The Godfather7878 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.Kearny Mesa858-560-1747
I know that the vast majority of Italian-Americans are honest, hardworking and only occasionally morally ambiguous people who may or may not know someone who knows someone who could, if necessary, break the kneecaps off some obnoxious, nickel-and-dime restaurant reviewer. So on a recommendation, my date and I fearlessly headed to The Godfather restaurant in Kearny Mesa for an early dinner. At the hostess stand, a stooped teenager with a shock of curly black hair peered through owl glasses at a reservation book.
"Hello," I said. "My name is Dominic Mancini."
A pianist in a bowtie played lounge arrangements of Billy Joel's Greatest Hits for a capacity dining room. And what a dining room. Trellises of plastic grapes and wicker wine jugs separated deep red, plush booths. The drop ceiling was painted a matching blood red, and the walls shone with a glassy plastic faux wood paneling.
We were seated at the Michael Corleone table, under a portrait of Al Pacino adorned with two faux bullet holes. Abstract profiles of Don Corleone hung in the lobby and the bathrooms. Yes, if the name didn't already give it away, The Godfather is a theme restaurant, a sort of precursor to Planet Hollywood et al. And maybe only the pants-less god of ad-libbing himself knows how the joke has managed to last this long. I decided that something truly unbelievable must have been happening in the kitchen, and in an unfortunate sense, I was right.
Our host-who also turned out to be our waiter, our busboy, and everything else-ran down the specials and left us with a pleasant plate of salty fried zucchini slices to nibble while we browsed the lengthy and repetitive menu. He was a service industry wunderkind in an ill-fitting tuxedo: he waited tables, cleared dishes, orchestrated the other waitstaff, filled glasses, delivered meals and seemingly ran the entire floor single-handedly, all with unerring manners and a patient smile.
We started with an antipasto platter, featuring a dramatic centerpiece of prosciutto slices draped over a wine glass, the fatty meat sticking to and smearing the crystal. (Perhaps Brando thought it would be appetizing.) The large dish presented a myriad of other small failures-bitter peppers, slimy mushrooms, mushy bruschetta-none entirely incriminating, but overall, less than impressive.
"Taste this," my date offered, handing me a large chunk of veal stuffed with prosciutto and cheese.
I made a quiet gurgling sound, not unlike a man being garroted, as I tried to tame the leathery forkful of meat. She broke into a wide grin behind her librarian glasses.
"You're going to be chewing for a while," she whispered, smugly.
Meanwhile, my sea bass and scampi in an orange-flavored cream sauce was so simultaneously salty and sweet that the effect was not unlike chewing on aluminum foil. My side of four-cheese penne pasta tasted like store-bought noodles boiled to mush in a milky cream sauce. Four cheeses? I couldn't find one. But even the veal was not the most horrendous part of our meal. That honor belonged to her enormous side dish of cold, overcooked spinach hiding under a viscous white cream sauce. I am compelled, as I write this, not to recreate the taste, as the memory is still too fresh.
Her tiramisu almost induced a couple gag reflexes, too, via a thick dusting of dry cocoa powder on top of the far too prevalent cream. What cake there was lacked the boozy wetness of good tiramisu. I have yet to find good cannoli on the West Coast, but there is no longer any competition for worst: the Godfather version was akin to a fortune cookie stuffed with canned icing.
My date gulped her coffee and grabbed her coat. "Let's get out of here."
We wove through the lobby and out into the parking lot. As we climbed into our car, a shout went up behind us.
"Start the car!" she shouted. "Hurry!"
Footsteps pounded on pavement. In the darkness, I fumbled for the light switch, and put the car into reverse. There was a tap on the glass. My date cracked the window, and a stack of Styrofoam boxes emerged from the darkness, followed by our waiter's unremitting smile.
"You forgot your leftovers!" he said, waving. "Goodnight!"Make me an offer at cityeat@SDcity beat.com.