Saturday, April 7, 2012

Restaurant Review: Marcella's Ristorante - Pizzeria - Wine Bar

Marcella's Ristorante - Pizzeria - Wine Bar
615 N High St
Columbus, OH 43215
Phone: (614) 223-2100
Sunday - Thursday: 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Friday - Saturday: 4:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.
Being at loose ends last weekend I elected to accept Big Mike's gracious invitation to head South for an evening or two of civilized activities, drinking and dining being two out of the five or six I can think of off the top of my head.  Big Mike wanted to give Barley's a rest, so we headed over to Marcella's for a nice Italian dinner.  Marcella's has a very good reputation in Columbus, and most of that reputation is deserved.  Here's the long and short of what we found at Marcella's in Short North.

I believe that the Short North neighborhood derives its name from being short on space - parking space, that is.  One huge benefit that Marcella's offers is valet parking, and take it from me - this is very likely the smartest five dollars you'll spend this week, maybe even this month.  Plan on using valet parking and pack you car accordingly.  We went for an early dinner, and by the time we left there was no parking to be had.

Valet Parking
If you're a wine connoisseur or even a knowledgeable dilettante, this is the place for you.  The wine list is extensive and our server was knowledgeable about the various selections, but before he could launch into a superlative driven description of the balance, bouquet and body of the wine that Big Mike had inadvertently indicated while trying to sound out the name, he was interrupted.

"Neither one of us knows what the hell you're talking about."  I growled.  "We're whiskey drinkers."

The young man's upper lip began to curl into a sneer, and he muttered something uncomplimentary about barbaric Americans.

"Whiskey drinkers with money."  Big Mike added with a meaningful glance at the menu.

The sneer turned into a smile that was carefully adjusted so as not to show the back teeth and an agreement was quickly reached.  A sample of the selected red wine was brought, and a bottle was decanted after our approval.

Wine Everywhere!
I kind of wonder if a bottle of two of this doesn't walk out undetected sometimes, but I didn't ask.  Some things are best left alone.

One item that you'll want to order at Marcella's is the meat ball.  This is an outstanding item and is served with an excellent tomato sauce.  Here is ours, served by Mark the smiling waiter.

Meatball, Served by Mark
I had the Penne Alla Arrabiatta, which is described as "Spicy Tomato Sauce, Toasted Garlic, Sweet Basil".  The pasta was not overcooked, which is an unexpected pleasure.  I've been served overcooked pasta in some of the best (and worst) restaurants in the city, and this pasta was done correctly.  I liked the sauce, but then I enjoy spicy food.  When Marcella's says that the sauce is spicy, they aren't kidding.  It is spicy, and if you can't stand the heat then I recommend you order something else.

Penne Alla Arrabiatta
Mike had the Gnocchi Con Bolognese, which is "Braised Lamb, Marinara, Parmesan Reggiano" and it is excellent.  This was my second choice for dinner, and if I hadn't been planning on writing this review I would have order the Gnocchi Con Bolognese, but my devotion to the art of restaurant reviews often precludes my personal preferences and... well, his was better than mine.  Next time, right?

Marcella's Dinner Crowd
Marcella's is popular.  Big Mike and I arrived with the early dinner crowd, so we were seated immediately.  By the time we left all the tables were full and the bar was packed to the gills.  The real attraction at Marcella's are the sidewalk tables.  When the weather permits, Marcella's opens up the large windows in the front and a few select tables become part of an impromptu sidewalk cafe, but getting a slice of this primo real estate requires some combination of looks, money or Divine intervention.

From the time we were seated until the minute we walked out the door, our service declined.  I put this down to a decided increase in the crowd size, but I don't excuse it.  At the end of the evening when we needed him, Mark was busy somewhere else and when we did see him he wouldn't look our way.

Marcella's advertises itself as a noisy, busy restaurant and they succeed at that.  If you're looking for a quiet place, this isn't it.  In spite of the racket, I enjoyed myself and would certainly go again.  I'll wait for August and try for a window seat.

By all accounts the food at Marcella's is supposed to be Outstanding!, Fantastic!, Amazing! and it isn't.  It's well above average and good enough to bring me back again, but the food is not a gourmand's delight.  The possible exception to this is the meatball, which really is a gourmand's delight.

The thing that really killed the evening for me and that colored my opinion was the service.  Our server started out really well and did a great job, but he ended up finishing somewhere near the end of the pack.  Marcella's should add a few more servers and train the ones they have to do a better job.

I rate Marcella's:

Service: 7
Food: 8

Overall rating: 7.

1 comment:

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