check, please!

In the Northwest side of Macon, at 1693 Bass Road, a charming Italian restaurant named Mirko’s Pasta serves up self-proclaimed authentic Italian dishes to those who wish to experience Italy through their taste buds.   I must profess, having visited Mirko’s previously gave me high hopes for my first review, but I remained skeptical to hopefully point out a few improvements that even Mirko may have missed.

Atmosphere:  Romantic and Inviting
Immediately upon entering Mirko’s, the smell from the open kitchen fuels the hunger of even a casual diner.  The low Italian serenading music coupled with dim lights gives the perception of romance and authenticity.  Mirko’s daringly allows their chefs, professionally dressed, to display their talents that only the most confident chef would allow.  This sets the customer up subconsciously to believe their food is real, genuine, and professional.  All of these things create a positive expectation which, in turn, could determine the difference between a good meal and a great one.

Food Quality:  Daring and Dynamic
All three dishes had visually stimulating appearance.  The salad was not emphasized by quantity but its attempt at quality.  One should be cautioned, however, as the chef overcompensated for the amount of lettuce with a massive amount of balsamic dressing.  If you can’t taste the crisp and crunchiness of lettuce, then the dish should not have the title “salad” but coleslaw.
The fried squid and zucchini with a spicy marina sauce redeemed the experience dramatically.  Aside from the slight overcooking of the calamari (you can tell calamari is overcooked when it tastes rubbery), the delightful spice of the marinara sauce on the golden flakes of batter took over the mounting saltiness of the salad.   Even the batter amazed my fingers, as I never feared separating the squid from the batter.  This afforded me time to focus more on my friends, and less on my insecurities of eating fried food.
The main entre told me all I needed to know about Mirko’s strongest suit:  pasta.  Choosing my least favorite Italian dish, lasagna verde, to measure the versatility of the chef, I left proud.  For the first time in America, I can congratulate a chef for securing a special place in my heart for setting the standard of what pasta should taste like.  The freshness of the pasta (probably made that morning) allowed for the rigorous cooking rituals that lasagna requires (boiling, baking, etc).  Take into account how much care beef needs, and the drama queen of food: cheese, this dish can easily turn into any chef’s nightmare. Despite the pasty taste the beef had, the pasta, variety of cheesiness, and overall mesh of the dish gave my mouth nostalgia the next day when I sat eating my own dinner.

Management:  Experts needed
Unfortunately, the aforementioned categories of Mirko’s have the strongest holds in this critique.   First, Mirko needs to decide whether or not the restaurant is fast food or a sit down because the jury appears to be out.  Don’t take the time to set up beautiful scenery of wheat and pasta displays, low light, great smells and authentic music only to have it clouded by a cheap fountain drink station in the front that cannot be missed.  I have a problem as well with forcing patrons to decide on what they want to eat before seating; it again sends mixed signals of identity.  This mentality spills over to the kitchen and waitressing.  I sit, having already ordered an appetizer, salad, entrée and dessert, and have both my salad and appetizer delivered simultaneously.  This does not make sense to a patron who has come to enjoy a long, traditional Italian meal (which Mirko promises).
My final quam with Mirko is that as an Italian food addict, I know that every meal should be accompanied by a suggestion for a glass of wine.  The simple truth at Mirko’s is that the staff does not.  Do not ask someone if they prefer a glass of wine knowing nothing of wine.  When an owner requires its patrons to have extensive knowledge of what they should order, the owner should expect first-time visitors to not return often.   Luckily, this little mistake can have huge turnaround after one or two training sessions with the small, friendly staff.

Overall:  A Must Visit
Instinctively, I understand that I am always harder on Italian restaurants than others because of my passion for the food.  Likewise, that maintains my reasoning for the stiff criticism of Mirko’s management:  because it has the essentials of a great restaurant.  For too long dining out has taken the role of the warm-up to other events.  Dining out should be the main event, not the appetizer.  Italians are famous for their long dinners and their wholesome dining-out experiences filled with wine, multiple meals, and storytelling.  If these are things you are looking for, then join me the next time I head to Mirko’s, as I will be returning many times in the future.