Saturday, March 13, 2010

a second review of Giuseppe's Italian Restaurant

17937 SE Stark Street
Happy Hour - 4:00 - 6:30 PM

I first tasted Giuseppe's lasagna in the fall of 2003. It was served with a traditional iceberg salad (you know, the one with purple cabbage and shredded carrots), giant white rolls with prepackaged pats of butter, and Costco cookies for dessert. For one reason or another, this had become the usual for our staff dinner during the nights we stayed late for conferences. The dinner was nothing special but when something becomes tradition, I begin to love it for what it has to offer. I'm very into my routines, you know. I became a little disappointed the year that the salad changed. The restaurant didn't make that change, though. Someone decided that it would be cheaper to buy the bulk packaged salads at Costco. The rolls were replaced by Costco rolls a year later. And then there was the year we had sandwiches instead. I went out for dinner that night.

Now that the tradition is gone, we thought it might be time to give Giuseppe's happy hour a try. I was hoping for small plates of lasagna, fresh garlic bread, soup, and more. Instead I found a list of appetizers marked at a discounted price for happy hour. This list was not typical of an Italian restaurant but instead that of a neighborhood bar. Everything seemed fried. And, I can only expect that it came directly out of the freezer before hitting that vat of oil.

We opted for the fried zucchini, fried mozzarella, and fried ravioli. (See, even the ravioli was fried.) The last time I had eaten fried ravioli was in the cafeteria while in my first year of college. It was pretty equal in taste and I CAN guarantee that those ravioli came straight from the freezer. The sauce for dipping did seem, however, to be prepared on site. It was tasty but nothing to write home about. (Although I am writing...and, this could reach home...I think you know what I mean.)

Sharing the fried foods with four others, and finishing all but the croutons of the large salad (yes, it was the salad I remembered--perfectly plain and simple) we decided that we were still hungry. I requested the dinner menu and the waitress (who was most pleasant during the entire visit) helped us to see what wasn't clearly printed. Okay, it wasn't listed at all...which makes me wonder what other "specials" they have to offer. We were able to order the smaller-than-small pizza and decided on mushrooms, olives, pineapple and NO onions. The pizza was decent with a chewy crust and stringy cheese. The pineapple wasn't interested in staying on top of the pizza and instead became a side order. (That's common though, right?) I would order the pizza again but can't really say that it's my favorite. Don't get me wrong. It's good...but, not great.

The restaurant side of Giuseppe's seems pretty typical of any pizza place in the Gresham area (or at least, the two I've been to). They are definitely made to please families. They've got large tables, pitchers of soda (and beer, of course) and plenty of plastic pizza plates. The lounge side is equipped with comfortable seating, a long bar, dark lighting, and plenty of televisions (including a big screen projector that they pulled from the ceiling just before we left) all tuned to the same thing. And, I don't mean that they were all tuned to sports. I mean, they were ALL tuned to the exact same game. I suggest that--if they are interested in taking over the sports bar scene--they invest in the cable package that allows for multiple sports stations.

During happy hour (which was only as long as it was due to the great company and stimulating conversation and not the extra special dining experience) I ordered two drinks off of the fancy cocktail menu. The first was quoted as being the most popular by our friendly server. I haven't quite figured out why it was called the Teelicious but assume that the spelling should have been indicator enough...because it tasted nothing like tea. It was served in a large glass and had an assortment of sweet-tasting flavors. My second was less than impressive. It was a Krazy Koolaid and too sweet even for me (which rarely happens). If we end up here again (which I'm guessing won't happen unless we are invited by another group who have yet to experience the fried menu) I really need to remember to stick to something simple. They did have a menu on the table for some locally-produced wine. That might be worth a try.

Food: Nearly Meets (the pizza was barely enough to raise this grade)
Drinks: Meets
Service: Exceeds
Ambiance: Nearly Meets
Value: Does Not Meet


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