On the corner of Third Street Promenade and Santa Monica Boulevard stands a large imposing edifice housing an Italian restaurant named Trastevere Ristorante Italiano. The place is decorated in a fashion befitting a good old, authentic Italian restaurant. It has the plaster walls complete with cracks to give it that “Old World” feel. Included in the restaurant is an al fresco dining area and large front windows that fold open like old fire station doors that open the place up to make for a great dining experience.
The food is prepared as one might expect. I had a standby: pepperoni pizza, but let me tell you something about that pizza. It is cooked in an area separate from the main kitchen – I could see it from my table. The pizza kitchen contains an old-style fire furnace for baking the pizzas on a flat iron surface inside. The dough is kneaded by hand and is made as thin as it can be and not fall apart. In fact, this stuff is so thin, it makes New York style pizza look like Chicago deep dish! I could read the menu through this pizza. Being the pizza connoisseur that I am, if the pizza isn’t good, I don’t hold out much hope for the rest of the menu. But this was good pizza. I ate the whole thing and I wasn’t miserable like I am when I eat a whole medium pizza from that goofy, red-roofed pizza conglomerate that has no restaurants in California anymore. It was almost just right. Perhaps a bit more cheese would have closed the deal but then I’m the kind of person who can’t get enough cheese on a pizza. Is there such thing as too much mozzarella? So I have to deduct a quarter star there.
The service was just above okay. It certainly wasn’t worth the “18% suggested gratuity” conspicuously printed on my final check. I don’t recall our waiter coming back to the table to ever ask if everything was okay – at least not until my family and I were finished with our meal and she was trying to upsell dessert. When we declined, she left the check folio on the table so I could pay and get out. The placement of the gratuity suggestion and the reminder that a gratuity should even be left costs another quarter star. If you have to remind the customer that they should tip the waiter and go so far as to spell out exactly how much to leave, then apparently the management either a) has no confidence that the wait staff is competent or b) does the old “pay tipped employees half their entitled wages as a draw then expect them to make up the difference at the tables” – all perfectly legal under the IRS regulations concerning tipped employees. A third possibility is that management believes that because their prices are so high that if you can afford to eat there, then you can afford a big tip. For the record, I did tip the waiter, but at the minimum 15% because she at least showed up promptly after we were seated and did write down our order correctly.
Which brings me to why Trastevere loses a whole star.
Printed right on the menu in black and white is the following: “Soda $2.00 (No Refills)”. And yes, "no refills" is italicized!
Okay, now look. I can appreciate $15.99 for a 14” pepperoni pizza – or maybe 16” – especially when it’s good pizza. I can even sit still for a $2.00 Coca-Cola when it comes with linen napkins. But I draw the line at a restaurant that acts so pretentious that it thinks it doesn’t have to offer free refills on soda yet has no problem giving free refills on iced tea! Trastevere doesn’t pay any more for Coca-Cola syrup than does McDonald’s and the best McDonald’s can offer is a wax-covered paper cup!
So here’s my suggestion. Go have a nice Italian dinner at Trastevere when you’re trying to really impress a new girlfriend. Then you can walk Third Street Promenade with her and enjoy the street performers. Just make sure you smuggle in a couple of two-liter bottles of Coca-Cola or other favorite soft drink so you don’t have to drink the water!
Trastevere Ristorante Italiano
1360 3rd Street Promenade
Santa Monica, CA 90401