I could read all the food blogs in the world and go to all the restaurants they claim to be great, but nothing really ever beats a personal recommendation. Usually it comes from someone you know and they know your taste better any anonymous or famous food critics. So when my buddy and his lady friend suggested we hit up an Italian place called San Gennaro in Brentwood, I was ready for business.
When we arrived, one look at the menu told me this was not going to be an easy choice. Instantly my eyes met with gnocchi, Italian fried chicken and Ray’s Special pizza. Instead of making the tough decision myself, I asked the waiter to decide for me and he picked the pizza.
This special pizza was not just some boring meat-lover’s or anything like that, but simply topped with chicken sausage and rubbed down with pesto sauce instead of tomato. It sounded like a unique combination of flavors and I was happy with the choice that had been made for me. But before getting my pizza, I had myself a ton of their bread, which was soft, garlicky and delicious. By the time my pizza came, I had already eaten half my weight in bread, but I was still excited for some interesting flavors.
Well, at least until I ate the thing. It was then that I thought perhaps I had made the wrong choice. On the first bite I realized that the dough was…well…doughy. Not greasy like a New York pizza or crispy like an Italian-style, but just kind of limp and doughy. It was a disappointing start and I quickly found that the rest of the ingredients didn’t really make up for it. Both sausage and pesto generally have delicious and powerful flavors and my biggest worry going into the pizza was that they would overpower each other. Instead, the exact opposite happened and neither offered up much flavor at all. Had the garlic dulled my senses? It didn’t feel that way, and when I asked my girlfriend how she felt about her food, she seemed to reflect the same opinion.
After finishing half, I was full and took the other half to go. I also figured it would be a good test of my potentially dulled senses to try it again the next day. After giving the pizza a good toasting the day after, I found that little of the flavor had improved. But what did improve was the crust, which now had a decent crisp to it.
So perhaps both the girlfriend and I ordered the wrong thing. Or perhaps San Gennaro is just the kind of restaurant that is nice to have in your neighborhood, but not worth driving to. It wasn’t bad by any means, but I have no need for a restaurant where the best thing I can say about my meal was that it “wasn’t bad.” I must admit that the prices were pretty good and the Groupon our friends had didn’t hurt the cause much either. Yet, there is so much amazing Italian food in the world to be eaten and I’d rather not waste another Italian meal at just-passable San Gennaro.