Benedetti's scores high on staples of supper clubs
When we walked into Benedetti's Supper Club's darkly paneled bar on a recent Saturday night, it didn't look too promising. We didn't have reservations. The place was packed, and a group of 20 had just been seated, the hostess told us.
Still, they found us a table for four. As we entered the dining room, all became clear: It was prom night.
The boys looked even younger than their tender years in suits with brightly colored vests. The girls in their carefully coiffed hair, long sequined gowns and heavy-handed make-up looked to be at least a decade older than their dates. The girls sat together at one end of the table, comparing outfits and texting their friends. The boys sat at the other end, joking nervously with each other.
Our waitress was a pro. She swooped down on us to take our drink and food orders so they would get in before the big prom order. That was smart and deeply appreciated.
So we sat at the table, drinking our Old Fashioneds (which Benedetti's makes very well) and watching the kids. There's something endearing about watching young people in formal attire eating spaghetti and hamburgers. Some things never change.
I wasn't too hopeful about the food or the service given the brisk pace of the night and our previous experience.
We had stopped by on a Wednesday night about a week earlier and had a very poor experience: inexperienced waitress, a large and loud private group in the next dining room, an extremely long wait for food, and fish served so cold that I sent it back. Richard's Chicken Oscar ($16.95) was dry, light on sauce and a generally unattractive plate. My two-piece cod fish fry ($10.95) was good once I got a hot piece of fish. I liked the light breading and the flaky cod. Unfortunately, I was so frustrated that I just wanted to get out of there.
As we left that Wednesday, we ran into one of the owners, Sandy Benedetti. She told us that the restaurant was founded about 70 years ago by her husband's grandparents. They are the third generation of Benedettis to keep up the family tradition. She was warm and charming. Richard and I felt even worse about our experience. It had to be a fluke.
But prom night? It didn't feel like a fair night to give Benedetti's a second chance. Fortunately, it was an entirely different experience.
Our son ordered the meat lasagna ($14.95), which was a huge slab of meat, cheese, pasta and sauce. The marinara was a tad sweet for my taste but perfect for a teen. There was a postage-stamp sized bit he couldn't finish, if that helps to give you a sense of portion size.
My dad ordered the 16-ounce broiled ribeye steak ($21.95) with the au gratin potatoes. His steak was cooked to the medium doneness he ordered, but I noticed he was salting it. When I got my 8-ounce petite filet ($22.65), I understood why: It lacked seasoning.
That seems to be a supper club standard around here. However, a little salt and pepper rubbed in before cooking a steak would be deeply appreciated. Achieving a sear on the steak would be a good idea, too.
But I quibble-my steak was nice and pink in the center, medium rare and tender. Besides the lack of salt, I also question the "fresh sautéed mushrooms" that had the look and texture of canned mushrooms. Maybe they were just sautéed for a long time. Regardless, they tasted fine. The standout was the cheesy au gratin potatoes. They came in a separate small metal dish and were rich, silky and addictive.
We finished our meal with dessert. Richard ordered the Bailey's crème brulee ($6), which had a lovely caramelized sugar shell over a cool custard infused with the sweetness of Bailey's Irish Cream. Really delicious.
My dad ordered a Grasshopper ($8). I ordered a Brandy Alexander until the waitress looked at me and asked, "Have you ever seen one of our Grasshoppers?" When I said I hadn't, she suggested that I split one with my dad. Good advice. Benedetti's Grasshopper is like the Mount Everest of ice cream drinks. The soft, green concoction towers over the glass by about six inches. It's best ascended by scooping along the sides while rotating so it doesn't topple into your lap. It's a feat of drink engineering.
Three of us worked on it-and we couldn't finish it.
Benedetti's gets the supper club staples such as fish fries, potato sides, Old Fashioneds and ice cream drinks just right. I bet they make a mean prime rib, too. If you're looking for Sconnie comfort food served in darkly paneled dining rooms, Benedetti's fits the bill.
Joan Neeno is a freelance writer who reviews regional restaurants for The Gazette.