|
HesperiaStar.com
  • HAPPY HOUR

    Carinos' happy hour a confused collaboration of good, not great

    • email print
  • Daily Press Online Coordinator Bryan Kawasaki and I ventured over to Restaurant Row in Victorville last week for the next stop on the Happy Hour tour: Johnny’s Italian American Bar, located within Johnny Carino’s restaurant.
    Admittedly, Carino’s isn’t my favorite place to dine or drink in the Victor Valley. The last few visits I made there, the service was slow and nearly non-existent, the food was very salty and otherwise bland and the promoted beer selection was a bit of a fallacy as nearly every beer that wasn’t Bud Light or Shock Top that I requested was out of stock.
    Going into the eatery last week for my Happy Hour review, I tried to keep my mind open but figured it’d be another poor experience.
    We sat down at a high-top booth/table in the bar area just after 4 p.m. The bartender came out from behind the bar to greet us and ask if we’d like to order a drink. We hadn’t had a chance yet to look at the menu, so before ordering, I inquired what the happy hour specials were. The bartender (I foolishly forgot to write down his name) explained the deals, which were numerous and some of which varied from day to day. On the day we went last week, Thursday, you could order one of their specialty pizzas (about 10 inches in diameter) for $7 or a classic pizza for $9.50 (about half off in both cases); Italian chicken wings for 35 cents each; and a myriad of beer, wine and cocktail selections.
    After he gave us the simple explanation of the offerings, Bryan asked the bartender for a second menu since there was only one on our table when we sat down. At first, the bartender was hesitant to give us another menu, explaining that he’d have to take one from another table which would leave that table without a menu at all. A few seconds later, he looked around the bar and realized there were only two other tables occupied, so he acquiesced and provided us with the second menu.
    That was kind of strange and Bryan agreed with me after the bartender walked away.
    He returned a few minutes later to take our drinks order. Bryan ordered a Midnight Martini with vodka and blackberry syrup, which was $6, a seemingly decent price for a kind of higher-class adult beverage. I opted for a 12-ounce bottle of the Sam Adams Octoberfest, my favorite beer this time of year. That bottle was only $2.95, whereas at other places you might pay anywhere from $6 to $8.50 for a bigger size ounce-wise on draught. Depending on your preference of bottle versus draught beer, this isn’t much of a good deal.
    Once the drinks came, we also ordered a Nacho pizza off of the specialty pizzas menu. This pizza was a bed of pizza dough topped with wonton chips, Italian sausage, alfredo sauce, black olives, jalapenos, pepperoncinis, Roma tomatoes and mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
    The pizza, just like the drinks, all came rather quickly. The pizza looked pretty hefty. It took Bryan and I a little bit of thinking and investigation to find where the cuts in the dough were and how to eat these monstrous slices.
    We eventually dug it and just gave it a shot. It was a little tough to get all the ingredients in each bite, especially with the heavy wonton chips and light-weight pizza dough impeding the ability to keep everything together for a single bite.
    The flavors certainly were there, with the jalapenos giving a nice little kick, the alfredo sauce offering a nice balance of sweet and salty and the Italian sausage being the right meat for an Italian-based pizza.
    On the other hand, the toppings were so heavy and in abundance that eventually they all gravitated to the center of the pizza as we pulled each slice off, one by one. After a few minutes, we were just tearing off the empty parts of the pizza dough and eating only the parts with toppings, and then just using the wonton chips to consume the ingredients, skipping the dough all together.
    About half way through eating the pizza, Bryan had finished his martini and wanted to try one of the rarer beers on the beer menu, a bottle of Green Flash beer. It wouldn’t happen as quickly as he wanted though — it was about 25 minutes from the time he finished the martini to the time the bartender returned to our table since serving us to ask how we were and if we wanted anything else.
    Granted, there were a few more tables occupied at this time, but at one point as we were waiting for the bartender’s visit, Bryan and I counted at least five servers who didn’t appear to be doing much at all other than conversing with one another.
    Once we were all done, we patiently waited for our check, which finally came a little more than an hour after we’d initially arrived and about 15 minutes after the last time the bartender had checked on us. At this point, we observed only four tables that had patrons sitting at them.
    A few days after our visit, Bryan and I chatted about the whole experience ahead of me sitting down to write this week’s column. We agreed that there wasn’t anything largely bad or poor about the visit, while at the same time there wasn’t anything really remarkable about it. Based on the fluctuation in service speed and quality, eating food that tasted OK but was difficult to eat and prices that were for some items decent but for other items run-of-the-mill, this columnist gives happy hour at Johnny Carino’s a two out of five stars.
    It was certainly better than my previous visits, but not an experience that would exactly convince me or want me to convince anyone else to return.
    Martial Haprov writes Happy Hour, a weekly column focusing on food and drinks offered at discounted prices at Victor Valley eateries, in the Food & Drink section of the Daily Press. Have a suggestion for the column? Drop him a line at MHaprov@VVDailyPress.com.
    " data-width="650" data-numposts="20" data-colorscheme="light">