At the heart of Italian cooking is simplicity.
As Anthony Bourdain raved of one of his absolute favorite dishes, cacio e pepe: “It’s like the simplest, nicest thing in the world.”
Italian for “cheese and pepper,” cacio e pepe is something like the forefather to mac and cheese. It’s quick and easy to make — just noodles, salt, pepper, olive oil and Parmesan.
Along with other Italian cornerstones like pastas pomodoro, carbonara, these simple dishes sing in large part because of a commitment to ingredients that are fresh and well-crafted.
Which, unfortunately, you won’t find a lot of at Galletti’s Spaghetti House in Seaview, Wash.
For starters, the pasta is neither fresh nor house-made. And for a place that serves almost exclusively starchy, noodle-heavy dishes, that’s a cracked foundation.
There isn’t a whole lot of choice at Galletti’s, either. It mostly boils down to sauce — largely tomato or cream — and meat — from land or sea. Every entree includes a side salad and piece of garlic toast.
Starters are limited to breadsticks, bruschetta and stuffed Peruvian peppers. Besides the bruschetta, there’s no antipasto to speak of — no cured meats, olives or fine cheeses. So the “Spaghetti House” moniker is a more accurate descriptor than “Italian Restaurant” sign inside, a family heirloom.
About the salad and bread that accompany each entree: They’re pitiful. In one case, the salad was minuscule, not more than three or four puny bites. In another, it included a piece of spinach wilted with black rot. The bread, meanwhile, is bleached and insubstantial — not unlike the 99-cent grocery store variety. As “bread,” Italians might not recognize it. They certainly wouldn’t respect it. Cheap as the garlic toast appears, if one wanted a second slice, it wouldn’t be complimentary.
Galletti’s entrees may as well have been cribbed from the Olive Garden menu. Galletti’s, however, does away with the teeming portions and all-you-can-eat specials. While adequately filling on account of being carb-bombs, Galletti’s plates were surprisingly petite.
Speaking of surprise: A glass of red wine was served, inexplicably, at well-above room temperature.
Anyway, the entrees.
The Chicken Parmesan ($16.95) came out quick enough to make me wonder how accurate the claims of being “cooked-to-order” were. Either way, the breading was soggy and paste-like. Along for the ride were loads of melted cheese and a marinara that was a bit sweet but otherwise indistinct.
Same goes for the Lasagna ($14.95). I’d have a hard time picking it out of a lineup that included run-of-the-mill dry pasta and canned sauce from the grocery store.
The Chicken Picata ($18.95) was creamy and cheesy, with an lemony twang. The chicken was dry, pulverized and overcooked. And there wasn’t a whole lot of it — not for $18.95, anyway. What there was a whole lot of was oil, pooling up at the bottom of the bowl.
While a traditional chicken piccata recipe calls for the chicken to be dredged in flour and browned, Galletti’s forgoes the breading and — of course — adds a bunch of noodles. But hey, maybe that’s just Galletti’s take on the dish — perhaps that’s why they spell “Picata” with only one “c.” Either way, there was little in terms of portion or flavor to justify the dish’s nearly $20 price tag.
And that’s pretty much how Galletti’s left me: flat. Missing were those essential Italian building blocks of freshness, quality and personal touch.
Rather than celebrating simplicity, Galletti’s turned out to be rather basic.