Izzy isn’t very good, is he?

Out to dinner tonight with BJ and Handsome Larry, we went to the new place in Alamo I’ve heard so much about, Izzy’s Place.  I liked the salad, and 60% of the dessert.  That isn’t enough.

Izzy’s Place is in a strip mall across the street from the Safeway.  It used to be an old fashioned Italian restaurant.  I wish it still was.

The facility is indeed attractive, with a large kitchen visible behind enormous windows that keep in the sounds and smells but let you see the work.  The tables are formica covered, with brass around the rims–no tablecloths.  I try to avoid sitting in a booth, but the three booths along the wall sure looked attractive, with light fixtures reaching down right over the tables to lend an intimacy while providing good illumination.

The waitress started out by telling us the long sad saga of the two owners, their desire to recreate an Italian family dinner atmosphere, and the chef they imported from New Jersey to accomplish that.  Then there was some talk about wine and their complex way of offering it.  So far, I wasn’t impressed.

We started with good news–I like the way they serve iced tea:

Not only a great presentation, but the coolest ice tea spoon I've ever seen

Not only a great presentation, but the coolest ice tea spoon I’ve ever seen.

Larry and I had the bibb lettuce salad, with dried cranberries and a buttermilk thyme dressing.  Not only was the salad good, but the savory herb biscotti it came with was superb.  I don’t usually like these tiny slivers of rock-hard bread, but this one was everything you could ever want in a salad accompaniment.

BJ had the brown sugar smoked salmon, and was thoroughly underwhelmed..  In what was to be a harbinger of the evening, the fish was simply too bland, lacking in spice and character.  Further, she felt that the wine pairing suggested by the waitress was ill-advised and not complimentary to the dish.

Brown Sugar smoked Salmon

Brown Sugar smoked Salmon

Gail and BJ both chose the 18 hour pork, but there was no way that this pork was slow cooked 18 hours.

18 hour pork with gemeli

18 hour pork with gemeli

The pasta, like the salmon, was insipid.  The pork was just a slab of meat without distinction.  There was nothing here to get excited about.

My buddy Mike can be trusted to order the spaghetti and meatballs anytime they are on the menu: I never do.  But Izzy’s Place makes a specialty of their meatballs, so I felt compelled to have a plate, perhaps in Mikes honor.

I ordered my dish with a minimum of sauce, Larry ordered the same thing heavy on the sauce.  There was no apparent difference between our plates, they were identical.

Grandma's spaghetti and meatballs.

Grandma’s spaghetti and meatballs..  This is the “light” sauce version.

This plate of spaghetti and meatballs wasn’t like grandma’s, it was like the dormitory at UC Davis.  That isn’t a culinary experience I was hoping to relive.

The meatballs had no taste.  No spices, no herbs, no garlic, no damned taste.

The pasta was boring, and I love pasta and can’t imagine getting bored with it.  Until tonight.

Everybody told us that the house specialty dessert was the thing to look for, so we ordered a couple.

An array of cones to finish the meal

An array of cones to finish the meal

This is the big deal of the night:  5 small cones, with grapefruit, tangerine, creme fraiche, mint and lemon-basil ice cream or sorbet.  We liked three of them (tangerine,  creme fraiche, and lemon-basil), were ambivalent about the mint and hated the grapefruit.  That’s a great batting average if you’re a utility infielder for Cleveland, but lousy for a restaurant.

Izzy’s is not cheap.  The salads were $10.  The dinners come in small and large sizes, which is nice, but my large spaghetti was $20, which is a lot for a plate of pasta and 2 meatballs.  The wine comes in 1, 3 and 6 ounce pours, and is priced high.  BJ ordered a 3 ounce pour of pinot noir and none of us thought it was really 3 ounces.  The desserts clock in at $12 each, or $2.40/itty bitty cone.  I’ve eaten in much better places for considerably less money.

It’s easy to write a harsh review of a mediocre eatery, but it isn’t any fun.  I’d rather struggle to find a new way to rave about the food, but that’s not happening tonight.

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