Dorato’s – October 2010 (dt)
6.00 – 7, 7, 6.5, 6, 5.75, 5.5, 5.5, 4.75

..... The menu clearly is Italian-themed. Choices for the evening included: Chicken Parmagiana, with a large piece of meat, with a toasty cheese topping that brings comfort (Chay & Kriss, both deemed it very good); the Veal Parmagiana (Ken, very good, similar to the c.p.); the Sliced Sirloin special, with Bordelais sauce, baked potato (Tim, very good to excellent, the sauce not used, b.p. seemed old); the Shrimp Mirabou, with artichokes, olives, pimento (Deb T & Judy: both thought mediocre with steamed shrimp that was bland, and toppings could not rescue; risotto felt more like ordinary rice); lighter fare of Tuscan panini – turkey (Deb K, good and plentiful, with onion rings, not hungry); and the New Yorker panini – slice roast beef (Don, blah, more bread that substance, with fries – not asked about an alternative).
            The accompanying side vegetable was zucchini, liked by some but almost despised by others.
             The salad course, which is ala carte, drew six participants. Eight inch molded-glass plates were filled with a bed of greens, topped with a stray cucumber, shreds of carrot, an onion slice, and a tomato. Caesar salads went to Kriss and Deb K (shared with Chay); garden salads to Deb T, Judy, and Ken. All were deemed reasonably good.
             Don had the black bean & beef soup (good beef texture & flavor, very salty bean broth but overall quite satisfactory)
             Desserts were sought by only one person (only a few choices). Don had the chocolate indulgence cake – a layer of cake with a layer of near fudge, with a topping of ganache-ish icing, a good chocolate dessert.
             Ken’s coffee cup (well, actually, a tall glass mug that tapered at the bottom) was filled regularly, and considered worthy. (Ken likes good solid coffee taste, forget the fancy flavored stuff!).
             Two baskets of Italian-bread style rolls, with accompanying metal bowls of individually foil-wrapped butter pats, arrived almost immediately upon sitting. Drink orders came seconds after that, and we needed a few more minutes to consider.
             Service was good. Our server, Patty, was efficient and friendly, moved confidently, was attentive to all our needs and seemed like a long-time and reliable part of the restaurant, and did all the bussing herself. Thanks, Patty, for a competent job.
             Ambience felt comforting, yet still about twenty years old, a comfortable couple decades old. Two large rooms – one the rectangular bar, the other the dining area – quickly open as you get past the door and small, large-white-tile floor lobby-ish room. Large front windows allow for a peek inside. TVs in the dining area, with an almost direct view into the bar makes it feel like a sports bar / pub / restaurant combo that disjoints once in a while. One understands why Dorato’s could be your neighborhood place to go.
              The 20’x30’ dining area is softly lit, with the maroon-and-wood furnishing seeming a little darker. Soundproof ceiling tiles, in their usual white, brighten the room, with a center raised cutout making the room feel larger. The walls are a mix of brick and light wainscoting, with half of the one wall being the open space that enters into the bar. The opposite long wall sports an upper half of white background above the wainscoting. A non-descript worn carpet is adequate while recessed lighting and frosted sconces provide the soft glow of lighting. The larger wood-veneer tables, the type we sat at, mix with the smaller, patterned, square tables, about a dozen tables in all. Chairs had a sturdy, wide top ring, a couple of mid-back rings, with a padded, dark-reddish seat.
              Eight chairs at our table, headed by Chay and Ken, felt a bit cramped so elbow management was useful, although we would rather have that than too large a table. A green paper sheet served as a placemat, weighted by a banded napkin holding a fork and knife.
              The drink order may have mirrored the tiredness of a few of us. One bottle of Straccali 2008 Chianti took care of four of us, with one more glass of red ordered later. A glass of pinot grigio, two sodas and a water filled the bill.
              Pacing was quick. Salads came within 25 minutes, entrées came within 50 minutes, and we could have been done in an hour-thirty-five if Don had not ordered the sole dessert. In the end, even though we leisurely lingered the last several moments, we walked out ten minutes shy of two hours, still a quick pace.
              The bill was a light one this evening, $71 per couple, and it came with a 17% gratuity already figured in, an idea that many restaurants claim to do but very few actually make happen. (In this case, the wait staff gets less than we usually give unless we kick in the extra dollars.) Still, despite the low tab, a restaurant-goer here might spend $25-$30 for an entrée and salad, not an inexpensive amount for the casual perception.

The evening had started at 5 pm at the Karneses, site of a day-old driveway resurfacing. Deb had prepared a four compartment vegetable tray; a bowl of homemade salsa (a nice tang), with a side bowl of taco chips; and a just-out-of-the-oven bowl of seafood dip. Thanks, Deb.
             Chay talked three of us into sharing a growler of Crossroad (Athens) Avenger Pale Ale – a quite aromatic, and fruit driven, quaff. A pinot noir, a pinot grigio, a white zin, soda, and water filled the order.
              And, we had a lot to talk about. The golden afterglow of Jen’s wedding filled much of the pre-session. Other topics, before and after and in-car, included more wedding tidbits, the Teator-Adams trip to Asheville – Gatlinburg – Antietam, Kryppie, house repairs at the Adams, a quick update on kids and grandkids, photos of wedding, Columbus Day weekend stuff, Kriss’ trip with Trudy, Deb K’s trip west, some school stuff, dinner date #95 (tonight), the 10-10-10 date today, and more. Oh, yeah, Ken was the only one who had to work on Columbus Day! (We have to make Kriss work harder keeping control of us!)