Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Nunzia's

7720 Tx-71 W
Austin, TX
(512) 394-0220


http://www.nunzias.com/

Mariah: The week before last, Laura was preparing to go on her big Mexican Adventure. She had planned on doing her laundry the Wednesday night before she left, but Wednesday rolled around and she found herself sick and far too tired to trek to a Laundromat or to someone’s house. So Thursday morning she awoke in a tizzy with the realization that she was leaving in a day and her laundry wasn’t finished. I suggested she do what my wonderful working mother had done when I was growing up and take it to the cleaners. They’ll wash, press or fold any laundry you bring them, often with same day service. So Laura did some research and found a reputable cleaners with an in by 9 out by 6 same day policy. So she dutifully brought her clothes to the Laundromat only to have them inform her that it was 9:03 and the truck had already left.

Laura: Can you believe that? 3 measly little minutes?

Mariah: So I did the only thing a good friend would do in a situation like this, I offered up my washer and dryer. That afternoon, we sat on my patio with Eric and Cory enjoying the 3 degrees of Hill Country view you can see from my apartment. Around 8, though, our stomachs started grumbling so we struck out in search of food. Since this was my end of town, I suggested a nice joint about a mile from my apartment called Nunzia’s. It used to be the Y Bar and Grill but the owners and the name have since changed to Nunzia’s. I’d eaten there dozens of times as both the Y Bar and Grill and as Nunzia’s, so I figured it was a pretty safe bet for some tasty food on the south end of town.

Laura: I’d never been before so I was up for trying it. By the way, thanks for letting me borrow the good ole W/D.

Mariah: The first thing you notice as you enter the restaurant is the huge glass door you have to pass through. It’s not a normal door hinged at the edge, but its some crazy-hinged futuristic door contraption that throws you off when you try to open it. The inside of the restaurant is lovely though. It backs up to a wooded creek and is very rustic. The floors are red glazed concrete, there are several frosted glass accents, but the d├ęcor manages to mesh together providing a warm and inviting atmosphere. There is also a large patio on one side that also abuts the wooded creek. Its covered with fans and heaters providing a sufficient level of temperature control to make it habitable most of the year. In the summer, they usually have bands that provide a nice ambiance to the patio.

Laura: My first thought was that the door was really heavy and confusing and that the ceilings were high. But overall the restaurant showed serious potential. Calling it a creek was a bit of a stretch, but it was nicer than sitting next to the highway.

Mariah: We were seated on the patio and immediately started perusing the menu. It all looked pretty tasty (from my perspective). There were a dozen or so delectable sounding appetizers, a decent selection of salads, a dozen pasta entrees and an equal number of grilled dishes. Cory and I, both aficionados of raw meat decided to split a tuna tartar appetizer while Eric opted for a French onion soup. For entrees, Cory and I both got pasta, his was spaghetti with meatballs, mine with Bolognese.

Laura: The menu had a lot to offer, but I was still feeling a little under the weather so I went for a salad. I debated back and forth between the warm goat cheese salad (arugula, spinach, walnuts, poached pears, tangerine and pomegranate vinaigrette) and a mango habanero salad (field greens, mango, avocado, fried won-tons and red and green bell peppers.) I decided on the warm goat cheese salad as it seemed safer for my healing stomach to avoid anything spicy.

Mariah: The appetizers arrived and we dug in… Then stopped.. Cory’s and my tuna wasn’t too bad, but there was a surprising lack of tuna dipping sauce; not being the greatest quality tuna, a sauce was needed. We quickly ran through the drizzle of red chili mayo on our plate so we stopped the waiter to request more. But he didn’t just bring us more of the red chili mayo, be brought a green wasabi sauce as well. That’s when we realized the plating only had one sauce and a meager dribble at that. I started to get a little surly, but one mistake is forgivable. That’s when Eric piped in that his soup was cold. Not just cool or room temperature, but cold. We flagged the waiter down again and sent the soup back for a little more heat. To appease us, he brought out a big loaf of rosemary garlic bread. Now I have to say, the bread was excellent. It was reminiscent of the bread you get at Macaroni Grill, but better (I’m sorry I had to mention that dreadful place, I hope I don’t give any of you fellow foodie’s nightmares tonight).

Laura: Mariah forgot to mention the incessant physical contact the waiter was giving the men. And not the “I want to take you home” kind of contact, more the “hey I read in a psychology book somewhere that waiters who physically connect with their customers get tipped more” kind of way.

I agree, the bread was good, but I feel the need to address the soup issue.

When the soup was delivered, Eric realized he had ordered the wrong size (the waiter hadn't asked if he had wanted a bowl or a cup so he ended up with a bowl.) At that point, I did the honorable thing and offered to split it with him. We asked the waiter to bring an extra bowl so that we could share the soup. Now a good waiter would have the kitchen divide the soup up into two smaller bowls, but not doing so is nothing to get upset about. However, the waiter not only did not have the forethought to split the food into two, he also forgot the extra bowl several times and when it finally arrived, it was basically tossed at me.

Now on to the technical merits- They served it in a large open bowl so that it wouldn’t keep heat. Also, they used way too many croutons, which completely made the dish more into a way garlic-y turkey stuffing gone awry kind of thing. It just made it even worse when they re-heated it. The re-heating caused the croutons to soak up the soup until the bowl was just full of wet disintigrating bread.

Mariah: Eric’s soup came back suitably re-heated about the same time as out entrees. We were all getting a little more than peeved about the quality of our food. The chef was that night must have been smoking crack to let such huge mistakes out of his kitchen. The entrees were ok, not anything to write home about. My Bolognese pasta was on par with (brace yourselves) Macaroni Grill, and Cory’s meatballs, while better weren’t really anything special either.

Laura: My salad didn’t seem to taste very good, but I hadn’t eaten in 9 hours, so I gobbled it up anyway. The goat cheese was… weird. It was fried in some sort of batter reminiscent of the coating on Sonic jalapeno poppers (which by the way was next door). I’m not knocking Sonic jalapeno poppers, but they have their time and place, and that time and place is late after a night out or in the middle of a long road trip, not on my dinner salad.

Mariah: I asked to try a bite of Laura’s goat cheese and was shocked and appalled at the sub-par quality of the goat cheese. It was sharp and acrid and had a distinct “off” flavor, not the usual creamy delicious goat cheese I’m used to having (it wasn’t even the slightly goat-y tasting goat cheese that I don’t care for but eat sometimes anyway). That’s when I got mad. We had suffered one food insult after another. I flagged the waiter down and asked to speak to Manager. He looked affronted and immediately took a defensive posture. He didn’t say “Yes Ma’am” or “I’ll get him immediately” he instead chose to say “Why?.” I got even more pissed off. And said in my firmest bitch slave-driver voice, “I would like to speak to the manager please.” Without saying anything else, he turned and walked off.

We waited patiently for probably about 5 minutes before the waiter reappeared. “The manager has left for the evening,” he said. I think at that point I snapped. “Can I speak to the Manager on duty??” I mean was this guy really that crass and stupid not to produce another manager? That’s when he said (and I still don’t know whether to believe him or not), “I am the manager on duty.” At that point I was so pissed I ripped into him. I told him about the poor plating of the tuna appetizer, the cold soup, the off taste of the goat cheese, and about the general poor quality of a usually very fine dining establishment! And did he say “I’m sorry Ma’am” or lie and say their cook was training new staff tonight? No. That asshole said “well you didn’t send anything back I can’t do anything.” I think he thought we were trying to skip our bill! The nerve! I tried in my calm but iciest voice to tell him that it wasn’t that the food was inedible, it was just not up to the standard excellent quality I had experienced at this establishment on numerous occasions. After going back and forth with him, he finally offered to comp a few things for us. I really wanted him to say “I’m so sorry, I’ll talk to the manager about it tomorrow and have him call you.” But I didn’t want to argue with him anymore and let him comp us whatever he was going to. I think he ended up halving our bill down to $30. And honestly, it was a perfectly adequate $40 meal, but would have been a tragic $80 meal.

Laura: Yeah, the food was pretty gross and we were treated like freeloaders by a skeezy waiter. I felt like I was at Chili’s in the burbs. Worst of all, Mariah was mildly embarrassed for even having suggested the place. It’s ok, Mariah. Restaurant management changes, food suppliers flake, cooks quit, and well, another restaurant knocked off our list. C’est la vie.

Bottom Line: Used to be good, sucks now, poor quality, crappy service

Laura - 3
Mariah - 5 (but only because they have a history of being good, but I won't be going back any time soon)