This past weekend my partner and I had our first “date night” since the birth of our child. Dinner and movie seemed like the simplest of plans. Little did we know that dealing with our 3 month old would be easier than a meal at Bucatini in Middleton.
The service on our visit was so bad that it became laughable and certainly overshadowed the food. On a previous lunch visit that was close to the restaurant’s opening, I thought the service was a little rough but chalked it up to opening irregularities. Now nine months later I must say nothing has been ironed out, in fact it is much, much worse. The place seems to do a brisk business but thanks to its size, waits are few and far between. Perhaps the management should either reduce the number of tables or increase wait staff because we learned that just because we got seated, didn’t mean we’d get served. After 15 minutes of no water and no waiter, my partner went up to the two hosts. Neither apologized upon hearing the news and one asked which table we were. My partner pointed me out but the hostess that had seated us asked again for clarification. This time my partner pointed me out once more, and said, “We’re the only table in our area with no food or drink on the table." To top it off we had two tables surrounding us that were seated after us enjoying their drinks already. After a few more minutes we were greeted by a waiter whom I will call Weapon X. Just like Wolverine himself this guy had horned hair and while he did not have adamantium claws, he did have finger nails that protruded at least 4 inches from the end of his fingers. Weapon X welcomed us with a “Gooood evening” that sounded like he should be answering the door at Daddy Warbuck’s house. Switching to a hushed tone he did apologize for the delay, but he also provided an excuse. He explained that our intended waitress was serving a large group and that we got lost in the shuffle. Note to servers, apologies go a long way but excuses don’t. We ordered both our drinks and entrees and thought our meal was back on track. Weapon X returned quickly with our drinks but our confidence in him took a shot when he asked me to repeat my order. Still our salads and entrees arrived very quickly. While I’d love to move on to the food, I must sadly share another service mishap. We finished our meal and I noticed the movie started in 40 minutes. While my partner thought we had plenty of time, I said we should pull out our payment for the next time Weapon X stopped by. Unfortunately I was right as we waited another 25 minutes before he stopped by again to check on us. Adding insult to injury was the fact that he checked on an adjacent table 5 times while we waited. In review it was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had service wise and if we weren’t so caught up in enjoying our one night out, it could have turned out far worse.
There was of course food involved as well and while it was mostly positive, it was marred by inconsistency. Our house salads were made with very fresh greens, a simple balsamic dressing, and some of the very best shaved parmesan I’ve ever enjoyed. However I’d question the $3.99 price tag. On a previous visit I had enjoyed a rigatoni with pancetta, artichoke hearts in a white wine sauce, so this time around, I wanted to sample one of their red sauces. Their version of eggplant parmesan provided me that opportunity. The eggplant was cut perfectly thin but unfortunately was over breaded. When I complained, my partner reminded me that our state motto could be “when in doubt, add more breading”. Despite the over breading though, the accompanying sauce was satisfying and hit all the right notes. The highlight though, was the simple penne with fontina cheese sauce that accompanied the main dish. It was creamy without being rich and the saltiness played well with the marinara sauce on the eggplant. My partner opted for a bacon wrapped filet with gorgonzola cheese. Advertised at 7oz. the dish arrived with a piece of meat that was undercooked and no more than 4oz. We tend to order medium rare and don’t mind when the kitchen delivers something more on the rare side, however other patrons would not be as forgiving and no one should forgive that small of a piece of meat especially at a cost of $18.99. Again though the stars of the plate were the sauces. The gorgonzola cheese sauce around the steak was mild yet tangy and the porcini mushroom sauce that enveloped the accompanying risotto was exceptional. Too bad the risotto was overcooked and mushy. In short the kitchen excels at sauces but seems to miss the boat on the main items on the plate. Furthermore, this type of inconsistency does not make one forget about questionable service as other kitchens can.
Bucatini is in a space that formally housed a Macaroni Grill in Greenway Station. While they could have taken the easy route and slipped into the building, I must credit the ownership in making plenty of physical changes so that the restaurant sheds any comparisons to the chain uniformity that once marked the space. Unfortunately I cannot give them much credit for anything else.
Bucatini, 1611 Deming Way, Middleton, WI 608-824-0004