I had heard the hype. I had done my research and it seemed the Internet community agreed that this 30-year establishment who brought Italian dining to Aruba was a must for those of us with gluten challenged loved ones in our lives.
The moment we walked on the scene of Gianni's Ristorante Italiano it became obvious that this was a money making machine under the guise of a fine dining restaurant. I felt like my family was a heard of cattle being placed in a line roped off to manage the chaos entering and exiting the restaurant. Tables of patrons could be seen for eons and everyone was packed in like sardines.
But, I didn’t want to prejudge, so I tried to clear my mind of any misgivings and decided I should give the food a fair shot.
Any papers and crayons for the four year old? Nope, all out. Can you find a pen for the older kid to work on Sudoku puzzles? Not readily available because the servers use iPads. Okay well, good old-fashioned chatting with the family isn’t a deal breaker but I was a little skeptical that the very exhausted four year old could make it through a long meal without getting ants in his pants.
So ordering got underway rather quickly.
Kid Allergy ordered the gluten free pasta with meat sauce. I liked the squid ink pasta (not gluten free) and the server suggested I add the seafood combo to make it better. Sounded yummy to me, so I said go for it.
An added bonus was that the Italian wine selection was comparable in price to any of the California wines offered up. Italian wine can be so expensive in the States, so this was a real plus.
Nothing like a bottle of wine to take the edge off!
But, shockingly, I was barely through my fourth sip of wine when the food came out at lightening speed. Like, so so quick. I’m talking it could’ve rivaled any McDonald’s or Starbucks on their service time.
Kid Allergy’s gluten free meal looked scrumptious but my pasta came out with a mountain of aluminum foil on top. The food runner didn’t even offer to try and make the food presentable he just dumped the foiled wrapped abomination on the table and quickly scurried away. I hastily unwrapped the mountain of foil for fear the confinement would render my seafood overcooked, tough and tasteless.
Sadly…I was right. I even had to leave the lobster tail unfinished on the plate because it was so hardened that the lobster meat had fused itself to the shell.
Kid Allergy – two thumbs up
He did not leave a gluten free noodle on the plate. Kid Allergy deemed the meal tasty and filling.
Mom – half a thumb up
Personally, I couldn’t get in to the ambiance, service, presentation, food quality or preparation. But, they do deliver a safe, gluten free meal that my child enjoyed so that is worth something!
The ultimate kicker was the bill. My seafood squid ink pasta ran me $59! My $20 meal went up by $39 for the added seafood the server recommended. Perhaps had it been tasty and cooked properly, I wouldn’t have given it another thought. But, up-selling and not even casually mentioning the incredible price increase---not ok. Plus, overcooking expensive seafood and then plopping it on my plate in hot aluminum foil---poor form for a fine dining establishment that has a solid 30 year reputation.
Ask questions before making any decisions here. Not asking the price of any server suggested add-ons or specifically questioning the cooking and serving of desired dishes may lead you to making expensive and unsatisfying mistakes.
The good news? We ate at a sister restaurant called Azzurro located on property at the beautiful Playa Linda Beach Resort and actually found this particular Gianni's Group restaurant fantastic. Azzurro actually has roughly 75% of the exact same menu but the service, atmosphere and food quality were excellent making this place one of our absolute favorites on the whole island! Just goes to show you that it really is place specific sometimes.
Ultimately, if you are in the mood for solid Italian dining when visiting the island of Aruba, consider giving this particular place a miss and make your way over to Azzurro if you are craving a real quality dining experience.