An in-depth analysis of new and existing restaurants in the Vail Valley.
Our first experience at the remodeled La Bottega.
We've watched this restaurant enlarge and mature over many years. In its original form we remember it as more or less a tiny takeout operation in the corner of a building kitty corner across from the local bank in town.
It was charming back in those days offering very limited seating but a simple, fun menu, a few wines, and several styles of grappa. The tiramisu particularly comes to mind as a treat we enjoyed there.
As the restaurant prospered, it grew larger and more complex in a series of steps culminating this year in a major enlargement with an exposed cooking area in the middle of the main floor, some new seating in the old "Secret Garden" area and an upstairs private dining room.
The pre-existing wine tasting room seems unchanged.
Honestly the overall new design of the restaurant is quite appealing. When we showed up without reservations the matre'di seated us at a "tall" table by the windows. Our fear was freezing during dinner due to the near zero temperatures outdoors this night, but apparently the triple pane windows are very energy efficient.
Though it had been only a year or so since our last visit, it seemed the food and wine menus were both far more extensive than on our previous visit. For our dinner we tried a couple of glasses of wine with the nicely prepped appetizer pizza. Both wines were happily at good temperatures for our taste. Rather than stick with the half roasted chicken and salad which has been our staple at this place over the years, we went with new dishes - possibly a mistake on Sue's part and definitely one on mine.
Meal Highlights: As noted the wines by the glass were correct temperatures - warmer for the red and chilled for the white. The later bottle of white was also correct that way. The gorgonzola pizza was very nice. Sue's petrale sole was moist and tasty, but sitting on a mound of simple white mashed potatoes didn't make for much of a presentation. My dish was a disaster. I ordered the crabmeat linguine with mixed vegetables. The vegetables were fine - nothing else was even edible.
Lowlights: As noted above, my pasta was just plain awful. It's hard to understand how any restaurant, much less one specializing in Italian food can completely destroy linguine, but it happened here. The pasta was a gummy, gooey mess, and there was so little sign of crabmeat that the dish was even poorly named. The obligatory bread course was extremely pedestrian too.
While the overall appearance of the restaurant is new and nice, the acoustics are terrible. That may the latest "style", but when we can barely have a conversation without raising our voices, there's something wrong with the place.
Synopsis: We really want to like this restaurant as it's only a short walk from our condo, but given this negative experience, it may be some time before we bother trying it again. As for awarding it even one, much less two stars, fugetaboutit.
Reviewed by ORP on 02/01/2007
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