Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Un-frugal Foodie: Martorano's

Muscle man Steve Martorano serves overpriced East Coast Italian food at his restaurant in the Rio, where we dined with our foodie friends on Sunday evening. Although nothing we had was bad and everything was well-seasoned, I still left with a bad taste in my mouth due to the prices and the atmosphere. Let me give you a mental picture: disco balls, neon lights, over-sized outdoor garbage cans in the bathroom, and blaring music only turned off so you can watch an equally loud scene from the original Ocean's Eleven on one of six flat screens. The light/video/music show is all orchestrated by DJ Martorano himself, who spends more time annoying his customers with noise than paying attention to their food.

His menu is as beefy as his arms, so I would advise vegetarians to stay away. I actually give him credit for his unabashed use of meat, which he prepares well. Since we were a group of four and didn't feel like eating a ton of food, we ordered a bunch of appetizers to split. Their meatball, which they are famous for, is light with balanced meatball elements. It is served with tasty marinara and excellent ricotta, though these features can't justify the $14 price tag (or $18 if you want a microscopic salad to go with it as we realized after the fact).

We then ordered pigs feet, a dish I would say was the highlight of the meal because I don't generally eat pigs feet and they seemed to be prepared well. But it's also possible my enjoyment was due to the abundance of that San Marzano marinara or the relatively inexpensive price ($10). The feet themselves were not terribly meaty, but the accompanying rolled pig skin stuffed with pork was quite enjoyable (if eaten only a few bites at a time) and tasted like thick, chewy pasta (if pasta was pure fat).

Other above average options included; the eggplant stack, which was crispy but heavy, and not served hot ($19); the gnocchi side, which was light enough but not terribly interesting ($14); and the hot peppers stuffed with veal that I enjoyed, but felt had a bit too much crushed red pepper ($18). He also offers an interesting take on carbonara, which he sent to our table gratis because we are locals (Always tell restaurants on the Strip you are local when making a reservation. They usually do a little something extra for you). I can best describe his preparation as spaghetti (though the waitress called it buccatini) tossed in a white bean hummus. The flavor was fine but it had an off-putting mouth feel, and was not worth the $24 price listed. I'm not sure how he can get away with these prices for dishes that are essentially superior preparations of adulterated versions of real Italian food...

That being said, I've never been afraid of writing a review but due to how large and in charge this chef is I'm really hoping he never reads this. Ian agrees, so if he does, I'd like him to know that Ian thought the restaurant was nothing short of extraordinary and will be highly recommending it to everyone he knows.

P.S. Don't let the waitress talk you into a specialty cocktail. They taste worse than a melted tropical concoction from Fat Tuesdays. And, if you still want to come, do so before 7:30 or you won't even be able to have a conversation with yourself. I'd like to leave you with an excerpt from his own website:

"Guests can dine on Italian-American food while watching his favorite movies and listening to classic R&B and classic rock on a sound system that rivals that of South Beach’s hottest clubs. This rare talent has allowed him to create an ambiance that attracts a clientele that ranges from a local, sexy, hip crowd to entertainment’s hottest celebrities. This family-run business is the only venue that has managed to create a modern and cool atmosphere while maintaining that welcome-to-the-family vibe."


Tonight's Food Ratings (remember, value is taken into consideration):
Meatball: 6
Pigs Feet: 8
Eggplant Stack: 4.5
Gnocchi with White Sauce: 5
Stuffed Peppers: 5.5
Carbonara: 4.5


Pigs Feet
Eggplant Stack

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