Monday, April 30, 2012

DePalma's - Tuscaloosa

I would like to say that I have a love, hate relationship with food in the city of Tuscaloosa, but that would be far from accurate.  In fact, most of my encounters with the city’s restaurants have ended with regret at not pushing on to Birmingham or Atlanta. Even with those experiences in mind, I keep returning to Tuscaloosa hoping to strike gold. This last time I decided to try my luck with DePalma’s Italian Cafe on University Boulevard.

Being the week before Christmas, DePalma’s was packed, not with students but what appeared to be locals and people home for the holidays. As a result, it was a small wait before I was shown to a table near the hostess station. Looking through the menu, I was buoyed by the emphasis on fresh pasta, but I was surprised when my waitress admitted the pasta was not homemade but shipped in fresh thrice a week.

Skipping the pasta for the time being, the meal began with an order of the three cheese tort.
Three layers of a blend of ricotta, feta, and parmesan were separated by a layer of pesto, sun dried tomato, and black olive paté. 
While the use of the colors of the Italian flag was amusing, the individual flavors of the three cheeses were completely lost.
Aside from the stingy portion of the olive paté, this cheese tort was mediocre at best.

For an entrée, I had set my sights on the only pasta dish labeled as housemade, the Portobello mushroom ravioli, but DePalma’s was out. Hoping the salvage the meal, I decided to see how DePalma’s could handle risotto.
Seared pork loin aioli and Portobello risotto was a decision I would quickly regret.
According to the menu, these pork medallions were marinated in olive oil, garlic, shallots, and fresh thyme, sautéed, and then topped with roasted tomatoes and caper aioli. That sounded all well and good on paper, but the actual product was little more than three medallions of desiccated pork that were bereft of flavor and topped with a squiggle of raw herb puree.
I wish I could say that risotto was better but, pool of oil aside, this waste of rice was more like congee than any proper risotto.

At that point, I had had enough. I paid my bill, tipped my waitress and left as quickly as possible. I’ve eaten some poor Italian cuisine over the years, but that monstrosity of a entrée took the cake. I would have been better off skipping Tuscaloosa, skipping Birmingham, and dining like a king on a slice of week old coffee cake from the Oxford Starbucks. I will concede that there’s the off chance that I ordered one poor and one horrible dish from the menu and the rest is satisfying if not brilliant Italian cuisine, but that’s a chance I’ll take. I’m not sure where I’ll look the next time I want Italian food in Alabama, but it certainly won’t be University Boulevard in Tuscaloosa.

DePalma’s Address & Information
DePalma's Italian Cafe on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Brett Jaillet said...

I have to agree—DePalma's is disappointing. As a UA alum who is still living in the area, it is discouraging that food is just so so around here. I love what Birmingham has to offer, and wish Tuscaloosa could get a bit more of it!