4010 West Jefferson Boulevard
Fort Wayne, IN 46804-6814
The 3 Elles gathered to celebrate the eve of NYE in style (or rather, we celebrated not having to work the next day), so we chose an Italian fare by returning to Biaggi's. We have always enjoyed our visits so we felt confident we would have a good time.
To say this place was packed is an understatement - thankfully, we had made reservations. The restaurant still had it's Christmas decorations up - tacky and cheap. It resembled the halls of nursing homes - every hanging picture was covered with gift wrap. I didn't have as much problem with this as the other Elles. My issue was that was where the decorating ended. Would putting a bow on the "fake" presents been a budget buster? It would have really spruced up an otherwise boring display. Additionally, there were minimal evergreen garlands swagged around the large pendant lights in the middle of the restaurant. Here, the scale was off. The lights were HUGE - maybe 4' in diameter, but the garland was small and barely noticeable. I digress, we weren't there to view the holiday decorations (and it shouldn't be your reason for going either . . . skip this place for your next holiday gathering).
When the restaurant is crowded, which it has been each of the 3 times we have gone there - it gets VERY loud and VERY hot. It is very difficult to carry on a conversation. There were many times that we had to repeat ourselves. As we stayed longer and the crowd diminished, it was much more pleasant. This was reflected in a noticeable decibel drop, but also in a more regulated temperature. I highly recommend dressing in layers (more people = hot!; less people = perfect)
While our outing to J.K. O'Donnells was fun, it was missing one of our favorite features of the 3 Elles gatherings . . . Martinis. Yeah - for Martinis.
Adams L opened the evening with an extremely delicious Romeo & Juliet. This raspberry-chocolate contrivance was very rich - perhaps a better dessert martini than paired as an opening drink. It was garnished with rolled chocolate shaving that doubled as a straw. I think we all agree - this is a definite MUST ORDER!!!!!
After dinner, many people opt for a cup of coffee, but that is just not the 3 Elles style. Adams L opted for a Cafe Amore martini - like a cup of coffee, but with ice and some adulteration. Although this is a poor photo, sorry, both Adams L & Allen L found it to be a delicious finish to dinner. The hint of coffee flavor combined with the overall lightness of the drink made it a wonderful closing choice. It is worth noting - this drink is served with a piece of biscotti . . . floating on top. That was really odd and was a little off putting. As a garnish on the rim, the biscotti may have worked, as a floating raft, it failed.
Allen L and I started things off with a Raspberry Sweet Tart. This gives some of my fav martinis a run for their money. This is smooth and packs a bit of a punch. The graduated coloring is quite attractive. Allen L and I both agree that WE LOVED IT! Because of the smoothness, it is definitely a great choice for rookie martini drinkers or those who do not like a strong alcohol taste (that's the 3 Elles). I'll be back for more of these for sure!
Allen L selected the Crab and Lobster Dip for us to try. It's a typical artichoke dip combined with some crab and lobster pieces. The creamy dip was served with a gigantic spoon in a shallow dish. This dish is served with triangle pieces of toasted flat bread. The pieces along the right side of the picture were perfect for dipping - notice they are flat which resulted in optimal scoop-ability. Those 2 lighter colored ones in front have large pockets of air and make dipping impossible. Not realizing this ahead of time, these are the two I grabbed - I was forced to use my fork to scoop the appetizer from my plate onto my flat bread - too cumbersome.
A note about the bread . . .
The bread basket arrived promptly containing 2 varieties. My personal favorite is a the more spongy and thicker kind. I believe on our last visit we were told it was made from garlic mashed potatoes, but I might be incorrect about that. The other type of bread is more of a sliced French Loaf. Both are good for use with the olive oil, parm cheese, and fresh ground pepper dipping concoction.
I ordered my usual, Chicken Marsala. It was delicious, though not as good as in the past. It was rather bland and boring. The sauce tasted more like flour than like wine which was disappointing. After reading my last review on Biaggis (HERE) I had forgotten I could have asked for a different vegetable - this speaks to the level of service we did not receive during this visit. A good server would have said "That's served with cooked spinach, will that be alright?" Oh well, the spinach was actually very delicious.
Allen L ordered a half order of the Fettuccini with Lobster. The dark colored noodles really makes this dish both unique and odd. She says it was really flavorful - the homemade lobster cream sauce was a little tangy, but very delicious. The large pieces of lobster really made this dish noteworthy. She would definitely order it again especially since it can be ordered sans fungi.
Adams L selected a half order of Shrimp & Crab Cannelloni as her entree. She stated it was DELICIOUS! She noted it had a good balance of shrimp and crab. This is the same dish that Allen L chose on our previous visit. You can read that review HERE. Adams L felt the green pasta paired with an orangeish-redish colored sauce resulted in an attractive dish. Personally, I think the presentation of the dish below is far more appealing than on our previous visit. The part she found most palatable was the sauce which is a lobster-tomato cream sauce. The light sauce was a good choice to appropriately contrast the heavier elements of the dish.
I ordered spumoni for us to share. It came tri-colored so I figured it was the most traditional strawberry, chocolate, and pistachio; however, it wasn't strawberry. It was cherry and came with dark chocolate chunks and real cherries - YUM!!! The green, may have been pistachio, but didn't pack enough flavor for me to tell. I thought the entire texture was a little gritty, but Adams L thought it was smooth. No matter what, it was a huge portion easily shared by the 3 of us and completed our meal on a cool, refreshing note.
Allen L arrived a few minutes ahead of Adams L and I and was seated at a table and greeted by our server, Matt. When we arrived, Matt was jolly and nice. He had considerable sweat on his brow, but as I mentioned in the opening of this post, it's very hot in there when it is busy. Things started off pretty well - I got good vibes. He was attentive while in front of us, but frequently left in a flash and it felt as if he had forgotten about us. He did not seem to want to engage in our usual banter so I asked him how many tables he had. Although he said he was not very busy with only 4 tables, we certainly felt as if we were his lowest priority. He was extremely knowledgeable about food, the menu, and made wonderful recommendations though not obnoxiously. We even sensed some hostility toward the end. I'm sure he had hoped to turn our table more quickly, but a 50% tip dwindled to just 20% by his brush off.
Biaggi's could take some lessons from the their next door neighbor, Eddie Merlot's, about table etiquette. For starters, I was drinking water - what's a girl gotta do to get a full glass? Really, should I have to ask for more water . . . every single time???? Once, when my glass was refilled, Matt left before filling the other Elles whose glasses were empty as well - WHAT kind of service is that? Here are 3 of our recommendations to improve the overall service experience:
1. Each server should have his/her own assistant - to fill water, to drop off bread, to bus the table (the 2 empty martini glasses sat at the edge of the table for 2 hours - what's it take to get those moved), to remove the bread and oil (it was still sitting there even as we are eating dessert), and to just generally speak to customers so they do not feel isolated or forgotten about. It appeared that there were several people serving water throughout the restaurant, but none came to our table - table came to tables on every side of us, but never us.
2. Crumb comb - small thing which enhances the dining experience. Could be a great thing for the server's assistant to do.
3. Management face time - we love to have managers walk around and stop by asking how our service and food were. One of my favorite things to do is speak up about great service. I think more people need recognized for doing great work; however, on this night, we received neither a visit from management nor exceptional service.
Until the next bite -
4010 West Jefferson Boulevard
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Until the next bite -
121 West Wayne Street
Fort Wayne, IN 46802
Tonight, the 3 Elles got together at J.K. O'Donnell's after having Fritzi strongly recommend it several times. Although this was a different venue than we typically choose, it was just great to be able to get together and celebrate friendship during this holiday season.
JKO is an irish pub and as such - the ambiance oozes the pub feel. The restaurant is full of dark, beautiful wood - the walls, the floor, the short stools, the booths - everything. It is visually appealing, relaxing, which lends itself well for grabbing a beer after work with friends.
JKO has an exhaustive list of beer - quite unlikely you'll find an eatery with more options. Adams L choose a blueberry beer (I truly dislike beer, but the sip I had was very good!). Allen L choose a Heinekin Light. I ordered a diet coke, but regretfully, it was never served to me (but I was billed for it at the end of the meal). I indulged in many goblets of water.
Allen L started with Artichoke Dip. Although this is a photo of it after it was 2/3 eaten, you can gather the gist of the dish.
It was chunkier then most other dips in it's class. It had the consistency of a stewed cabbage. The texture did not detract from the creamy goodness of the dish. The broiled cheese top layer made the dish. The dip was accompanied by small pieces of French bread. The other L's thought the bread should be toasted more. They felt the bread lacked the crispiness necessary to adequately offset the creamy chunky dip. Something such as Melba toast might have been just the ticket. The dip to bread ratio was a bit off - too much dip, not enough bread. For $9 it was of substantial proportion and easily shared among the 3 of us.
For a 3 Elles first, we all ordered the SAME thing - Fish & Chips. We were told about 25% of all food orders at JKO is their famous Fish and Chips. We each chose the half size portion (4 oz vs. the 8 oz that comes with a full size meal). At only $11, it was a great value. Adams L changed her "Chips" to Sweet Potato Fries which she said were good, but not great. They weren't the most flavorful sweet potato fries she has ever had. Allen L and I chose the regular "chips" which were large potato wedge type accessories. They were pretty good. Each meal was served with a side of cold slaw which was rather unremarkable. Additionally, there were 2 special sauces you can chose to dip your fries. Both Adams L & Allen L chose a garlic aolie sauce while I chose the spicy whiskey sauce. I believe the sauces were primarily for your "chips" but I enjoy eating fish with hot sauce so I doused my fillet in the spicy whiskey sauce - YUM!!!! The entree was okay -it was a thick piece of fish and it was prepared well, but it just didn't pack any sort of meaningful flavor. It is a light flavored fish with a thinner, non-greasy breading. If you've eaten Fish & Chips at Paula's 0n Main, you'll be pretty disappointed in what JKO is serving up. It was an okay meal - nothing great, and far from terrible. I think I would have preferred the Irish Stew instead . . . maybe next time (and since Fritzi is there full time now - we'll be back!).
I ordered the Triple Chocolate Layered Stout Cake. It was rich, but VERY delicious. The carmel drizzle danced on top of the generous piece of cake adorned with 3 clouds of whip cream. There was a surprise layer of a creamy filling in the middle of the cake - YUM!
Adams L ordered Banoffee which was served and tasted much like the "Pot of Gold" at Joseph Decuis (see this) except it was adorned with thinly sliced bananas and served atop a layer of shortbread. It was very rich but oh so visually appealing. You can make something similar at home by boiling a can of Eagle Brand (see recipe HERE).
Allen L ordered Fruit Crumble. Although she thought it was delicious, it would have been nice to have been told what fruit was being served in the dish - plums? apples? other? The dish was served in a hot-to-touch container which made sharing it rather difficult. She thought it was good and would get it again.
It was GREAT to see Fritzi. We like him very much and because he treats us well, we'll likely find our way back to JKO at some point. Our server on this night was Mandy. Mandy was pleasant and very knowledgeable. If you're looking to be taken care of - ask to sit in Fritz's section and tell him the 3 Elles sent you.
Until the next bite -