I've been in therapy for a long time. When it comes to food and drink, my search is never ending.
It's not the price that counts. I've found value in a sausage on Wenceslas Square. I've found value in a lobster salad at The Alcron.
In a search for something new, we went for dinner at an Italian restaurant in Old Town called Aldente Trattoria Italiana.
It took over the space of a cafe called Blatouch that was an old favorite of intellectuals and journalists. Though it reopened in Vinohrady, the passing of its Old Town location is much lamented in certain circles.
The new Aldente interior is very colorful and bright. Too bright for me. There are lights everywhere. They glare off the intensely yellow walls. Candles on the table are always a nice touch, but they'd have better effect if they turned down the wattage in the room.
There are some nice, rustic touches -- dark-stained hardwood floors, red and white table cloths, and a central table featuring various cheeses and cured hams. To pay for those table coverings, there is a 45 CZK per person cover charge. More on that later.
Our waiter was Italian, adding to the feeling of authenticity.
On the other hand, he spoke very little Czech or English, which caused difficulty and some frustration on the communications front.
The menu was a fairly brief document. As a starter, I ordered orechiette with fresh tomato and scamorza cheese. And yes, it was al dente.For the most part, what you see is what you get -- pasta on top of melted, chewy cheese, mixed with chunks of cooked tomatoes. A sprig of fresh basil sat on top of it all. There was also the pleasing flavor of what tasted like pancetta.
Overall, it was quite simple. I enjoyed it. Was it worth 180 CZK? Let me think about it.
V got the seafood pasta. It is cooked in aluminum foil. This foil is molded into the shape of a swan before it is brought out.
The dish was full of small clams and very small shrimp. Again, there was not a lot of complexity here, but there was plenty of pasta, full of the steamed in flavor of the sea.
Was it worth 220 CZK? I wavered on the edge here, but I'll go with a 'yes' on this one.
For a main course, I ordered lamb chops with grilled vegetables. You do get five of them, and they are fairly meaty.But, there was little that was special about them, in regards to preparation and seasoning. They were not particularly tender.
The grilled vegetables were nice, but very plain, and I wouldn't mind having a few more. A large lettuce leaf covered what would otherwise be a large expanse of naked plate.
I know lamb is not cheap. But was it worth 380 CZK? Not for me. I wouldn't order it again.
V got the langoustines. They were expertly cooked, and the tails were delicious.However, the photo doesn't give much perspective. They were small little buggers. There was not much meat in the tails, and even less in the other parts.
And there were just three of them, resting on lettuce that covered and otherwise large expanse of naked plate (sound familiar?).
I was pretty disappointed how little food there was for 500 CZK. So, no, I don't think it was worth the money.
We had an Italian Cabernet for 460 CZK. It was one of the cheaper bottles on the wine list. Forgive me, I can't tell you the label, but I didn't like it very much. It was too intense for me -- not a subtle wine at all.
The final bill for our meal, with two course each, plus wine and a tip, was a little over 2000 CZK.
As a whole, I can't say I appreciated the meal on a value for money level. I can think of many other places I'd choose first when spending that kind of money.
And after looking at the bill today, it appears we were charged the cover charge twice. It says "ostatni 2x45" on one part of the bill. At the bottom, it again says "ostatni 90." Both were definitely a part of the total. I can't think of any reason that charge would be there twice.
Not a happy discovery.
I do think we would have been happier if we stopped after just the starters. Both pasta dishes we had were relatively filling. That would have felt more like value for money.
But Aldente Trattoria Italiana actually looks cheap compared to the two Italian restaurants across the street, Amici Miei and Vinodivino.
I've heard some good things about those other places, in spite of the high costs. Then again, I'd heard a good review of Aldente from a visiting tourist. This person really liked it a lot. So, you never know if your feelings about quality and value are the same as someone else's.
Anyway, Vězeňská Street has turned into something of a Little Italy for Prague dining, but with Wall Street prices.
And speaking of Wall Street, I'll leave you now with the words of Gordon Gekko:
"Money itself isn't lost or made, it's simply transferred from one perception to another."
Aldente Trattoria Italiana
Tel. (+420) 222 313 185