Columnist reviews Columbus-based Italian restaurant chain.
BY ALI ABUBAKR ’24
Italian cuisine is one of the most popular foreign cuisines in American culture. Italian restaurants here in the U.S. are interesting because like any other foreign restaurants, there are the family-run, traditional restaurants that truly represent the culture and experience of a country, and others that are somewhat watered down and Americanized. These second types tend to be chain restaurants. Bravo Italian Kitchen (stylized “Bravo!”) was interesting in that it had a foot in both categories: it felt somewhat traditional and representative of real Italian food, yet still felt like an American chain restaurant. Their website states that they offer “amazing homemade Italian inspired recipes.” This theme of being in the middle sort of represents how I felt about Bravo as a whole.
The first Bravo location opened right here in Columbus in 1992. There are now a total of 27 locations here in the U.S. There are two here in Columbus, the closest to the high school at 1803 Olentangy River Rd. at the Lennox Town Center. This is the one I went to, accompanied for the first time by two of my associates. The restaurant itself is the nicest and most high-class of any I’ve been to so far for these reviews. That’s because unlike the other restaurants that I’ve been to that offered quick food, Bravo is a place where you sit down with a party and have a meal. You pay with check and everything. The place is designed with traditional Italian architecture and cool ancient Roman-inspired sculptures and designs. There was sophisticated art on the walls that made me feel that I was eating at a well-respected place.
First, the bread came. This is an iconic part of a meal at any sit-down place. I love the brown bread with butter at Outback Steakhouse and Longhorn, and while this bread didn’t compare with those, it was still pretty good. It did come with butter, along with seasoned oil in a little bowl. To start off, my associates and I ordered a plate of calamari as an appetizer. If you don’t know, the word calamari comes from the Italian word for “squid.” It’s battered and deep fried. I didn’t even know calamari was squid until I was taking my first bite. It didn’t taste like much. Not too bad, not too good. It had a fatty texture that’s common in fried seafood, but it didn’t have that salty blast of taste I was waiting for.
Three main courses were ordered. I ordered the Fettuccine Alfredo with grilled chicken and the two of them ordered the Chicken Scallopini and the Pasta Woozie. I ordered the Alfredo because it is a staple of Italian-American food. I could compare it to other places and I knew what a good plate of it should taste. And it blew my expectations out of the water. After the somewhat mediocre bread and calamari, the Fettuccine Alfredo filled me up with creamy goodness. That was the main thing I loved about it: it certainly quenched my hunger but it didn’t fill my belly too much. The grilled chicken was tender and soft, while the pasta was perfectly creamy and thick. I wouldn’t say it was beautifully scrumptious, but it was pretty good.
As for the Pasta Woozie and Chicken Scallopini that my associates ordered, there were some problems. The Chicken Scallopini was fine, but that’s it. Nothing to remember. It came with mushrooms as well and that particular associate is not a big fan of mushrooms. The Pasta Woozie really was a bit woozy. Halfway through eating, a plastic lid ring from a carton bottle was found in the pasta. Yuck. It was bright yellow and looked like it came from a milk carton or something like that. The service however was pretty good. It did take them a while to get over to our table, but when they did, the manager was called over and everything. He was wearing a suit and all. He then personally came and replaced the plate with another hot one. He said it was “probably from a lemon juice bottle.”
The dessert somewhat made up for this fiasco. If you go to Bravo, I recommend getting the Vanilla Gelato as it is just amazing. Very creamy, very sweet.
In conclusion, this was one of the oddest review meals I’ve had. It’s taken me a while to write it, too, because I just couldn’t decide what my opinion was on it. Usually when I go alone, I get one main course that is either good or bad and is easy to categorize as Approved or Not. But now with the extra people and extra opinions, the experience of others needed to be considered. And I’m just not sure. So for those reasons, this is the first restaurant to be rated Ali’s Still Processing.