Fine Italian dining or pizza parlor?
Looking for a good Italian restaurant in New Milford. Outside of town, headed north toward Litchfield on route 202 sits 1 Twenty Two. The name a take on the street address, 122 Litchfied Steet, the place is out of the hustle and bustle of New Milford proper with plenty of parking. No three-hour limit as on the green in town.
Happy and I stopped on our way home from a visit to family in Pennsylvania for an early dinner. Got there about 4:30PM, but to my surprise, there were already diners seated in the both the pub and restaurant. A good sign. We’ve been by the place many times with the admonition that we should try it if we are in the area at meal time.
You enter through the pub, which brought up prior bad experiences. (See my McLadden review) But unlike that occurrence, the hostess offered us a choice of seating, dining room or pub. We chose the dining room, a good one as there were only one other family there due to the early hour. That was sure to change as the staff were setting up for a large group yet to show.
1 Twenty Two is something of a trend in Italian dining if I read the scene correctly, pizza joint married to wonderful and sophisticated cuisine. Not sure how I feel about the movement. It does make economic sense. Serve a wider audience, build a bigger business. Maybe that is what one has to do to survive in this highly competitive arena. But from the Grumpy position, the melding mashes the extremes of fine Italian cuisine and pizza-by-the-slice into something mediocre, dulling the fine dining experience while raising the art of pizza a level above mere take out. Perhaps this is what is necessary for success. It seems to be working. 1 Twenty Two has been jammed packed when we have passed by on other occasions. DaCapo in Litchfield hosts the same crowds, Bacci’s in Torrington the same. Can’t argue with fame and fortune.
But what of the food? I ordered a special of the day, tortellini carbonara. Excellent dish, actually a large soup bowl brimming with cheese filled tortellini swimming in a well-seasoned cream sauce with peas and bacon. (Sorry too dark for a pic) A prodigious amount of food but no doggy bags required. Only flaw in the dish, the sauce was a little soupy, could have been thickened more. Perhaps after simmering throughout the diner hours it might have developed more consistency but we were early and maybe we cut into the simmer time. Small point, all the flavors were present and accounted for and there was nothing left in my bowl at the end of the meal.
I pared the meal with a glass of Montepulciano, a fruity, flavorful wine. Convention dictates I should have gone with white wine to go with a dish, but Grumpy often swims up-stream on these matters. The Montepulciano pared well with the carbonara.
Happy ordered the Lemon Chicken Romano, a panko encrusted boneless chick breast with a lemon sauce perched atop garlic mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli all smothered in a coating of melted mozzarella. I sampled some the following day. Lemon and garlic flavors were subtle and understated, no one taste dominated the dish making for a delightful combination.
The meals were served with small, warm ciabatta loaves drizzled with herb infused olive oil. A nice touch.
Happy ordered her usual root beer and therein lies the beginning of the unraveling of the experience. Our server was enthusiastic and attentive, but with a forced attitude, a little on the smarmy side. But I digress. The root beer came out in a bottle sans glass. A lady, ordering a full meal and not being offered a glass for her beverage? So pizza-parlor-like and totally at odds with our expected dining experience which was not pizza at all. Says something about the difficulty of even the staff to bridge the fine dining/pizza joint gap.
Happy and I shared a Bomba for desert. Normally we wouldn’t do desert but Bomba on the menu requires exploration. We love these things and they are all of different construction. The chocolate coated ice cream ball of the 1 Twenty Two version came out halved drizzled in chocolate sauce with a healthy (maybe unhealthy) dollop of whipped cream. Chocolate and vanilla ice cream were encased in the ball and separated precisely according to flavor in each half shell. How did they do that?
We were handed forks to deal with the dish. Folks, can you say melting ice cream? Forks? Our waiter disappeared before we discovered the problem. But when we asked about spoons, we were greeted with a bit of attitude. He provided a mumbled explanation, the bomba shell was thick and required a fork to cut through it. (not!) But a look of distain told of his opinion as he tossed the spoons on the table. Now Happy and I are of an age where our strength may not be what it used to be, but to assume we couldn’t handle a chocolate bomba shell with spoons? Or maybe the dishwasher was late for his shift and we were demanding extra flatware.
Lest the reader become confused by my ranting, we enjoyed our meals at 1 Twenty Two and would return again. I’m just caught up in this fine dining/pizza joint dichotomy and do not know what to make of it. I suppose one should accept what is and move one. When Cipriani in New York starts serving pizza by the slice and beer from a bottle, I suppose the transition will be complete and there will be no choice in Italian cuisine.
Ambiance = 7
Cozy place, set up in smaller dining areas as apposed to one large open room. Better for sound control.
Service = 6
See comments above. Service was good but came with an attitude.
Food Quality = 9
Both our dishes were excellent and showed definite signs of creativity in the kitchen.
Value = 8
Pricing is fair for what you get. I expected higher prices considering the area. Pleasantly surprised.
Fine Italian dining or pizza parlor?