Tag Archives: merida italian restaurants

The Casual Restaurant Critic – Luciano’s Ristorante Italiano

Lucianos Interior

A Gaggle of Teens

The Casual Restaurant Critic – hungry and celebrating with Better Half the recuperation of a lost item which will be explained at some point but not right now – decided on lunch at the new Italian restaurant called Lucianos, located in that bastion of fashionable Merida mall-ness, Plaza Altabrisa.

There was only a table of young kids celebrating a birthday or something with pizzas and giggles in the entire restaurant which is huge, covering the corner second level of the mall, directly over Chili’s restaurant. About a hundred waiters abound and one is immediately struck with the thought that it is a lot like Italianni’s (Gran Plaza) and the now defunct Contenti’s (remember that one adjacent to and a part of Friday’s?). A hostess takes a name and leads you inside.

The noise level will probably be too high for many of my readers, who often prefer something a little more tranquilo, but on this occasion at least, a Ricky Martin concert on all the restaurants video screens accompanied by the ‘music’ on the sound system drowned out the possibility of any conversation but a word to the waiter changed that. Actually, the exchange went something like this:

Better Half ¬†– “Excuse me, but I think we are not going to stay because we really can’t talk here”

Waiter – *grin*

Better Half – “Is that OK then, if we leave?”

Waiter – *grinning* “um, OK”

As Better Half turned to the Critic incredulously, Waiter disappeared and magically, a moment later, the volume went down to a more normal level. Loud enough to make the place seem more exciting than it actually is, but low enough that you can actually talk to the person sitting across from you.

The Critic and Better Half both ordered pizzas; 4 cheese with anchovies and pepperoni. Both were fine, but it was not an OMG moment featuring groaning and mouthgasms. No, it was a decent pizza, but you can do better at Rafaello’s downtown or Boston around the corner or Bella Roma out in the sticks.

All in all, the Critic might be back to try the pastas, but for the time being, is not in any rush to do so.

 

 

Bella Roma – New Authentic Italian Find in Merida

Everyone is talking about it.

A new Italian eatery; a really authentic Italian restaurant, located in the most unlikely and hard to find places; the new, gigantic urban development known as Las Americas. Not the mall, but the Sadasi construction companys huge housing project near Dzitya, just off the Merida-Progreso highway.

The Casual Restaurant Critic, Better Half and several friends visited this hidden gem a few nights ago and the group was magically transported from Merida to a Roman neighborhood trattoria, where a large (20 members by one account) Italian family hosts Yucatecans and the occasional Canadian and offers up real food from the land shaped like a boot.

The pizza is of the ultra thin crust variety and while the ‘everything’ pizza was fine, it was the quattro formaggio with anchovies that wowed the group. Pastas were perfect; rare indeed is the restaurant that can put together a delicious pasta cooked perfectly. Elio al Mare is one, Bella Roma is another. Accompanied by a reasonably priced bottle of Moltepuciano red wine, the meal was perfect up to and including the tiramisu and limoncello (and mandarincello) for dessert. Exquisite!

Service was adequate, but the crushing onslaught of Yucatecans never stopped and the female waitresses, evidently sisters and daughters of the older folks in the kitchen as well as several young men including the Eros Ramazotti singing member of the family who provided live entertainment for part of the evening, were hard-pressed to spend much time at any table. Every few minutes, yet another Italian face would appear with a load of plates and the Critic counted at least 11 different members of the staff, all related apparently.

Dinner for 8 came to about $1400 pesos before tips which the Critic felt was quite fair.

Elio al Mare, Progreso, Yucatan

Better late than never, is the Critics motto when it comes to trying out restaurants that have already been commented on by others; take the Wayan’e case for example, where the Critic waited 20 years to try the famous tortas and tacos and lo and behold, when he did get around to trying them, he was convinced that the mythical reputation was justified.

Elio al Mare, located between Progreso and Chicxulub right on the beach, has not been around for 20 years, but it has been commented on and recommended by Italian friends in Merida (OK one Italian friend) and several other people as well. In fact, it has become such common knowledge that an article even appeared on the restaurant in Plan B, the Diario de Yucatans colorful Thursday supplement featuring fun, exciting activities and places to go as well as the latest photos of Meridas beautiful people having a great time at Fridays.

So the Critic, with the Motley Crew, an assortment of friends who occasionally dine and travel together and is made up of several entrepeneurs, including the Better Half, a doctor and his wife and an engineer set out for Progreso. Why the Critic is even mentioning the existence let alone the composition of the group is not entirely clear, as it has absolutely nothing to do with the comment at hand, which is Elio al Mare.

Elio al Mare is in a converted house, right on the beach and open to the breeze that on this occasion was just perfect. Sometimes that breeze is too strong and no amount of gel will keep your do in place and you end up looking like Mickey Rourke in any of his latest films with your hair standing on end. At other times the breeze at the beach is too weak, thereby allowing the mosquitoes to get a wing-hold in the sticky humid night air, and your legs will become an “All You Can Suck!!!” bloody nightmare. As mentioned before, the breeze was perfect.

The man in charge, an Italian one assumes, as were several key people in bar and kitchen areas, greeted the party and threw together two tables on the deck/porch and the Crew was seated comfortably. A menu was presented and then everyone was served a sangria, cortesia of the restaurant, from a large punch bowl in the middle of the restaurant. A refreshingly original way to start a great meal!

So how was the food you may be wondering?

From the bread (warmed) and mushroom dip, through the octopus carpaccio, which was more like a cross between carpaccio and ceviche served with parmigiano chunks, onion and tomato, through the main courses, all pastas, were incredible. The other appetizers, an ensalada Caprese and a Greek salad, were delicious.

The Critic ordered a Carbonara, which in Merida usually means loads and loads of cream and a hint of bacon; all that cream has nothing to do with a Carbonara pasta; and this time, it was perfect. Not good, perfect. The pasta itself, homemade and cooked to al dente perfection. The egg and olive oil in the pasta, perfect. And the crunchy bacon chunks were not hiding timidly under bits of parsley, but out there in full force and in your face. The seafood pasta ordered by the doctors wife was a-ma-zing. The doctor, the Crews most finicky eater and skeptical sampler of menus, was motivated to enthusiastically exclaim that his lasagna was excellent, a comment that rarely escapes his lips with such feeling.

It might be because the Critic was hungry, that all this seemed so wonderfully delicious; however, avid readers may have deduced by the previous review that the Critic had in fact lunched rather heavily two hours earlier on Progresos malecon, so the rave review is not a result of an empty stomach.

The one quibble was with a glass of red wine ordered by yours truly, which was chilled to room temperature in Inuvik, but that was it.

The service was fine and the bill for 6, with only a little alcohol served, came to about 1800 pesos before tips.

Elio al Mare is one of the best restaurants the Critic has had the pleasure of reviewing in a while. Open from 1 – 10, they don’t take credit cards, only cash and will modify their operating hours during the summer months, opening a little later, from 3 – 12.

To make this review a classic Casual Restaurant Critic review, there is no address. The fine folks at Yucatan Today have one though, click here and you shall find it!

Happy eating!

Ca d’Oro – Italian in Merida, Yucatan

The Critic and Co. had lunch yesterday at the new Ca d’Oro Italian restaurant, located in that plaza on Prolongaci√≥n Montejo where Carls Jr hamburgers (formerly Checkers) is located, across from the giant Interceramic tile store.

The Critic had read a good review on gorbman.com and so was excited to have the opportunity to give this relatively new restaurant a try.

The two appetizers ordered, suppli al telefono and melanzana were good; the melanzana or eggplant was rich hearty and very satisfying while the best part of the suppli was the great presentation in a paper cone. Others in the party thought the suppli a little bland, but the accompanying cooked tomato sauce perked the little rice/cheese balls nicely.

For main courses:

  • an abundant fusilli in a tomato sauce which, according to it’s owner, was good;
  • a roast duck with a lemon sauce;
  • a Pecorino cheese pizza;
  • and the Critic had the tagliatelle with panna and prosciutto.

Overall, reviews were generally good on the food. The pizza and the duck were outstanding, while the tagliatelle was quite bland. If it hadn’t been for the prosciutto, it would have tasted like not much of anything.

Bread seemed homemade and was warm, crispy and light; while the three accompanying butters (habanero, chile de arbol and garlic) were very good although it could be that the butter was actually margarine, if such a thing were possible in the Ca d’Oro.

As usual, the Critic is critical of the service. If you are tired of reading this same old criticism of Merida’s restaurants, stop reading here and go outside and play.

But it seems that the owners of Ca d’Oro have spent a lot of thought, time and money on the decoration, the menu and some wonderful food. The waiter was slow, charmless and not particularly knowledgeable. When asked when the restaurant opened, he seemed unsure and said ‘it’s my understanding that they opened about year ago’. When asked is they had mineral water his answer was ‘yes’. When asked further what kind of mineral water, he replied ‘Perrier’. When asked if they had Pelegrino he replied ‘yes’. Upon returning to the table to remove finished plates, he went on just a little too much about how it was evident that the group enjoyed the food (the empty plates).

If this is nitpicking, so be it. But one only has to have dinner at La Recova, or for really outstanding service, La Dolce Vita in Cancun, to see what a difference well-trained, knowledgeable and professional waiters make.

Final verdict? Try it yourself. There are a lot of items on their menu and the Critic is sure that there are some real gems in there.