Every now and again, someone will ask me if I really feel comfortable reviewing a restaurant after just one visit. The fact that I do has many reasons, the foremost being that I’ve been a restaurant critic since 1982 (to paraphrase a friend, "You couldn’t possibly be that old"), and in the light-years since have developed a feel for when a restaurant is just having a bad night and when things have spiraled into a death dive toward hell.
So trust me when I say Frediani’s Italian Restaurant was just having a bad night last Wednesday.
The reason? It started with the music.
No, I’m not going to start critiquing music, but I know what can happen if a restaurant owner lets the musicians take over. One memorable example occurred a couple of years ago, when a now-closed restaurant (and a pretty good one, at that) lost control of a radio remote. The music was so loud that customers literally couldn’t hear the people next to them in the same booths, the dishes were vibrating against the tables and the waiters were complaining bitterly. Still, 10 stayed 10. And lots of people swore never to return.
At Frediani’s, the takeover was more insidious. When I called to check the hours, I was told that a jazz group would be playing. When we arrived, there they were — a trio including a vocalist. I don’t think I’m stepping on Jason Bracelin’s toes to say we thought they were really good, and that they certainly added a pleasant, soothing aspect to the atmosphere. And then the rabid wild squirrels commandeered the stage.
I’m still not clear where they came from — a server tried to tell us, but we could only make out about every fourth word — but apparently they were friends of some customers, most likely the way-too-old-to-be-this-drunk raucous group at a large table. Someone reportedly asked if the kids could play one song, and the favor was granted. But one song turned into one song by each of a succession of budding "artists." Their skills at rock guitar were maybe not so bad, but the vocals had the effect of a railroad spike being slowly driven into the brain. I actually like classic rock — which is what this was — but when I’m in a bar, not when I’m trying to enjoy dinner. The trio eventually recaptured the flag, but not until it was almost time for us to leave.
More’s the pity for that and everything else we experienced that evening. Thanks to the cacophony, an order was misunderstood; thanks to the ever-growing way-too-old-to-be-this-drunk group, our waiter was continually running to and from the bar (especially) and kitchen. A party near us walked out and another cut the evening short.
So how was the service? I think it would’ve been pretty good, although they clearly were short-staffed on an evening when they had planned live music.
How was the food? Great, for the most part. We started with a basket of mixed breads and a saucer of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, which our waiter replenished when our starters and entrees took too long, which they most certainly did. Fried artichokes ($6.95) were crispy-coated bottoms with a nice chunky tomato sauce; bruschetta ($6.95) was heavily garlicked (that’s a good thing) slices of bread topped with fresh chunks of tomato, basil and some Parmesan.
A special of Dijon-crusted New Zealand lamb ($24.95) was quite nice, the little chops flavorful and medium-rare as ordered, the fingerling potatoes creamy, asparagus spears crisp.
Sausage penne ($14.95) was a little oily, the light tomato sauce separating, but it had lots of pieces of sausage and mushroom, so that was a plus.
The bottom line? The owner lost control of the restaurant that evening. In this dismal economy, restaurants are trying to do all they can to keep customers happy and coming back frequently, but surrendering to a way-too-vocal minority will turn off the begging-for-solitude majority.
Las Vegas Review-Journal reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at 383-0474 or e-mail her at hrinella@ reviewjournal.com.Review Frediani’s Italian Restaurant 2895 N. Green Valley Parkway, Henderson; 433-1494 Overall B Food A- Atmosphere B Service C Pluses: Decent renditions of the classics. Minuses: Oddly, some of the other patrons.