Monday, April 6, 2015

Francesco's Ristorante Italia

A friend from Seattle was spending a week in Vancouver for his birthday and since he was staying at the Sutton Place, it made sense to have lunch at Francesco's Ristorante Italia. Francesco's is one of Vancouver's oldest restaurants, focusing on Sicilian cuisine with West Coast influences. The restaurant is located on Burrard Street and their patio is always full during the summer.

The atmosphere is bright and inviting with plenty of natural lighting, but the restaurant is dim and romantic during dinner services. The restaurant is a fairly good size too and there are plenty of tables which are nicely spaced out and not cramped one bit. Moreover, there are a couple of dining areas that can accommodate larger groups and special celebrations.

Since we arrived for lunch, the service is pretty casual. None of the staff ask how the food is, we arrange the dishes on the table ourselves and wave down a server to remove a finished plate, when the restaurant had less than three tables… For those who are regulars however, are welcomed like royalty and provided with impeccable service. Did I care? Na, it was not my birthday LOL and we were here for lunch instead of dinner. Plus, it saves me gratuities since we left only a 15% tip.

Rating: 2/5.
The table bread is served at a room temperature and does not taste very fresh compared to other "fine dining" restaurants'. Perhaps these are leftovers from the evening before? The buns lack a crisp exterior and are chewy rather than soft along with fluffy.

CAESAR ($10.95) || Rating: 3/5.
BUGATTI "Vodka, rum, gin, triple sec, Prosecco, sweet and sour" ($13.00) || Rating: 4/5.
His Caesar is good, there are plenty of spices and the clamato does not taste watery one bit. The presentation of the asparagus is sloppy though. As for my drink, the Bugatti is a strong one with a touch of sweetness.

LOBSTER BISQUE, "Lobster meat, spices, tomato stock, creme fraiche" ($12.00).
Rating: 2.5/5.
The bisque is served hot and there is a rich earthy flavour, with no hint of cognac or sherry. A lobster claw is also included which tastes soft and spongy rather than bouncy.

ESCARGOTS - ITALIAN STYLE, "puff pastry, white wine, capers, herbs, porcini mushrooms, olive oil, garlic" ($12.00).
Rating: 1/5.
A signature dish of Francesco's is the Italian Style Escargots. This is a very complex appetizer from the really salty capers to the tart tomatoes and sweet mushrooms. The sauce is really overwhelming and the escargot themselves do not have much flavour. As for the puff pastry, it is nicely prepared and flaky but of course gets soggy fast.

MUSSELS NEAPOLITAN, "Steamed, extra virgin oil, garlic, tomato, white wine, spices" ($14.00).
Rating: 2.5/5.
Another signature appetizer of Francesco's is the Mussels Neapolitan. The small mussels are just cooked and taste juicy, but the sauce is not flavourful enough. The broth tastes too light and is not worth the effort of going for the small mussels. My friend is more patient then me and did not mind finishing the mussels himself though. I could not help but think at the time of how Stepho's mussels were so large, plump and juicy too!

PENNE SEAFOOD PUTTANESCA, "Black cod, mussels, clams, salmon, white fish, capers, olives in tomato sauce" ($19.00).
Rating: 2.5/5.
The Seafood Puttanesca has a very basic, simple and light tasting tomato sauce along with a bit of saltiness from the capers. The sauce tastes too simple for me but the seafood ingredients are just cooked and not one second over. The decent amount of fish are moist and the mussels again, are juicy. Furthermore, the penne is a touch under al dente but I did not mind as much as my friend.

LOBSTER LASAGNA, "Emmenthal cheese, shallots, dry wine, vermouth, light cream, seasonings, lobster meat" ($19.00).
Rating: 3.5/5.
Every item we ordered is a Francesco's signature dish, but only the Lobster Lasanga is a good tasting one. The lasagna noodles are a touch overcooked but not mushy one bit, and there are plenty of shredded lobster (and flavour) throughout the lasagna. The lasagna tastes creamy, very rich from the cheese, and the small portion is more than enough for one. This is coming from a girl who can eat too! On top of that, the lobster claw tastes bouncy and not spongy like the one from the bisque.

TOTAL: $107.35 + TIP $16.65 = $124.00.

From the food to the service, Francesco's was underwhelming. The prices are reasonable for lunch and the portions are good, but the food can be better. The only two items worth ordering are the Lobster Bisque and Lobster Lasanga in my opinion, but all the items we tried are their signature dishes. Furthermore, the service fails as a fine dining restaurant. Forget about being detail oriented, the servers do not even bother clearing your plates until you lift one up. Makes me appreciate how other fine dining restaurants brush the bread crumbs off the table...

- Reasonable prices and portions
- Above average Lobster Lasagna

- What service?
- There are better Italian restaurants in Downtown Vancouver

- Restaurant for the regulars

Food: 2.5/5
Service: 2/5

860 Burrard Street Vancouver, BC V6Z 1X9
Telephone (604) 685-7770

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