By Warren Bobrow
Is Settebello the worst meal I’ve had in Morristown? Unfortunately, yes.
But before you jump down my throat over the great meals you’ve had at Settebello, let’s examine the horror show that my wife, her mom and I attempted to choke down.
We had hoped for a lovely night out. Maybe it was the chef’s night off? I intend to dine here again at lunch next time. Of course I won’t be announcing my visit to the house.
Upon walking up to the restaurant, we encountered a brusque man who whisked us out to the patio. Certainly we requested outside seating, but we were astonished at the cool attitude shown when we asked to move from the initial table. The reason? Ants. Dozens of them swarmed over the table when we sat down – not encouraging from a cleanliness perspective. Seeing insects all over the table was not appetizing.
We moved tables and were offered the menus, which were rife with spelling errors. Some spelling errors on a menu can be ignored, but these were unforgettable.
Water was poured into tall glasses with a tiny bit of ice. Bread was set down in a wire basket. The restaurant has olive oil on the table, but we wanted butter. It came in foil-wrapped packages. Not encouraging. The bread was warm on the outside, yet refrigerator-cold on the inside. It was not how we wanted the meal to begin.
The outdoor patio is just charming on a warm night and we hoped for a delicious meal under the waning summer sun.
We ordered from the menu after being read a list of specials. My mom-in-law ordered the special tricolore salad and the special salmon dish, very well done. She ordered a side of vegetables, no potatoes. My wife ordered a Caesar salad and the special veal chop, plain with a side of vegetables and some steamed spinach.
I asked for the garden fresh Caprese salad, which read better than it tasted. I also ordered a dish named Veal Napolitano that was a train wreck of flavors, or lack thereof.
My wife’s Caesar salad was served as a drenched mess of soaked salad greens swimming in cheap pomace salad oil. The only discernable flavor was oil. There was no balance of tangy to salty (from anchovies whose flavor was strangely absent), nor was any salt or pepper in the salad dressing. It was a disappointment on all levels. There was just no zip to the dressing and no croutons, which in my opinion raises the bar of a Caesar salad and makes it fun to eat.
My mom-in-law had better luck with her tricolore salad, but the dressing was heavy with vinegar and light on oil, making the salad bitter and acidic. My Caprese salad had great color, but was devoid of flavor. The cheese was bland, yet a heavy hand of salt greeted my tongue and burned. It was an unfortunate mess on the plate – soaked in cheap, bitter olive oil. Note to the chef: If you are going to soak a plate in olive oil, please use a better-quality oil.
The flaccid tomatoes left a sour taste in my mouth, and the cheese was just forgettable. There were some threads of basil, yet they were strangely black on the edges. Slimy is a good word for the basil.
Dinner was not much better. My veal scaloppini was an exercise in futility. It came smothered in a pink sauce with chopped tomatoes and sliced grape tomatoes. The dish, unfortunately, lacked any balance of flavor or aroma. The veal was overcooked and the salt balance was more akin to shaking cheap table salt over the top of the dish in a meek attempt to raise the balance of flavor up to edible.
For $28, my wife’s special veal chop was not a proud moment for the kitchen. The chop was stringy, bland and didn’t have the crispy char that she expected from a special that was described as pan-seared.
My wife ordered a side of spinach, steamed plain. The waiter said there would be an extra charge but failed to tell us how much. Upon receiving the bill at the end of the meal, we discovered that the small tangle of steamed spinach cost $7. This is unacceptable for a small plate of unseasoned steamed spinach.
My mom-in-law’s salmon special came as ordered, yet her vegetables – like all the vegetables ordered – came swimming in cheap oil, sliced sloppily on a mandolin. Not our idea of well prepared. The potatoes were overcooked and lacked seasoning. They were skinned, but isn’t the skin what gives potatoes their snap?
Dessert specials were read, and the list boasted several tasty-looking combinations. The special dessert was a concoction of mango and citrus in a citrus shell. I asked if the dessert was made by BINDI: That is, a large manufacturer of frozen confections available in many restaurants that do not make their own desserts. Not a bad product, just not worth the money charged. Frozen desserts are not special.
We ordered a slice of black-and-white cheesecake that tasted strangely of the refrigerator. It was not an inspiring dessert.
Coffee was handled very poorly, with the first pour of milk curdled from being left in the heat too long. The second cup of coffee was brown, but that’s about it. The coffee was flavorless and sour. The restaurant must do better than this. Coffee is the last thing the diner tastes, and this coffee was no better than the food.
Dinner for three cost about $ 140 dollars before tip. They are a BYOB, so bring your own wine.
Warren Bobrow was born and raised on a farm in Morristown. He is a classically trained saucier/chef and a food/spirits journalist with more than 300 published articles internationally. A rum judge for both the Ministry of Rum and the Barbados Rum Festival, he is a good person to have a cocktail with. Warren writes about biodynamic wine for the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, Edition 2.