Friday, January 28th, 2011

On our second night out for Madison’s Restaurant Week we went to Lombardino’s, an Italian restaurant on the west side of town that everyone has been telling me is one of the best dining experiences in Madison, and they were right. As soon as we walked in the door and I saw coat hooks everywhere I thought, I am really going to like this place.

It’s the little things that count. You can hire the best chef in town, but if your wait staff sucks sewer water and your bathrooms are ice cold and smell like a ripe dumpster on a hot day in August, who’ll want to eat at your place? Well, one of those very important little things, at least to me, is just this: Coat hooks. When did it become acceptable to skimp on coat hooks? Especially here in Wisconsin, where presumably every customer who comes tromping in during the winter is going to be wearing a long, heavy coat. If I have to hang my winter coat off the back of my chair, so the tail drags on the ground where everyone can step on it, right away I’m not happy with the place. And where am I supposed to put my gloves and hat? On the table where they’ll inevitably sop up the spilled ice water? I’m just not having a good experience when it begins like that, so thank you, Lombardino’s, for the coat hooks. And not just a few token hooks near the door. They had hooks and trees everywhere. I was so happy about that I was grinning like an idiot.

And it just got better and better after that. The wait staff was excellent, really first-rate. Our waitress was friendly without being smarmy, attentive without wearing out her welcome. When a water glass was half-empty, it got filled, and when one of us pushed an empty dish to the side, it disappeared. We were happy to tip these guys heavily.

Usually when we go out, we order different meals so we can try each other’s food, but tonight we both wanted exactly the same thing. Well, except for the drinks. B started off with a cocktail of bubbly wine mixed with peach juice, while I enjoyed a pint of Ballistic, a seasonal IPA from Ale Asylum. We both ordered the Tuscan white bean soup for starters. It seemed to be more of a stew to me (B called it “hearty”) but I like stew quite a lot and it was yummy. We both cleaned our plates.

For the main course, we both ordered the spaghetti. The waitress brought us each a haystack of spaghetti, dripping in meat sauce. We tried as hard as we could, but after munching away at it for the better part of a half-hour neither one of us appeared to have made much of a dent. Wanting to avoid the sleepless night that would follow if I ate too much, I asked the waitress to box up my remainder, and so did B.

Which left us room for dessert. B asked for tiramisu and I went for the flour-free chocolate cake. I had no clue what a flour-free chocolate cake was. I mean to say, if you leave out the flour, what do you have left? The answer is: Pudding. It’s a little glob of highly-concentrated chocolate pudding, served in one of those teensy cups you get when you order espresso, with a big dollop of whipped cream on the top and a slice of biscotti on the side. I scooped off the whipped cream and dug in. Oh. Yum.

Just one more thing: Don’t go to Lombardino’s without taking time out for a trip to the men’s room, and here I’m obviously talking to just the guys. Ladies, you’re not missing anything, but guys, if you don’t make a trip to the head you’re missing some awesome classic cheesecake. I think they’ve got a photo of every Italian movie starlet in there: Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Brigit Bardot, you name it, they’re all there, and every one of them posing in her underwear. I had no idea movie starlets were so scandalous back then! Okay, I did.

Time for Din-Din! | 9:36 pm CST
Category: festivals, food & drink, Madison Restaurant Week, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants | Tags:
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  1. 1 b said at 11:00 am on January 30th, 2011:

    Don’t forget the music!

  2. 2 Dave said at 12:19 pm on January 30th, 2011:

    You mean the Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and so on? I guess I thought that was pretty much a given.