Sometimes, you stumble across a neighbourhood restaurant that has plenty of overwhelmingly positive reviews on Facebook and TripAdvisor – somewhere you’ve never considered going before that makes you wonder if it’s worth a visit.
Sometimes it is, and you discover a new favourite. Other times, you wonder why you bothered.
Sadly, a recent trip to Mezzaluna on Bedminster’s West Street turned out to be the latter.
We’d heard that the Italian restaurant looked pretty good after its recent refurb, and it certainly felt welcoming. There were couples sitting at the tables out the front, enjoying the sunshine, while inside the restaurant, the exposed brick walls, low-hung lighting, the comfortable-looking green and orange padded chairs and the traditional pictures of all things Italian on the walls (the country’s coastline, scooters, the Colosseum) gave the place a cosy and welcoming feel. And there’s a suntrap of a garden out the back, too, to enjoy the summer weather (when we actually have it!)
We’d asked for a highchair when booking, and this was already at our table (albeit a little greasy and needing a wipe down) – and it was good to see that it was the right height for Oscar to reach the table comfortably – that’s not been the case in so many places we’ve eaten in the city. Our servers were friendly when giving us the menus and taking our drinks orders – so far, so good.
On the food front, there’s all the Italian classics you’d expect, from bruschetta and antipasti selections to pizzas, pastas and risottos. There are plenty of meat and fish options, too – and if you don’t fancy traditional Italian fare, you’ll also find burgers, steaks, veggie moussaka and more: it’s a pretty varied menu.
Me? I fancied something that would be easy to share with the 18-month old, so went for the lasagne (£11.45), as did my mum. For Chris, it was the seafood spaghetti (£12.45), and we also ordered a portion of garlic bread (£3.95) and one of focaccia (£4.45) to share.
And that, sadly, is where the positive experience ended. Neither the focaccia nor the garlic bread was a decent example of its kind: the former more like regular bread drizzled with a small amount of rosemary oil and served on limp rocket leaves, the latter slices from a similarly uninspiring loaf that had been liberally slathered with a topping that was more butter than garlic.
The seafood spaghetti was edible, but pretty average, but it was the lasagne that was sadly the biggest disappointment. Served with half a slice of that focaccia on the side, we were pleased to see that it was piping hot, but it wasn’t great. The thick layers of pasta were stuck together and claggy, giving us the impression it had been defrosted and reheated under the grill. There wasn’t a great deal of meat in there, but what there was was fairly bland. There was a huge amount of cheese melted on top, though, but with the lasagne’s stodgy consistency and lack of appeal, both mum and I left the majority, just feeding small bits to the baby to tide him over till we got home.
A waitress did come over while we were eating to ask how the food was, and while she did offer us something different from the menu to replace it, there was no apology – and Chris had almost finished and we needed to get the small person fed, so couldn’t really justify waiting longer.
To top it all off, we spent our whole meal fending off small flies that were congregating around our table, which didn’t make for an enjoyable experience.
When it came to the time to leave, we asked for the bill and were disappointed to see that the two barely touched lasagnes and the inedible garlic bread were still on there. I went up to let our waitress know that we weren’t happy to pay for three items that we’d already stated weren’t good, and that we hadn’t eaten, and she disappeared to see what she could do. When I was presented with a revised bill with the garlic bread and one lasagne removed, the very angry owner came out of the kitchen and told me that we were wrong, that we’re the only people who have not enjoyed the lasagne, and that everyone loves it. He then proceeded to tell me that we were crazy for asking for it to be taken off the bill when we’d eaten most of it (which we certainly hadn’t), before storming back into the kitchen.
That may be the case. We may well be the only ones who’ve complained. Maybe we don’t know what a good lasagne looks like. Maybe the restaurant was having an off day. Who knows. All I know is that with the quality of the food we were served, the flies around our table and the rudeness and aggression of the manager, we won’t be heading back.