July 08, 2011

Restaurant Review: Mezzodi's

Credits:  InfoUSA

Last night we decided at the last moment to eat out in Des Moines rather than come home and cook something.   Because this was unplanned, we didn't have our camera with us, so we can't offer any of our own pictures, and have no pictures of the dishes we ordered.  Credits for the photos are listed with the photos. 

After considering some other options, we decided to try out Mezzodi's, an Italian restaurant that's been a Des Moines standard for more than a decade.  Last year it changed ownership and management, and it recently got a favorable review in Des Moines' alternative paper, Cityview.  Based on that review, we decided to try it out. 

Sadly, we really weren't very impressed. 

First off, the good.   The service was good.   Our waitress was attentive, bringing bread and refills of our iced tea frequently.  Our orders arrived quickly.  The general decor was pleasant.    The serving sizes were generous.   The salad featured a variety of lettuce types, and the salad dressing was excellent.   In fact, the ranch might be the best ranch dressing either of us has ever had.

The vocal jazz - including Sinatra standards - playing in the background was also great, when we could hear it (see below).   The prices for the dinners also weren't bad at all, though the appetizers seemed quite overpriced. 

As to the not-so-good...

Well, to start off, the restaurant was noisy to a degree that really interfered with our enjoyment.   This wasn't due to the place being crowded, but rather due to the fact that there wasn't any sort of barrier between the bar area and the dining area.   There were some obnoxiously loud people at the bar, and we could hear their obnoxiousness all too clearly even though we were seated about as far from the bar as possible.   I suppose one could cite this as a problem with the customers at the bar more than a problem with the restaurant, but one rather has to expect people at a bar to get somewhat rowdy, and the design of the restaurant didn't take this into account.  This might be acceptable if you're going to a sports bar to get chicken wings or burgers, but we found it unacceptable for an Italian restaurant.

But, more importantly, the food - other than the salad, as noted above - just wasn't very good.   Not truly bad, but very plain and ordinary. Like, Stouffer's Frozen Dinner levels of plain and ordinary.  Definitely not what we are wanting when we go out to eat.

Juli got the chicken Parmesan, which comes with a side order of spaghetti and a huge meatball.   I got the meatball lasagna.   Both dishes were attractively presented, and both featured ample amounts of cheese and sauce... and they were both sadly lacking in flavor.  The meatballs tasted of more filler than meat, while the sauces were under-seasoned.   I don't know how they managed to make a lasagna in which the flavors of the different ingredients - the cheese, the pasta, the sauce, the meat, the spinach - completely failed to blend, but I'd like to know so I can avoid whatever assembly or cooking techniques they used.  The chicken Parm wasn't any more exciting.  Actually, if anything it was even less exciting. 

In fairness, I will note that some other reviewers give good reviews to some of Mezzodi's menu items that we didn't try.  The pizza, in particular, seems to be quite well-liked, and the Cityview reviewer was impressed with the tenderloin sandwich.  On the other hand, one reviewer raved about the chicken Parmesan, proclaiming it the best he's ever had.  That review is dated January, 2010, so perhaps the chicken Parm was a lot better under the previous management.   If not, that reviewer really needs to sample some better chicken Parmesan (Johnny's Italian Steakhouse is only the first example that comes readily to mind).  I can say with complete honesty that I've made chicken Parmesan using several different recipes (including this one and this one), and every one of them was much better than what we got at Mezzodi's. (For that matter, my Turkey Parmesan is also a lot better than Mezzodi's chicken Parm, and that recipe would almost certainly work even better if you replaced the turkey with chicken.)

We don't really like to give bad reviews, but we unfortunately were not impressed with Mezzodi's, and based on our experience, we can't recommend it.   I doubt we'll be returning, but if any of our readers have had different experiences or wish to offer their own opinions of Mezzodi's, we'd be glad to post them.

Credits:  Charles Walton

Mezzodi's is at 4519 Fleur Drive.   Hours are Mon-Thurs 11am to 10 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am to 11 pm and Sun 11 am to 9 pm.

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