A Slow Food Experience – Francoli Gourmet
I finally had the opportunity to have dinner at Francoli Gourmet. I’d heard a lot of hype, both good and bad, but being someone who loves food, and loves trying new places, I wanted to make up my own mind. I had never been to Francoli at it’s Newport location, so this would be my first experience with them. While my expectations were high, I’d actually heard quite a few negative comments about the service (though none really about the food), so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
The night started great. I knew ahead that they didn’t take reservations and I had also been by, so I knew the restaurant was small. By all accounts, the story was ‘get there early if you don’t want to wait too long.’ So, that’s exactly what we did. We arrived (3 of us) at about 5:30. We actually didn’t want to get right to dinner, but wanted to have a drink at the bar and chill out at the end of the week. I was with my mom and brother…no kids…so excited to have a nice relaxing dinner and not be in a rush. And that’s exactly what we got, a relaxing dinner…NO RUSH…and we were very happy at the end of it.
When we arrived, the live music was already playing and we got a glass of wine (the music is a great addition, but it does get loud in there, if you want quiet, you’ll want to sit outside). I will say that we were told our table would be 15-20 minutes, but we actually waited an hour to be seated. We were given a choice to share a table (which in retrospect we should have done, because seeing the table later, we wouldn’t have really been sharing, it was a very large table) or to squeeze 3 people to a 2 person table or wait longer for a 4 person table. This is the problem with 3 – we’re very difficult to seat in a crowded restaurant. So, we waited…our choice! After our first glass of white wine (it was their special of the night), we decided to go ahead and get a bottle of red at the bar. Love, Love, Love that they serve you a bottle of wine in a decanter. Anyone who appreciates wine will appreciate this feature and those who don’t, will appreciate the presentation. While at the bar, the chef sent out some olives, bruschetta and another little snack to nibble on, so that was lovely.
Once we got seated at our table, we explored the menu and I convinced my fellow diners to try the Carpaccio. They actually had two kinds and I believe this one was their special or the ‘favorite’ of the house. Nobody but me had ever tried Carpaccio, but everybody agreed that it was absolutely delicious. The slices of meat were SO thin, they were like Prosciutto…MMMMMMM!
The next course, we each got something different and we shared them all. My mom ordered the Lasagna, me the Filet and my brother the Mushroom Ravioli on special. The absolute star of the 3 dishes was the Lasagna. Oh my heaven, it was to die for!! The Ravioli came in a close second and the Filet, while good, was third. I probably wouldn’t get the Filet again, but it was very good.
So, here’s what I’m going to tell you about the service experience. I’ve done quite a bit of traveling in my lifetime and I’ve had the opportunity to fall in love with the style of eating in many European cultures and it’s not something that we’ve adopted here in the states. And, that’s the idea of taking your sweet time during meal time. Relishing each course with time in between courses to relax, talk and enjoy yourself before the next course comes. THIS is the experience you’ll get at Francoli. They are in absolutely no rush to get you out of their restaurant and turn your table. Even if people are lined up out the door. The only time that I felt like they could have come a little sooner was between dinner and dessert ordering. I had the chance to speak with the owner before I left and their philosophy is very Italian…if they bring you the check before you ask for it, it’s considered rude as well as an invitation to leave. That being said, you the diner, need to ‘ask’ for your check when you are ready to leave. If you know that going in, then you will not be one of the many who are unhappily wishing your bill would get to the table because you are ready to go home. If you are like me and enjoy spending your evening out at a restaurant and not just an hour, then you will love the experience offered at Francoli. It will make a dent in your pocketbook, but hey, we spent 3 1/2 hours there on Friday night and never felt like we were being rushed out the door. We were full, buzzed and happy.
One last thing is that if you do decide to try Francoli, definitely go and try the dryers in the bathroom. I’ve never seen anything like them, but I think every restaurant should have them, an experience not to be missed!