Acquolina


Hi my loves! So this past weekend, I managed to venture out of my little bubble once again to visit a familiar little restaurant (by "little" I don't actually mean little, I was just struggling to think of another adjective).  I've been to Acquolina a few times before in past years, and this restaurant actually happens to be the birthplace for my love of vodka pasta!  However, fast forward to 2 years later and I've honestly been left quite disappointed with this trip down to the Italian restaurant.

Overall, the service and the atmosphere were great, but when it came down to the actual food, the dishes I tried were not as "mouth watering" as the name of the restaurant suggests. 

To start, there was the usual complimentary bread with a dollop of butter, nothing out of the ordinary, but we opted for the Calamari Fritti because I can never resist a good calamari starter. The calamari was paired with a fresh tomato sauce, though there was nothing rather special about this sauce. There was a nice acidic note to it, but I would have much preferred it to be loaded with some other flavours, reminiscent of a typical tomato sauce; I felt as though it lacked seasonings, I could not detect much, if any, traces of garlic, pepper, not sure if there was even any basil or oregano added. Overall, the tomato sauce lacked flavour, but I didn't mind this too much because I found the calamari to be quite enjoyable.

In terms of the texture of the calamari, I thought it had the perfect amount of crunch because of the thin flour coating, and each individual ring had a comfortable level of chewiness to it; each ring was perfectly crisp, but not rubbery. I think the light flouring and flash frying of the rings helped to eliminate any greasiness, which I thought to be a plus!

In my personal opinion, the Calamari Fritti was my favourite dish of the night, but do I think it is worth the price? Ehhh...not so much. Maybe if they switched the tomato sauce out for a nice garlic dip, or even if they just elevated the flavours in the tomato sauce, then I would think this dish was worth the price. But as it stands right now, I would much rather enjoy a plate of the Cheesecake Factory's Fried Calamari starter, even though they are a bit heavy handed with their breading. 

Now on to the main courses of the evening. One of the "protein dishes" of the night was the Petto Di Pollo Parmigiana (which literally just means Chicken Breast Parmesan. Took 2 semesters of Italian in college y'all, and this is the best I could do....). This was the only dish I actually managed to skip past because I generally don't eat too much meat. It's just how I've been ever since I was little. I sort of have to have a craving or "be in the mood" before you see me scarfing down any chicken or beef. But that aside, there's not much left for me to speak on regarding this dish, other than a small observation. 

The chicken breasts are supposed to be lightly fried, and by the looks of it, it seemed to have been done perfectly, but to then layer the tomato sauce and melted mozzarella right on top made the fried crust quite soggy. But to be fair, I would order this dish again and try it for myself because this may have been the juiciest piece of chicken bathed in the richest tomato sauce, but I would have no clue because I never gave it a shot! So Petto Di Pollo Parmigiana, we will meet again!

The other "protein dish" we managed to order was a side of the Housemade Meatballs. These meatballs left me a bit confused to be quite honest. I'm not exactly sure what kind of meat or whether  or not a combination of meats were used to construct these Housemade Meatballs, but I should have just asked someone while I was at the restaurant because I can't seem to find anything about them online. 

One notable thing that threw me off about these meatballs was the consistency. I like to be able to tell that the meatball I'm eating came from ground-up meat, whatever that particular meat may be, but these meatballs almost seemed to have been mixed in food processor or something of the sort because they were extremely smooth. I'm not sure whether or not that is a good or bad thing for you, since it's clearly a matter of personal preference. But to tack on the "homemade" label on something, I expect to be able taste the labour of love that went into making it; Acquolina's Homemade Meatballs really did not provide me with that experience. For lack of a better way to describe it, the consistency of these meatballs reminded me of the consistency of meats in baby food. It was as if it was not meant to be chewed. 

But of course, this all depends on preference, so while I clearly was not fond of these particular meatballs,  you or others you know may truly enjoy the texture of these Housemade Meatballs. 

In terms or flavouring, I was truly let down. I expected the meatballs to pack a punch, but I found them to be rather mediocre; I think Costco's meatballs are far more flavourful than these. So with all that being said, would I try this dish again? Definitely not. I think I will just stick to my Costco meatballs and call it a day! :/

Now on to the pasta dishes! We ordered the Alfredo with penne pasta and this was a dish I had tried once before about 2 years ago. When I tried it, I enjoyed it very much. I thought it was rich and creamy, perfectly salted, no complaints! However, this time around, it didn't taste quite the same.

I can't really put my finger on it, but the Alfredo seemed to be missing something. I remember trying it for the first time and thinking it was very delicious, but this time, the flavour really didn't do much for me. Something about it left a faint buttery after-taste in my mouth. To keep it concise, this dish tasted watered down to me; that is the best way I can describe it. Would I order this again? I won't say never, but certainly not any time soon! I don't think the Alfredo was that far off from being spot on, it just needs a few nudges in the right direction, that's all. 

What's that saying? Save the best for last?! Well that's what I honestly thought I would be doing when I sat down to dinner thinking of how I would construct this post, but unfortunately things don't always go as planned. 

I distinctly remember the first time I had Vodka pasta at Acquolina; it was the first time I had ever tried it and I fell in love! I thought the dish possessed a delightful marriage of flavours I had never experienced together before, and it was nothing short of perfection. After this encounter, I visited the Italian restaurant again just for this dish because it had basically become my kryptonite! Now I'm sure you can only imagine my excitement when I finally get to revisit the place where I first encountered such a perfect dish. I was so excited to order and finally sit down to a nice helping of Vodka pasta after having missed out on it for about 2 years. Unfortunately, the dish tasted nothing like I remembered!

My immediate thoughts after taking my first bite were either:
 a) Acquolina has hired a new chef/kitchen staff since I was last here. 
or 
b) perhaps the vodka they used to use has now been switched out for a cheaper brand.

But as the night progressed and I had a taste of the other dishes, I started leaning more towards my first assumption as a general blanket reason for the food tasting so different from what I remembered. This time around, the Vodka pasta had this sourness to it that reminded me of bottled vodka sauce sold at local grocery stores. I think the reason for the obvious sourness is a result of the quality of the vodka used. The vodka is used to bring out certain flavours in the tomatoes used in the base of the sauce (as is the case when any alcohol is used in cooking), but I think something may have gone wrong in this instance; I don't know if it's the brand of alcohol or if it's because too much/too little is being used, but all I do know is that something in the recipe must have changed because the dish tastes nothing like it used to. 

I apologise for this gross association, but this Vodka pasta left a throw-up taste in my mouth, which is not unfamiliar to me because when I tried a bottled version of vodka sauce from Publix, I experienced the same thing. 

I'm not sure if I'll be ordering this dish from Aquolina again, but I do hope they go back to making food like they did a few short years ago! :( 

Finally we reach the grand finale- DESSERT! We ordered their Homemade Tiramisu and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The mascarpone was whipped to perfection, making the dessert light and smooth. It was the ideal ending to the meal because it wasn't overly rich and heavy like many other tiramisus can be. I thought it was perfectly sweetened with a nice kiss of that famous coffee flavour. My only issue with the dessert was the ladyfingers within the tiramisu. 

The ladyfingers are supposed to be the element of the dessert that is dipped in coffee, but these were extremely soggy, which I really would not have minded, but when I bit into them there was no real coffee flavour. The ladyfingers tasted as though they had just been soaked in water. I found this to be very off-putting so I just ate around them, but other than that, the other components of the tiramisu were quite good! 

OVERALL THOUGHTS ON ACQUOLINA
Ambience: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Food: 2/5
Value: 2.5/5

- Would I dine there again?
I will try one more time, but if I have a similar experience to this past weekend, then that will be my last visit to Acquolina.

- Things I enjoy?
Ambience
Family style dining (serves only half or family sized portions)
Location
Great service
Moderate amount of noise (you don't have to worry about everyone hearing your conversation)

Of course I just had to slip in a little beauty snippet. So for those of you curious about the products I used, they will all be listed below! :)

FACE

From the Top: (Shadows)
Soirée
Honeymoon
Prune
Bronze

From the Top: (Blushes)
Rose Fresque
Miel Glacé

LIPS

Lipstick: MAC- Ruby Woo


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