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Put the napkin in your lap and pull up to the table with Eau Claire's Hungry Italian as he provides the area's only true Restaurant Review.  Don't have another family night ruined by poor service.  Find the perfect spot to take that special online someone on the third date that has romance commingled with value.  

EATING ESTABLISHMENT  Draganett's Ristorante

DINING DATE   Wednesday December 18th

MEAL TIME    Dinner

ATTENDEES IN PARTY   2 adults

TOTAL BILL  - $47

OREDERED Cheesy Garlic Bread & Chicken Parm

ENTREE   

There isn’t a culinary identification that is noteworthy for Eau Claire meaning there isn’t a signature dish people travel to visit our community for.  What the Hungry Italian has noticed is this area does simple, VERY WELL. Cheese curds, fish fries, burgers.  There are no shortages of places that have perfected these dishes that may be simple but when done excellently become memorable and we have that here. This isn’t a negative. There is a charm that comes from the comfort foods we have a plethora of here.

Nonetheless, the area lacks a volume of high-end, take your jacket off, sit down restaurants.  That’s on developers and on us as a community for supporting them. This is why Italian staple Draganetti’s is important.  This long-time establishment is one of the few places in town that isn’t a “turn and burn” venture as they want you to come, relax and have dinner be a significant part of the evening as opposed to a quick stop.

Now, when it comes to Dragnanetti’s this is clearly in the Hungry Italian’s wheelhouse. Unlike the Hungry Italian’s hometown in New York State, nor some of his other stops, Eau Claire IS NOT a spot that features a legacy of Italian American cooking.  Its simply not in this area’s culinary DNA.  The Hungry Italian has high standards for Italian American fare, but at the same time, isn’t snooty about it.  While Dragnaetti’s success wouldn’t be guaranteed in well-established Italian American communities out east it wouldn’t be doomed for failure either.  It has the ingredients.

Good #1

The Décor is that of faux elegance with fake flowers, rope lighting and mirrors in odd places.  Seems straight out of a 1970s home basement bar and honestly this is what old fashion, family run Italian American restaurants look like. They have a septia tone to them. Draganetti’s does lack the omni-present crucifix that dot many traditional Italian places but that’s not a fatal error.  Personally, the Hungry-Italian loves the bar area and the sit-down bar stools

 

Bad #1

The staff is…meh.  This is a quality establishment and the staff could up its game with more consistent outgoing personality and higher-end dress.  One is paying a little more here and the service should match it thus increasing the perception of value.  The servers seem miserable here. Rarely a smile, many times looking rushed or even bothered.

 

Good #2

The menu selection is solid.  All the well-established entrees are here and while one may bristle at VEAL…that is a staple in Italian American cuisine that isn’t necessarily common in some Italian places in the upper Midwest.

 

Bad #2

The lack of a deep fryer.  No establishment should be short this.  Lacking cheese curds is BAD in this town.  An Italian twist on them (that isn’t cheese sticks) would be a noteworthy dish for them.  Not only that, something like toasted raviolis would also be unique and bring a Midwest Italian flavor.  Calamari is also absent because of this.

 

Good #3

Prices here are reasonable and fair.  While this is higher-end, one can easily get out of here spending less than $20 per person and still feel as though they received an outstanding value.

 

Bad #3

The quality is hit or miss.  For example, the gnocchi Bolognese has been OUTSTANDING to OK depending on the visit. 

 

This visit

 

On this trip, a date night for Mr. and Mrs. Hungry Italian the place was full on a Wednesday, so seating was limited to the bar.  Despite half the dining room being empty, the seemingly flustered hostess escorted us to the bar.  We were greeted by a hurried servant who flung curled edged menus at us.  Not a great start.

 

We began by ordering a garlic bread appetizer.  It was okay.  The bread was soft and doughy while the cheese on top was very greasy.  This goes back to a lack of continuity. Sometimes the bread is hard, sometimes it tastes barely cooked and sometimes its just right.  The sauce that accompanies this is very sweet, perhaps a sign this place properly uses San Marzano tomatoes which deserves a thumbs up.  They cost a little extra but are WELL WORTH IT.

 

The Hungry Italian ordered for his entrée the Chicken Parm which the server emphatically warned is not deep fried which caused a curled eyebrow because chicken parm at a sit-down restaurant SHOULD NEVER BE DEEP FRIED.  Chicken parm should be lightly breaded and PAN FRIED.  Well, unfortunately what came out seemed to be a breaded chicken that was baked.  The end result is a rubbery chicken that lacked any flavor.  The dish is salvaged by a proper amount of cheese, a VERY TASTY red gravy and capellini pasta.  Still, the chicken – the protein – was awful. 

 

Mrs. Hungry Italian’s gnocchi Bolognese, as was previously mentioned, was saltier than a bucket of crystal-clear Gulf of Mexico water.  This is not always the case as that dish has at times been the Hungry Italian’s #1 dish in the entire area.  Either the recipe has changed within the last year or it was a miscalculation on this night.

 

The Hungry Italian is a tough critic on Draganetti’s because this is Italian-American which is the wheelhouse. If the Hungry Italian was truly turned off, he wouldn’t come here 3-4 times a year.  Draganetti’s is like that employee that you’re hard on because you like them and see great potential.

SECOND HELPING 

Yes, this is part of the Hungry-Italian’s regular rotation. However, there is room for improvement.

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