Elegant Mediocrity at Garibaldi’s in Savannah, GA

Recommended: Maybe for the experience, but not for the food.

I’d been to Garibaldi’s once before, but I didn’t really have much of a chance to try more than some soup and salad. This time, I had the opportunity to sit down, relax and enjoy the full menu. I think I preferred the soup and salad.

The location of Garibaldi’s is one to be envied: on Congress Street in the heart of downtown Savannah. Making great use of the space, Garibaldi’s has one of the most intimate and sophisticated atmospheres of any restaurant in Savannah. Downstairs, the dim lighting and elegant furnishings set a romantic mood for guests. Upstairs, sophistication rules. High ceilings and a flooding of natural light from the great big windows makes diners feel as they are in a very important place.

Service is equally exceptional. Our waiter was attentive and knowledgeable about the menu, as well as helpful in making decisions about what to order. The manager made rounds throughout the restaurant making sure diners were satisfied. It’s unfortunate that the food doesn’t deserve similar compliments.

I started with a pear and goat cheese salad. The word salad, however, might be a bit of a stress. In reality, it’s a small sprinkling of mixed greens topped by an entire pickled pear sliced and laid on top. It’s not that it’s bad, but it’s overpowering. It would be delicious in a small portion, with a bit more of the other ingredients to balance the flavor. They might as well not even mention the goat cheese since the two fritters it comes with are about the size of a quarter.

And then came the mussels. I only tried one, but it was an overpoweringly fishy flavor basted in a (very) lightly flavored broth that was incapable of masking the fishy flavor. The texture was something between slimy and gummy. They would stick to the shell, but once in your mouth had a texture similar to raw oysters. In fact, when we notified the manager, he tried them and agreed: they were bad.

For my main course, I had been between the scallops and the red snapper special. I chose the scallops because I couldn’t resist the orzo. What a mistake. For $22 I got 3 tiny bay scallops atop a lump of average-tasting orzo. The scallops were chewy and overcooked, with very little seasoning. They were probably the most disappointing scallops I’ve ever had, and scallops are my favorite dish. I will say that I tried a bite of the fried shrimp and they were good. Not great, but the batter was light and a bit sweet. And there were more than 3 of them.

I wouldn’t really recommend this restaurant except for the atmosphere. A soup and salad lunch in that romantic atmosphere with a waiter who follows my every command? Yes, please. But I won’t trust them with much more than greens and dressing.

Overall Rating: 5/10

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