One of the hard things to do when you have food allergies, or know someone who has food allergies, is finding a good restaurant that can accommodate and cater to your specific needs. Recently, one of my co-workers was on a limited wheat diet but wanted to indulge in pasta. So when we heard that Ritorno had a selection of gluten-free choices on their menu, we decided to make a group trip out of it and see what deliciousness awaited us.

We arrived at the restaurant shortly before noon and our group of four was one of only three tables. Looking around the restaurant, it was bright and cozy with lots of natural light from the big windows along the wall that faced the parking lot. The tables were a dark wood and there was an open view into the kitchen from where we sat. The walls were lined with family pictures and it was a quaint atmosphere meant to make you feel at home while you ate. 

Our server came by and took our orders, and we were given a plate of sliced bread with three dipping choices: olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette and a spicy chilli sauce. The bread was soft in the middle and crusty on the outside – we actually ended up asking for a second plate of bread since we were so hungry. (And by “we,” I mean me. I fully admit I ate the majority of the bread.)
Somewhere between ordering our food and receiving the bread starter, a group of eight was seated next to us, and this is where it started to go downhill. Our server was pre-occupied with that table (although there were three servers working that we could see and only five tables in total), and we seemed to have been forgotten. After waiting almost 20 minutes, we finally got our drinks and those of us who ordered soup got our soups. Keeping in mind we were on a tight schedule because we had to go back to work, it seemed a long time for a few waters and a pop.

The restaurant offers a Potato, Asiago and Arugula soup ($8) which unfortunately sounded much better than it actually was. The soup was a creamy puree of potato, cheese and cream as the menu stated, but there was absolutely no flavour to it. It tasted watered down and lacking of any seasoning; while the basil pesto drizzle added a strange oily consistency to the soup. The arugula was plentiful and the only thing in the soup that gave it substance. Overall, it was extremely disappointing for the price.
Again, after waiting another long stretch with no acknowledgement from our server, our main entrees were brought out. Two of us ordered the soup and half sandwich combination ($13) from the lunch menu, but were brought the wrong soup. When we were able to bring this to our server’s attention, we were met with rudeness – as though she couldn’t have been wrong; we must have changed our minds and it was our fault. Instead of bringing back our correct soups immediately, she took her time and was standing by the kitchen chatting before she came back with our food. By then, we had decided we were going to eat the rest of our food or else it would have been cold.
The new soup was the daily soup, which for the day was a Potato Chowder. Large cubes of potato, corn and onion were in a tomato cream broth. The vegetables were cooked perfectly (read: they were not mushy) but again, the soup itself lacked seasoning and was quite bland.
With the soups, we had the Sausage Panini and the Meatball Panini. Both sandwiches were well prepared and stuffed full of meat. The meatballs were covered in a thick tomato sauce that was average, but the meatballs themselves tasted fresh and homemade. The sausage was the better choice of the two, and came with delicious roasted vegetables. 
The Fettuccine Alfredo ($16) with additional Chicken Skewer ($5) looked promising. The pasta itself was cooked to a perfect al dante with no noodles sticking to another. The sauce however, was again, bland and forgettable. As she was eating it, my co-worker remarked that it tasted no different than alfredo sauce from a jar at the grocery store. The chicken skewer was grilled to perfection – moist on the inside and not chewy on the outside. There was no noticeable taste to it that we could tell, so essentially, you’re paying $5 for four cubes of meat.   
Lastly, the gluten-free dish was the Penne Bolognese ($10) in the “piccolo” size (smaller than the normal servings, but still probably much more than what you should eat when it comes to proper serving sizes). Again, the pasta was cooked to a perfect al dante and was nice and hot. The fact that it was gluten-free didn’t make much difference to the taste or texture, if I hadn’t known I probably wouldn’t have been able to tell gluten-free pasta from regular pasta. The sauce had good texture with chunks of fresh tomato and a fair amount of meat, but the taste was a letdown. My companion also made the comment that she could probably do better with a jar of grocery store sauce for less money.
Overall, our trip to Ritorno was hugely disappointing, topped off by unfriendly service and an extremely long wait (it took us over 1.5 hours to get out the door – and we ate fast!) For the price we paid, we were unhappy with the lack of seasoning and flavour to any dish. There was no “wow” factor anywhere, and the service needs a lot of work. A quick poll of my companions and we all agree – we won’t be “Ritorno-ing” here again.

Ritorno on Restaurantica
Ritorno on Urbanspoon
261 Oak Walk Dr., Oakville


Anonymous said...
February 6, 2011 at 1:05 PM

It's a shame the Potato, Asiago and Arugula soup was bland...It sounds so good & it looks good in the pic.

sweetone said...
February 16, 2011 at 11:47 AM

I had such high hopes for the soup, but was extremely disappointed with the end result. It made me very sad.

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