Ah, Italian food. For me, it all started with the fluffy white breadsticks of Olive Garden. I like to think my palate has matured considerably since then, thereby leading me to Fiamo not once, but twice last week. I went on a Tuesday and a Saturday – with each experience being quite different. On Tuesday, I was with one friend, and the last Canucks game in the Chicago series was on. Fiamo was very quiet, and the service was friendly and prompt. On Saturday, I arrived with Matthew (boyfriend) and another couple, and we were faced with a 45 minute wait (although this is not uncommon for a weekend evening in any restaurant). The service on Saturday was extremely questionable. I will elaborate below.
Fiamo is fairly dark, but not so dark that you can’t see your food. The candles on the tables are a nice touch, creating an intimate atmosphere perfect for a romantic date night. The large chandelier in the dining room is actually quite impressive, and appealed greatly to my affection for shiny objects. I also quite enjoyed the exposed brick walls, some of which were imbedded with candles. However, the pictures of retro bikini clad women on the walls seemed out of place, as did the random bicycles attached to the walls. An attempt at avant garde decor/vintage sex appeal? Hmm.
I give service a 3.5, given the understanding that most of the servers/hostesses at Fiamo seem extremely friendly and competent, but our experience on Saturday night definitely brought it down a few notches.
Our hostess on Saturday was extremely accomodating; offering to call us when our table was ready as we went for a walk in the inner harbour, seating us outside while our table was being prepared, and never letting our waters run dry all night. She was friendly, thoughtful, and attentive. It was a similar case with my server on Tuesday night.
However, our Saturday night server was a completely different story. He took forever to wait our table, and when he finally took our orders it was a long, painful wait for the bread basket. This pattern continued throughout the night, coming to full closure when he gave us the bill without asking how we wanted it divided, mixing up our orders, and charging the wrong bills to the wrong credit cards. Geeze.
The menu at Fiamo is fairly comprehensive, with something for most people (though there was a typical lack of options for gluten-free and vegans). The bread offered is quite good; fluffy, herbed, and served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. My only qualm is that I would have liked more vinegar in the oil mix. (My other qualm is that really, the bread doesn’t begin to compare to the salty, oily delights of Pagliacci’s. Just sayin’.)
I ordered the Vegetable Mosaic on Tuesday, and the Roasted Veggie pizza on Saturday. I must say, while both dishes were clearly made with fresh, delicious ingredients, I wouldn’t recommend the Vegetable Mosaic. It was weird – a mishmash of breadcrumbs (?) carrots, artichokes, peppers, lettuce, sauce (red? tomato?) and buffalo mozzarella. The ingredients were delicious seperately, but I didn’t sense an ounce of cohesion in the dish. However, the veggie pizza was delicious – not too oily, just enough feta cheese, a thin but substantial crust, and beautifully roasted vegetables.
My fellow dinner mate, Jessica ordered the butternut squash ravioli, which I understand was delicious and generously filled:
Her boyfriend/fiance Koide ordered the Smoked Salmon Pizza, which was, in his words “possibly better than Pizzeria Primastrada”. I would cautiously agree in the case of my pizza, with the preface that Primastrada and Fiamo essentially encompass two completely different pizza styles.
My boyfriend, Matthew, ordered the pasta dish on special – a “10k” pasta designed for those in preparation for the Times Columnist 10k the next morning. Matthew was not in preparation for the 10k, but as usual felt it his culinary duty to order the heartiest, meatiest dish on the menu. He was impressed, saying it was possibly the best meat pasta he has had.
All in all, Fiamo gets a 3.5. It is good food, fairly good (if inconsistent) service, good atmosphere – all signs leading to a high rating! However, I didn’t feel that the value was quite there. If I am paying 18 dollars for an entree, I want everything about it to be FABULOUS. Fiamo was good, but not FABULOUS. I would go back if I had a groupon or something; but otherwise I will continue haunting Pagliaccis for my Italian fix.