. She would also disappear for long stretches of time as we waited to ask questions about the menu, order, and eventually request the check. Food did arrive quickly once we ordered, but after we were done eating it took ten to fifteen minutes to get her attention again.

We started off by sharing Romeo's salad (spinach, pancetta, bell peppers, grilled mushrooms & gorgonzola in roasted garlic balsamic vinaigrette; $10). The salad was kind of a deconstructed spinach salad with peppers and mushrooms. It wasn't tossed and the pancetta (seemed like bacon to me) was a single large round disc with cheese, mushrooms, and peppers. The mushrooms were quite hot while the rest of the salad was ice cold. The vinaigrette was so cold that I couldn't really taste it. The roasted red peppers almost certainly came from a jar or can and had nearly zero discernible flavor.
Romeo’s - Romeo’s Salad

Tina had the Grilled Shrimp Pizza (with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, bell peppers, pepperoncinis, onions & smoked mozzarella topped with grilled shrimp; $14). Sounds pretty good right? Lots of flavorful ingredients - how could you go wrong? Somehow, the pizza had no flavor. The dough was crispy which I was excited about at first, but then I realized that I didn't really taste anything. I don't know how they did it, but with all these potentially wonderful ingredients the pizza tasted like cardboard. When you got a bite of sun-dried tomato though, it was so sour it made my mouth pucker. Also, those drab red bell peppers were all over the pizza giving it a slimy (and still unflavorful) aspect. After Tina ate a slice and I ate a slice, we left the rest to taste my dish.
Romeo’s - Grilled Shrimp Pizza

I ordered the Stuffed Shells (sausage & sirloin stuffed pasta shells topped with a mushroom sugarosa sauce; $13) for my entree. The sauce was not well prepared and had "broken" (oils separating from the tomato and cream "rose" sauce). Amazingly, the flavor wasn't bad (because it wasn't really there and so could not be bad or good). The shell pasta was rubbery and reminded me of the texture of the rubber tube they use to tie off your arm before taking blood. The filling was slimy in texture, very greasy, and tasted vaguely meaty. We really couldn't identify what I was eating and usually we're pretty good at that. The filling was so bad that Tina was completely grossed out by it. I finished the one shell we started eating and then stared at our two plates for a while. Then I looked around the restaurant. Again - contradictions popped into my head. This place was PACKED. The parking lot was PACKED (they even have complimentary valet parking to manage the parking situation). The food was just AWFUL and yet people were paying good money to eat it.
Romeo’s - Stuffed Shells

After a few minutes, I thought about tasting the pizza again (this time putting some salt and pepper on it) and my body revolted against my mind. It refused to eat another bite of food and literally shut down. My system reported that I was no longer hungry (which was clearly not the case when we wolfed down second dinner only fifteen minutes after leaving the restaurant). My mind knew that what my body was telling me was a lie - how could I not be hungry after eating so little food, but it really did feel like I didn't need to eat anymore. We then started the fifteen minute process of trying to get our waiter's attention for the check. Tina and I decided to be nice about it and not make a fuss - we would just explain that we didn't like the food and that would be that. Finally, when we got a hold of our waiter's attention and asked for the check, she simply asked if we wanted to box it up (to which we said "no") and got our check. She never asked us about what we thought of the food or why we left 80% of it untouched. That made it easier to leave, but seemed wrong to us.

Second Dinner: We drove over to Home Slice Pizza (1415 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX‎ - (512) 444-7437‎) and wolfed down a slice of pepperoni pizza and a slice of margherita pizza. So much better.
Home Slice Pizza - Margherita and Pepperoni Pizza Slices

We sat at the counter which is a great place to watch them roll out pizza dough using just their hands, gravity, and centrifugal force.
Home Slice Pizza - Counter Activity

Lunch: I made a hot shredded roast chicken breast sandwich with baby spring greens, mayonnaise, and strawberry jelly on ciabatta.
Chicken Sandwich

4 comments to What I Ate: July 17, 2009 (Romeo's, Home Slice Pizza)

Nate, July 18th, 2009 at 2:07 am:

  • What do the masses know about good food anyway?

    Dude, sorry your (planned) anniversary dinner was such a mess.

    Hope the rest of your evening was memorable in a positive way.

Stephen, July 18th, 2009 at 7:27 am:

  • Based on the reviews I've read, I can see how you thought Romeos would ve a romantic ambiance but just by seeing how busy they were, I would have been suspecious. I would never, ever take my wife to a place for an anniversary dinner without getting first hand recommendations. Sometimes when a restaurant uses local or home grown ingredients, it can be less flavorful than commerically grown food.

    Roast chicken with strawberry jelly sounds good. Was this leftover from the HEB chicken? Any sides with that? Seems to me that salt & vinegar or jalapeno chips would have been a nice complement.

emc, July 18th, 2009 at 4:13 pm:

  • to be fair, michael didn't buy into the stupid "most romantic restaurant in austin" thing - he went because we cajoled him into him. thanks for taking one for the team, mate - you're a real pro!
    bottle of German Riesling to come. your photos rock, as always.

Michael Chu, July 18th, 2009 at 8:50 pm:

  • Thanks, Erin! We tried to go to Nubian Queen Lola's today and she wasn't open (again - the first time was last year when she went on vacation for a couple weeks; this time she left early…)