Pizzeria Romano, Koramangala

Pizzas... right?

What would you expect to find on the menu of a restaurant that names itself “Pizzeria Romano“? Duh. That’s what I thought too. However, I have asked several people – articulate, knowledgeable, well-traveled people – this question, and they have all, without exception, been wrong (this has less to do with them than with the restaurant in question).

At the outset, I want you to know that this post breaks several rules.

First, I am breaking a self-imposed rule that has applied to every restaurant review that has thus far appeared on the FTB Blog: I have only eaten at Pizzeria Romano once, instead of my usual minimum two visits. Why? Well either it’s very, very good, or it’s very, very bad. You’ll soon find out.

Let’s begin with that menu card. Yes, I found pizzas in there. I also found several pasta dishes. Okay, I can live with that – it is, after all, ostensibly an Italian restaurant. However, Pizzeria Romano also offers the following:

  • Hummus and pita
  • Thai red curry
  • Nachos
  • Moroccan kuskus

This causes me to break yet another rule, one that pertains to good writing: “never use more than one exclamation mark to denote surprise”. With apologies to all grammarians, the Pizzeria Romano menu merits a “!!!!“. Methinks the good folks at the pizzeria are in the midst of resolving an identity crisis.

Service With A Smile – And Little Else

At this point, I’d like to spend several hundred keystrokes on the service (yet another rule about to be broken – this time one that involves political correctness). Those of you who’d like to skip straight ahead to the food, feel free to scroll on down.

The primary job function of wait staff is to communicate with customers, answer their questions, and accurately convey their orders to the kitchen. Unfortunately, while the impeccably dressed and coiffed young men and women at Pizzeria Romano may think they are speaking English, they are sorely mistaken (there, I’ve said it – it’s out in the open now).

Parlez-vous Anglais?

I myself have been speaking English since I was two. Despite that, I could not understand much that the staff members were saying. It wasn’t just the hard-to-decipher accent (I have lived on three different continents and am used to that) – it was a complete and unmerciful  massacre of the language by all of the staff members with whom I interacted.

I am certainly not implying that the entire population of India be expected to speak the Queen’s English; I am saying that the staff who served me at Pizzeria Romano were unable to speak English in a recognizable form. I am further going to go out on a limb and point out that this seems to be a problem currently plaguing many establishments in Bangalore. And yes, I did try Hindi – hamaara raashtra bhaashaa – but was met with a vacuous stare. Did I try our vernacular, Kannada? Don’t make me laugh. Maybe I should have tried Italian. Sigh.

Service: friendly, but...

Then there was the surreality of it all. Perhaps because management recognizes that language is an issue, staff appears to be trained to work from a script of some sort. Without exaggeration, every time something was placed on our table, the waitress waited exactly 20 seconds (we timed it), walked over to our table, smiled, and – without regard to whether she was interrupting a conversation or not – pointed to the most-recently-delivered dish with upraised palm, and asked haltingly, “How. do. you. like. this. *insert name of dish/beverage as printed on menu*?” Worse, she wasn’t even listening to the answers – by the time dessert arrived, I was in the mood for mischief and  answered, “it looks strange.” She flashed the obligatory smile, said “Thank.you,” and walked smartly away.

I must stress that staff is not unfriendly – in fact they smile a lot, perhaps to cover their obvious discomfort. They are just a very, very inexperienced lot, ill-equipped to serve a largely English-Hindi-Kannada-Tamil speaking clientele.

Pizzas. Really?

Flipping right past Pizzeria Romano’s astounding culinary world tour, I homed in on the main draw – the pizzas. These come in three sizes – 7″, 10″ and 12″. While there seems to be a decent range of vegetarian options, the non-vegetarian range confines itself to chicken – “chicken ham”, “chicken sausage”, and various other travesties – with the lone exception of a tuna topping. No choices of cheese. “We use either Mozzarella or  processed cheese,” I was told. There was an audible “pop” as my quattro formaggi pizza-flavored bubble burst.

We opted for a 10″ Margherita pizza with the addition of mushrooms, and a 12″ Spicy Tuna pizza for good measure.

Spicy Tuna Pizza

Ordering a 12″ pizza gives you the further option of choosing between a “wood-fired” or “thin” crust. Now a wood-fired pizza tastes and looks distinctly different from one that’s baked in an electric oven. At the most basic level, it has a smoky aroma (the difference between kebabs cooked  in a coal tandoor and an electric oven) and the crust does not brown uniformly – it even chars in places – depending on where the flame emerges. Over and above that, depending on the wood that is used, the pizza could absorb some of the fragrance of the woodsmoke itself.

Although we ordered our larger pizza “wood fired”, and paid an extra Rs.45 for the privilege, I neither tasted nor saw any evidence that the base had been cooked in a wood fired oven. Sure, it was crisp and thin – but smoky? Not. Unevenly browned? Naah. In fact – browned at all? Take a look yourself, above, then look at this one from Herbs and Spice, which, by the way, isn’t wood fired, and doesn’t claim to be.

Canned mushrooms. Ugh.

Canned mushrooms. Ugh.

The Margherita might have scraped by as barely acceptable, were it not for the fact that the mushrooms used as a topping came straight out of a can. So did the tuna on the 12″. Shudder. Dear Pizzeria Romano owner, Even chain pizza outlets  like Domino’s and Pizza Corner use fresh mushrooms. Please be advised that it is uncool to use anything canned as a pizza topping – especially when your prices are on par with those of fine dining establishments. Also, please note that a Margherita, by definition, needs to feature fresh basil leaves so as to correctly represent the colors of the Italian flag (Mozzarella – white, sauce – red, basil leaves – green). As you can see from the picture above, your version, sadly, omits the basil. Tut, tut. Yours Truly, The Wicked Witch of The Feast, a.k.a. Me.

Chocolate mousse. Saving grace.

The dessert – a chocolate mousse – was excellent, the sole bright spot of the meal. Other confections include banana dessert pizza, Portuguese rice pudding, and tiramisu. I don’t know what these are like, and I probably never will – needless to say, I will not be returning.

I suppose my biggest grouse is that Pizzeria Romano charges Rs. 425 for a large, allegedly wood-fired pizza (Margherita with added mushrooms) and uses canned ingredients atop it. You also get socked with a service charge for the robotic “how do you like the _____” performance. For that price, I’d rather visit Via Milano or Herbs and Spice, where I can get a fabulous thin crust pizza of the same size with Parma ham or fresh mushrooms and seafood, a choice of some excellent cheeses, and superior service.

Sure, if you are used to chain pizzas, this is arguably one step up in terms of the base being fresh-baked. But if you’re looking for The Real Thing, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of biting into a hot, crisp crust brushed with olive oil, topped with a robust tomato sauce, a smattering  of quality ingredients and a sprinkling of natural cheese, run in the opposite direction just as fast as you possibly can.

Of course, you could always visit Pizzeria Romano to sample the Thai or the Lebanese or the Mexican or the Moroccan cuisines… maybe they are better than than the pizzas. Just a thought.

P.S.: A little birdie just told me that Pizzeria Romano is now hosting a “Eurasian buffet” at Rs. 259 plus tax, Monday to Friday, 12.30pm to 3.30pm. Since Eurasia is a supercontinent that comprises countries as diverse as Kyrgyzstan, China, Japan, and Yemen, I guess we’re in for quite a feast!

Pizzeria Romano

#55, 5th Cross,
6th Block,
60 Feet Road,
Phone: 40953751/2.

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30 thoughts on “Pizzeria Romano, Koramangala

    • Hi Arun: Thanks for dropping by! The Margherita was created in 1889 by chef Raffaele Esposito at his restaurant Pizzeria di Pietro in Naples in honor of Queen Margherita di Savoia, wife of the then King of Italy. Many think of this as the first time cheese was used on pizza.

  1. Thanks Suman- one trip saved. By the way, you’ve referred to Herbs and Spice ever so often. Just a tip – we’ve had THREE god-awful meals there and just today i spoke to someone whose sworn off Herbs and Spice forever. Their salads are good but the veg. lasagne and grilled fish were disasters. Bread is ALWAYS stale. So go back and check it out. Can’t comment on the pizza since i am not a fan of pizza except when i’m touring Italy !!
    HOpe to have you back soon – have changed the cafe menu and added many more to the Parsi one. We are also a wine tavern now.

    • Hmmm. Gotta say I have never had a bad meal at H&S. I love the grilled fish. What exactly went wrong with your meals? Specifics? I will admit that the complimentary bread basket is sometimes not as fresh as it should be. Will also say that I dislike imitation crab being described as “crab claw”, and that one or two wait staff are obtuse. Slipping standards, y’think? Will make a trip soon. Wine tavern? Nice.

  2. Suman, I think it is difficult to get western food right at these prices (though Romana doesnt even seem to make an effort), and all we can hope is that they are not pretentious (which again Romana seems to be). You either need to have a large immigrant population from that country running family restaurants (which is unlikely in India other than maybe Bangladeshi restaurants 😦 ) or expensive places with expat chefs and imported ingredients.

    I have had a Italian meals of varying quality all over Bangalore (including at H&S, slightly better a Via Milano, really bad at Littel Italy, good at iTalia). Even much richer Mumbai doesnt fare much better – most recently at much hyped Mangi Ferra where Risotto was limestone white (what stock can give that color?), and Neapolitan pizza had cheese of pale yellow colour (I am sure not Amul, but what?). So, maybe, just grin and bear!

  3. Siddhartha: Hey there! I agree about the price point – but only to a certain extent. Difficult, yes; impossible, no. I think that if less bucks were put into frills like wall decor and staff uniforms, and more into basics like ingredients and staff training, coupled with *intelligent* marketing, we as consumers would be better off.

  4. Amazing this, The name is very close to the Romano’s in the US which is rather good as chain ristorante’s go by. One can easily be misled perhaps?

    • Semaphore: Thanks for reading! We used to live in the DC area, and I have eaten at Romano’s Grill. Come to think of it, their (American size) Margheritas were about $10 (equivalent of the really bad canned tuna rubbish above, and miles better). Although I’d hardly classify this as a great restaurant, I agree with your assessment of Romano’s as one of the better restochains. Don’t recall the foccacia though.

  5. Just one more thing about the Romano’s in the Us, the house speciality is an excellent foccachia and the medit fav dipping of ist press virgin olive oil +seasalt+black pepper

  6. Have to concur with Zarine on H&S, though I’ve been a fan for ages. I’ve had to leave with a bad taste in my mouth on two separate occasions, once due to an extremely over-salted prawn starter (somewhat like a tempura), and once for ingesting a lamb goulash where the lamb tasted like a sheep in, well, lamb’s clothing. Nothing worse than a stinky goulash… The bread is also stale on occasion.

    Sorry, Manjeet, but as with most places that I love, standards do begin to slip as accolades start pouring in. There must be a mathematical equation for this, which all proprietors of restaurants would do well to study closely.

    Condolences on your poor meal — it must be quite a bummer to have to spew vitriol in a review — contrary to what most critics of critics like to think!

  7. Came across your blog by sheer accident while googling up on restaurant reviews to visit a new one in the block while on my winter break. Surprise,surprise and a pleasant one at that since I happen to have taken a basic communication class under you (don’t know if you even remember teaching those 🙂 ) and yes …because I could now map the places I wanted to hit in B’lore and not worry about having made a mistake. Sigh! the agonies of testing new waters is something the courageous alone can venture to do without the fear of an impending heartburn (a literal one at that sometimes !) .. Anyway read up some of your older blogs and your truffle one reminded me of anecdotes from books I just finished by Peter Mayle on Provence …Food and travel books of some of the nicest sort.
    PS:Sorry for taking up so much word space 🙂

    • Hey Meghana: So glad you found me (again!) I do indeed remember teaching those classes. Fun fun fun – at least for me. Haven’t read Peter Mayle, will look him up. Do drop by again – I know this is a Bangalore-centric blog, but there’s other food-related stuff here too – books, movies, art, ingredients. Enjoy!

  8. Dear Suman Bolar,
    We at Pizzeria Romano are disappointed to know , that your visit to our restaurant on 30/10/09 was not a memorable one. When you had visited us we were not completely operational as we had launched our Non-Vegetarian section only on the 22nd oct’09. We had some initial teething problems in the beginning, and it was unfortunate that you had visited us at that time. Please forgive us for that. I personally request you to give a second visit , as i am sure your next visit to our restaurant will definitely change your opinion about us.

    Sailesh Ram Nagarkar,

    • Hi Sailesh: Thanks for dropping by. While I sympathize with the fact that you had opened your non-veg section only a week prior to my visit, your teething problems in that area don’t account for the fact that a) my *vegetarian* Margherita was terrible, topped with canned mushrooms; b) staff members are unable to communicate effectively; and c) you have Lebanese, Thai, and Moroccan dishes on your pizzeria menu. However, since I believe that everybody deserves a second chance, and since I didn’t do my usual two visits, maybe I will be back 🙂

  9. Suman, this has got to be one of the most entertaining blog entries you’ve written! Saw this “pizzeria” the last time I was in that area and hubby and I got very excited – we had visions of thin crusted, wood fired quattro formaggi pizzas… I could almost smell the olive oil! Thanks for the warning – I would have been sorely disappointing walking into a place claiming to be a pizzeria and find khuskus and thain red curry on the menu.

  10. Hey guys, I don’t agree with you, i am a regular with Pizzeria Romano, they do serve some good Pizzas and their wood fire pizza is as authentic as it can be.
    Love the place, the music rocks at Pizzeria.

    • Hi Amrapali: Than you for reading the FTB Blog. I’m glad you like Pizzeria Romano – sure, the pizzas are tasty, but not worth the price, at least not to me. When you say the woodfire pizza is authentic – have you seen their woodfire oven in use? It isn’t visible to diners. Also – your last name is the same as that of the owner of the restaurant. Are you related? Just curious.

      • Um – just checked on FB… you do seem to be a friend of Monali Rakesh Ranka, one of the Pizzeria Romano owners. This kind of comment does NOT do wonders for the restaurant’s already shaky credibility…

  11. Love the banter and the badgering, Suman – very entertained by not just the post, since I was looking up Romano, but also all the action here… the bit with relatives of the restaurant was especially a mini riot.

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