Sunday, February 13, 2011

Nina's Ristorante: Don't go

Enough folks have praised this North Raleigh restaurant that we decided to try it last night. Its Web site certainly makes some of the kinds of claims that entice me: innovative menu, focus on service, etc. I was hoping that it, like the wonderful Saint Jacques, would rise above its strip-mall location and showcase the food of a chef steeped in a country's tradition.

Nina's did none of that. Instead, it provided one of the more frustrating meals I've eaten lately.

I asked if the bar could make me something non-alcoholic featuring fruit juices. After a dumbstruck look and several questions from our server, I suggested they could start with orange and pineapple juices. They poured some of each from a can into a glass.

Our server's stellar behavior continued throughout the evening, running the gamut from mush-mouthed and surly to downright rude.

I opted to try classic basics: Caesar salad and penne alla vodka with chicken. The salad was basically bag romaine lettuce, four store-bought croutons, and some lemon juice. The pasta was, after a dose of Parmesan, serviceable and pleasant, though the cream that should have been the basis of the sauce was either missing entirely or so faint as not to matter. The chicken in it, like the salad, was of the quality of something you buy in bulk in a bag.

Our server was clearly annoyed that we skipped the dessert and coffee stages of the meal, but after the salads and mains, we were all ready to be out of there.

I almost never write negative reviews. I generally feel that praising the good places (or books or whatever) is enough, and I should leave the weak ones alone. Nina's, however, sufficiently annoyed me and is so far from what it claims to be that I am making a rare exception with this post.

Definitely give this place a wide pass.

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