I don’t know many people who live in Victoria who haven’t been to Pagliacci’s Restaurant. It seems to get a lot of hype and positive reviews, so I decided I didn’t want to be left out of the fun.
One Thursday evening Mark and I set out on what we were hoping to be a great night of Italian dining.
Now I don’t like to start with the negative, but I have to mention one of the downsides to this restaurant.
They don’t take reservations for less than 6 people and they are “famous” for having long lines so if you’re the impatient type, this may not be the restaurant for you.
When we got there at 8:45, there was a line outside the door and I immediately wondered if my stomach would be able to handle the wait.
Not only is Pagliacci’s often busy at night, but this was a live jazz night as well so I was worried that people wouldn’t be in too much of a hurry to leave.
After a few minutes of deliberating, Mark and I decided to see if this place was really worth the wait like many people have said.
About 15 minutes into our wait, a server came out and offered us a little cup of red wine which we both gladly accepted and gulped down in seconds. A nice touch for making the wait a bit more bearable.
After 45 minutes we were finally at the front of the line. The host took us to a table at the back of the restaurant, one of very few that didn’t seem to share the same elbow room with a neighbouring table.
He originally had us sitting at a table right in front of the band but in the bright lights and close quarters, I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy my meal so thankfully when Mark spotted an empty table at the back, the host obliged us to sit there.
Needless to say once we were finally seated we were famished, so we were really happy when they brought homemade fresh foccacia bread to our table almost immediately after we sat down.
I have read about their bread and it really is as amazing as people say. It’s so tasty you don’t need to add butter and it definitely ranks up there with some of the best restaurant bread I’ve had.
Not wanting to fill up entirely on bread, Mark and I ordered our appetizers. He ordered the “Antipasti De Niro” ($12) and I chose the “Vegetable of the Night” ($6).
Mark’s appetizer was HUGE! I told him he might not want to finish it all if we wanted enough room for his main course…. Though he tried to stop eating, he said it all tasted too good to leave anything on his plate.
My vegetable of the night dish consisted of portobello mushrooms, red onions, tomatoes and roasted garlic simmered in sweet chile, with a lemon and white wine reduction.
It was really good, and I loved all the garlic in it. Both of our appetizers were excellent value.
When it came time to order our entrees, Mark went with a meat entree and I decided to go with pasta dishes as I had heard they were quite good here.
Most of the pasta dishes on the menu come in half portions as well, so unless you want leftovers for the next day, you may want to go for that option.
Either way, you can get a good amount of pasta for a pretty inexpensive price.
My reason for ordering a half portion was because I couldn’t decide between two very tasty sounding dishes. I also figured being that we were reviewing the food, it would give me a chance to sample more of it.
I got the “On the Beach” ($9.50 for half order, $13 for full) and “The Cabinet of Dr. Capelletti” ($10.50 for half order, $14 for full).
When our server brought out my food I knew right away I’d be taking some of it home with me. Even the half portions were big!
So my first bites were of my very garlic tasting “On the Beach”.
It was described as having enough sauteed garlic in it to discourage Dracula and I think that’s very accurate!
Actually, the garlic was the main reason I ordered this entree.
I just love it and have yet to encounter any dish that had too much of it in it for me (including this one, though it definitely had tons in it!).
The linguine also had mushrooms and fontina cheese in it. It sounds pretty simple but yet it tasted so good to me.
Just a little note, you better like garlic if you’re thinking of ordering this and you may want to refrain from getting too close to anyone afterwards…probably not a good “first date” option!
My other “half portion” which again, did not seem so “half” to me as it was still quite a large portion, was the capelletti.
It consisted of tortellini stuffed with beef, parmesan, cottage and mozzarrella cheeses. Definitely no skimping on cheese here.
Another good choice on my part, and plenty of leftovers for my lunch the next day.
Meanwhile, over on Mark’s plate was “The Casablanca” ($23).
Just as an aside, all of the menu items have pretty intriguing names, though you probably won’t know what you’re ordering unless you read the menu as the names don’t always give an indication as to what you will be getting.
Anyway, Mark’s dish was a baked breaded chicken breast stuffed with ham and brie cheese, topped with pesto cream sauce.
With the chicken came a side of pasta and veggies. Mark also ordered a side ceasar salad which tasted really good but as it turns out, was quite unnecessary as he ended up too full to finish his entree.
Thankfully, as a result of some “smart pacing” on my part (getting half of my entrees to go), I was able to save enough room for dessert.
And, lucky me, they had one of my favourites on the menu, “Chocolate Cake” ($6.50)!
Now on the menu it said this chocolate cake was “better than your mothers”, but I’m afraid to say it wasn’t quite there.
Don’t get me wrong, the cake was really good. I absolutely loved the icing, it was a really big piece, and I would even consider coming back to this restaurant just for dessert next time.
It’s just hard to beat good ol’ mom’s chocolate cake so no offense Pagliacci’s, your cake will have to rank behind hers.
Overall Mark and I thought the food at Pagliacci’s was pretty good.
I think people rave mostly about the bread that they serve here, and about the pasta dishes being of good value, which they are.
They are all under $20, with half portions being close to $10. and all of them come in good size portions.
The things were weren’t too crazy about were the wait time and the service. I already talked about the long line we experienced prior to eating, but I didn’t mention the service.
I’m not saying the service was bad per se, just not great.
At first we felt rushed, like our server was just trying to turn over our table (I guess this makes sense being that they have long wait times), but even after she slowed her pace down, we just felt the level of professional was a little lacking.
Then again, I guess this isn’t a first class restaurant, so maybe I’m being a bit too critical.
I encourage you to check out Pagliacci’s for yourself, but don’t forget to bring your patience for the potential wait ahead of time, and an empty stomach for the huge portions!