We spent the night in Harrisonburg recently while on a road trip. Arriving around dinner time on Sunday, we followed the hotel desk clerk's recommendation and tried L'italia.
It's a nicely appointed place and we were greeted warmly and promptly seated in the less than half-filled restaurant.
Gregory came by quickly, introduced himself as our server and advised that the restaurant would be "filling up soon" so he would get us our food as quickly as possible once ordered. We found this odd since we gave no indication that we were in a hurry and, in fact, were looking to have a relaxing, enjoyable meal before returning to the hotel for the night. This "hurry up" theme carried on through the entire meal. And the restaurant never did fill up.
We were never asked if we would like a pre-dinner cocktail while perusing the menu. Only after we had ordered and Gregory started to suggest wine for dinner, did we get the chance to ask for a drink.
We were quite specific, Maker's Mark Manhattans, up, for each of us. The overly enthusiastic and effusive Gregory assured us that was "the only way to have them" and that the bartender specialized in this drink. Unfortunately, when the drinks did arrive...they were on the rocks. (We opted to not even mention the mistake to Mr. Gregory).
Just prior to our cocktails arriving, we were served our dinner salads. Nothing special here, just a mix as you would find from Dole or FreshPak or some other supermarket bagged salad. The dressing came on the side, in little lidded, plastic cups as if we had ordered them "to go." Setting our salads aside for the moment, we tried to finish our drinks without rushing but before our entrees showed up.
We had both chosen very basic, simple dishes: cheese ravioli for my wife, rigatoni with sausage for me. They were average; not horrible, but nothing to crow about. The pasta was cooked just past the al dente stage, but not mushy. The sauce was bright and fresh tasting. Neither dish was piping hot...perhaps because our order was held as we tried to finish our cocktails and then our salads.
Choosing our wines to accompany dinner provided yet another opportunity for Gregory to breathlessly assure us of our good taste.
This may be Harrisonburg's oldest restaurant and it may be the best Italian restaurant the city has to offer. It unfortunately did not live up to the recommendation of the hotel clerk or the pretense and posturing of our server.
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