Wednesday evening my friends needed my SUV's assistance. They bought a new table and chairs so off we went to San Jose to pick it up. Once loaded down we wondered, where to eat? We were close to downtown so we wandered that direction. We came up to the Sainte Claire Hotel and Elena thought that Il Fornaio would be a good choice. We handed the car off to valet and in we went.
We were immediately seated at a table by the window. It was a good spot for people watching. I am just going to throw out there that there are some strange people who walk along those sidewalks. Could it be the path to the train? Interesting to say the least. The waiter came up to our table and asked if we would like any cocktails or wine. We politely answered, "No, thank you." His attitude then took a 180. He seemed a little angry that we did not want any alcohol. Has anyone ever had this experience? Strike one. The waiter came back with our unleaded drinks and took our order by grunting, "You ready?" The waiter never came back until our food was ready, however - I did see him in the corner, hiding behind a pillar eating pieces of bread staring at everyone. That was way weird. Strike two.
Our food finally came after tables who arrived after us got their food. Strike three? Onward... Amanda ordered the Pizza Fradiavola - Mozzerella, tomato sauce, Italian sausage, mushrooms, bell peppers, red onions, and spicy pepperoncio oil. She really liked it! Elena had a slice, and agreed it was really good. Elena's order was the Lasagna Ferrarese - Pasta sheets layered with meat ragu, porcini mushrooms, parmesan and bechamnel, then baked. When asked if she liked what she ordered she responded, "It could have been Stouffer's and I would have had no idea." Enough said. My order was the Polenta Con Goulash. Off the menu it read: "Braised beef with onions, herbs and spices served over soft polenta." What it should have actually said: "Alpo from the can, with no onions, herbs or spices served over bland polenta." Yes, I know that sounds quite harsh but I thought no effort went into the dish. In fact it was kind of insulting, put some pizazz in the dishes you send out!
All in all, the Il Fornaio San Jose is a beautiful restaurant. The restaurant features an exhibition cooking line, two private dining rooms for small groups, 220 seats in the Main Dining room and an outdoor courtyard for cocktails and appetizers. The Hotel Sainte Claire is a National Landmark and I feel the restaurant is not doing them justice. On this evening the food was not THAT bad. I mean I have had worse, but the reason I am so upset about this experience is because of the service. A restaurant can salvage their reputation if the food was not great, by having just really outstanding service. One thumb up for the good company and amazing dining area.