When you get there, have a drink. You’ll need it. The bar is well stocked with reasonably priced, high-quality liquor. Or get a bottle of wine. The wine list ranges from $20 to $100 and offers a few good values. I appreciated the manager’s assistance with wine selection. The wine list is as extensive as the bar stock. All in all, the alcohol was the highlight of both of our visits.
After your libations and complimentary slice of bruschetta, climb aboard one of the appetizers for a heart-pounding ride. The Beef Carpaccio ($9) is tough and bland. The Calamari ($8), though deceptively plump and attractive, rockets you toward utter confusion when you dab on the “rémoulade” sauce and pop it in your mouth. It’s a roller coaster of chewy and sour stimulation. The special Goat Cheese Terrine appetizer ($7) was as subtle as a Quarter Pounder. A large block of cheese, wrapped in something green was put on a plate. Then we got to eat it!
Don’t stop there though. You’ve got to experience the thrill of an entrée. Maybe you should begin with one of the seemingly harmless pastas ($14 to $18). I sampled three. I was impressed and astounded when all three tasted almost exactly the same. I plummeted toward the bottom of the nearly empty bowl that held the Ravioli Porcini. Five small ravioli with a trace of muskiness were drizzled with a garlic sauce. Whoooosh, they’re gone, along with my $18. Nothing can compare, however, with the sheer shock of the Red Snapper Livornese ($19). This beautiful piece of fish was seemingly dry-roasted until it was leathery and curled around the edges. Then, it was adorned with black olives, tomatoes and capers as if they could hide its tantalizing misfortune.
No disappointing meal would be complete without some dastardly dessert. I ventured onto the Fig Tart ($7) for the coup de grce. It was as dry as last Thanksgiving’s oyster dressing and about as sweet.
Do you love bland, overpriced food? Do you crave the anticipation of a hefty check at the end of a dissatisfying dinner? If so, do it all in the kitschy confines of a room full of faux marble and photos of Italian actors. Run, don’t walk, to 1421. S
Randall Stamper worked in restaurants in Boston, New Orleans and Indiana for seven years and has filled every job from dish washer to general manager. All his visits are anonymous and paid for by Style.
1421 Ristorante ($$$)
1421 E. Cary St.
Lunch and dinner: Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.
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