Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Aldente Trattoria Italiana

"We may define therapy as a search for value."
-Abraham Maslow, the father of humanistic psychology

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
Vězeňská 4
Prague 1

Tel. (+420) 222 313 185


Pivní Filosof said...

I've bee following your blog for some time and, though I don't know you personally, I reckon I know what you like. Comparing this restaurant with other similar you have reviewed it is definetevely not a place I want to visit. Might be fine for the expat bubble crowd, but not for people who live and earn in Prague.
Really nice review, nailed the value for money concept better most.
PS: My blog will have its English version from next year, hope you will like it.

Brewsta said...

Thanks, Max. I'm sure I will be a regular reader of yours. Definitely let me know when it happens and I'll post a link.

Anonymous said...

I was in Aldente Trattoria Italiana and it was one of the worst experiences I had in Prague. I get better pasta in Grossetto than in this place! Pasta was not Aldente at all and all they do is put 9/10 of pasta and 1/10 of shrimps for example. I also had lamb-chops and seriously I couldn't chew it! And the worst part comes now! - We ordered two bottles of some Sicilian wine for 520kc later on when I looked at the bill it said "Vino Sicilliana 850 x 2" I was robbed for 660kc there! - I didn't complain next day, I just made sure I say to all my colleagues and friends NOT to go to this place ever! I advise you the same - SAVE YOUR MONEY, for 2,000kc and less you can eat perfectly well in La Veranda for example...

christian said...

About a month ago me and my family we were on holiday in prague, recommended by friends we went to eat at the Italian trattoria Aldente which is in Vězeňská 4 in prague 1.
The staff welcomed us very warmly and after drinking a glass of Prosecco offered from the house, we ordered dinner ... had 2 children 6 and 12 years, we have asked us to prepare dishes that were not included in the menu, we had the opportunity to speak directly with the cook who has fully fulfilled our demands ....
We found good food, meat very tender and tastes really delicious, we also drank the good wine of the italiana.tutte brand brought very abundant, the flesh just to fish, fresh and well cooked, very tasty.
In our 10-day stay in prague we tried other restaurants, some good and some less good, but the restaurant was aldente what more we met, from food to the service, which is why we have returned in recent days even before return to Barcelona ...

Brewsta said...

Christian, I looked at your Blogger profile. I alway find it odd when people start have a profile with no information or blog attached to it, and then one of the first things they do is leave a positive review for a restaurant.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brewsta,
Went here on recommendation, Italian expats - and loved... it! Things change in a year I suppose - the portions were massive. Normally in a place order the middle wine, but here - cheapest or the most expensive. The house wine is actually bloody good. Robin.

Brewsta said...

You're the second person who has told me about having a great meal there recently. I'll have to give it another look.

Anonymous said...

I have to say I think the positive comments are posted from the owners of the restaurant. In July 2009 we visited and the English speaking server was pretty rude to us. We are somewhat used to this kind of treatment because I never order wine (problem with my stomach) and I'm 1 man with 2 children. I had the feeling they wanted us gone so they could get a higher grossing table in. Oh..and.. the food was average at best. I got them to drop 100Kc from the bill since we didn't touch any of the bread or oil and because I told them 45Kc each for cover for kids is robbery. They have great eye-appeal to get you in then by the time you get the food it's too late to back out of the deal. Obviously not interested in or needing repeat customers in the center of Prague.

Unknown said...

Got a gift card to this restaurant and looked for some reviews on the internet, im a food freak :) found more negative reviews than the positive ones so Im pretty curious how this is going to turn out!