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August 26, 2010

Shameless Review: Bravo's in West Little Rock - I Think Bravo is Overstating It

Bravo's Cucina Italiana - Inconsistent



Inconsistently good food is probably worse than consistently bad food.  When the food is inconsistent it is truly disappointing because it means that they have the ability to produce better food, but choose not to do so.  At least if the food is consistently bad, I might be able to write it off to a difference of taste or just not being my kind of food...though that is hard to imagine.

Bravo's is relatively new to West Little Rock.  While it is a chain, Bravo's in general is probably one of the better Italian chains I have eaten at before.  Which is probably why I was disappointed in my visit to this new Bravo's location.  It certainly has potential with nice decor and a pleasant wait staff.  Maybe it was a bad day or maybe they are just working out the kinks, but they don't have it nailed yet.


FOOD:
A friend and I visited Bravo's recently.  She told me that she had eaten there recently and that it was really good.  I generally agree with her assessments on restaurants so we made plans to check it out.  I had the Spaghetti Carbonara, which was pretty good...but certainly not exceptional.  I will admit that when it comes to pasta I can be a bit picky.  In my opinion, if you are running an Italian establishment, there is really no reason you should be serving pasta that isn't fresh and made in house.  I know...I know, it is a chain, but come on, boxed pasta?!?!  Not only is the pasta boxed, but they actually list it on the menu as Barilla pasta as if that is a good thing.  I guess I should give the points for being upfront about it.

Okay, getting past that for a moment, the pasta was well cooked.  Correctly al dente.  The carbonara included asparagus, pancetta, egg, and black pepper.  Thankfully, the asparagus wasn't over cooked, but the pasta sauce was a bit congealed.  This can easily happen in a carbonara if you don't use enough of the pasta cooking liquid.  While the overall dish was flavorful, it fell short of being completely successful.

I might have been able to overlook the carbonara because it can be difficult to execute correctly and it was pretty good, but then it got worse.  My dining companion chose the Cheese Ravioli al Forno and insisted that i try it.  The dish is cheese ravioli in an alfredo sauce topped with stripes of pesto and tomato sauces.  These sauces were bright and flavorful and would have made a nice contrast to the alfredo sauce had it not been bland to the point of tasteless.  Worse still probably was the filling in the ravioli.  It was supposed to be ricotta and parmigiana cheeses...but maybe they ran out of parmigiana when they made that batch.  It was texturally okay, but even less flavorful than the alfredo sauce, which must have been challenging to accomplish.

As I mentioned, inconsistency is a very bad trait in a restaurant.  The food on this day definitely did not make us want to cheer "Bravo".

ATMOSPHERE: This is one of the higher points of the establishment.  It is nicely decorated with a slightly modern Tuscan feel.  Thankfully, this strikes a good balance between the two.  Few things I find more off putting than over done Tuscan vibes with grapes hanging all over everything.  The restaurant was very clean, though have only opened recently it likely hadn't had time to get dirty.  In the right lighting, it might even come across as somewhat romantic.

SERVICE:
Pleasant enough, but they could have been done a better job of keeping our drinks filled and the bread basket stocked.

VALUE:
Bravo Cucina Italiana on UrbanspoonAverage prices range from $9 - $18 dollars for lunch and up to $29 for dinner, so not bad for a restaurant aiming for a slightly higher end feel.  If they can ever get the food right, it would probably be a very good deal..

Bravo's Cucina Italiana is located in the Promenade at Chenal
17815 Chenal Parkway
Little Rock, AR 72223

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