A new place opened in the Village of East Davenport last summer that we've been somewhat intrigued with the name - Ubriaco's Trattoria. It had been some time past our "three month rule" that we have for new restaurants and decided to give the place a try on a cold Friday night.
The East Village is full of bars and pubs, but there really hasn't been a fine dining establishment in the village for, well, as long as I can remember. The building that houses Ubriaco's at the corner of Mound and 11th St. (see map) has been a number of things since I moved to the Quad Cities nearly 25 years ago. It was a notorious strip bar right before I moved to town, then it was owned by TC's Point After (click here to read about TC's Point After in DeWitt, IA). After that over the years it's been many things including The Village Idiot and most recently the Mound Street Landing. When they were working on the building last summer before it opened, one shop owner in the Village of East Davenport told me that any place that wasn't going to be a bar was going to be a good thing for the neighborhood.
However, I kind of got the idea that it was probably going to be a bar first when I looked up the meaning of Ubriaco - it means "drunk" in Italian. The men behind the place have both bar and fine dining backgrounds. Kyle Born was the general manager at The McClellan Stockade just up the street from Ubriaco's Trattoria for a number of years before opening The Smoking Dog Pub in the District of Rock Island.
His partner in Ubriaco's Trattoria - Jerry Bergheger - is a native of Rock Island who has extensive training and work in the fine dining culinary field. Bergheger first worked for Charles Moskowitz (Chef "CHAWLES" as I used to refer to him) at the former C'est Michelle, which was an utterly pretentious restaurant in Moline.
Bergheger got the bug from working at C'est Michelle to take a one year culinary course in Chicago. After working at various restaurants in Chicago he decided to get further training at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. After graduating from the C.I.A., Bergheger has worked with noted chefs in New York (Rocco di Spirito and Daniel Boulud), L.A. (Joachim Splichal) and Chicago (Paul Bartolotta), as well as spending time cooking in Italy where he found his calling with Italian food.
Bergheger ended up back in the Quad Cities to run the kitchen at the former Abbey Hotel in Bettendorf and then opened Atlante Trattoria in the District of Rock Island. In the spring of 2014, Bergheger sold his interest in Atlante to his two brothers, bought the former O'Melia's Supper Club in Rock Island and opened Jake O's Grille. Bergheger and Born opened Ubriaco's Trattoria in late July of last year.
It had been a while since I had been in the building that now houses Ubriaco's Trattoria. While some things have changed, other things have not. There's still a bar area along the north side, but it seems to have been spiffed up since the last time I was in. Actually, it was quite nice with an ornate lattice-style wine bottle holder and dark walnut accents for the shelves and trim.
Seating for dining have replaced a game room that I remember being in place years ago. Walls of bleached barn planks are on the wall in a room that has a number of booths for dining. There's still remnants of the building's past with a small stage set up along the south wall that's still used for live music or karaoke on some weekend nights. A soft earth-tone gold on the walls gave the dining area a rustic Italian feel.
Met by a hostess at a stand near the bar, we were shown to a seat in a booth in the former game room and were given menus to look through. Our server for the evening - and I'm gonna give her the nom de guerre of Trudy because I'm not going to be even close to giving her any faint praise during this post - came over to greet us. She asked if we wanted anything to drink and I got a beer while Cindy got a glass of house cabernet.
And we waited and waited for our drinks. Trudy came over to see if we were ready to order our food and we had to point out to her that we hadn't even gotten our drinks that we'd ordered from her 10 minutes prior. She apologized, "Gosh, you guys! I'll get them right away!" It was another five minutes before she showed back up with the drinks. At that point, we seriously thought about getting up and just walking out.
Another reason we thought about walking out was that the menu was far from what I would call Italian food. Oh, there were four pasta entrees - spaghetti with a "Sunday Gravy" recipe that chef Jerry Bergheger has perfected from his time in Italy, a chicken fettucine pasta, lasagna bolognese, and shrimp and spaghetti in a red sauce. That was it. They had some entrees with an Italian bent - Chicken saltimbocca, a Gorgonzola-crusted ribeye with a chianti sauce, and something called Italiano Jambalaya that had sausage, chicken, shrimp, peppers and tomatoes. But I was really in the mood for pasta that evening and there just wasn't much to appease me on the menu.
I ended up getting the lasagna - a small portion of a bolognese style lasagna with ground sausage and beef mixed in. The other quibble I had with Ubriaco's Trattoria is that soup or salad was an extra charge and didn't come with the meal. For an extra five bucks you could get soup or a spring mix dinner salad.
And the portions weren't all that large. (The place was pretty dark and none of the pictures that I took of our food came out. I lifted this picture of the lasagna from Ubriaco's Trattoria's Facebook page. Honestly, it wasn't much larger than this.) And they had the gall to charge $13 bucks for the lasagna. With no salad beforehand. While I thought the lasagna was good - the taste combination of the tomato sauce made with white wine and cream along with ground pork and beef was very interesting - I didn't think of it being a good value at all.
Cindy got the Mediterranean Salmon - it came with chopped spinach, olives and tomatoes along with feta cheese with some rice on the side. The salmon was, I'm guessing, six ounces in sizes, but they charged $18 bucks for it. While Cindy thought it was good, she said it wasn't outstanding.
I guess what really turned us off was the service, or lack of it from Trudy. She brought our food out to us and asked if we needed anything else. I told her that I could use another beer and she said, "Comin' right up!" Only it didn't. I left my beer bottle on the edge of the table to remind her that I was still waiting on my beer, but she never came back. Long after we finished our dinners - which didn't take long given the portion sizes - she finally did show up to drop off our check. She took our plates, grabbed the empty beer bottle without realizing that I never did get the second beer and I decided to cut our losses by giving her the money for the bill on the spot including a small tip. Cindy noted that she didn't ask if we wanted any dessert. (I said, "Maybe they don't have any!" They do...)
We gave Ubriaco's another chance recently when we went down there for lunch on weekend day. This time we sat at the bar and had Joey wait on us. Friendly, personable and efficient, Joey was the antithesis of the our first experience with the wait staff at Ubriaco's.
The lunch menu at Ubriaco's features salads, sandwiches and their signature Ubriaco burger. It's a 1/3 pound burger red wine-glazed beef patty topped with gorgonzola cheese that is hand-melted onto the patty by a butane torch, then topped with onion jam and bacon and served on a ciabatta bun. That's what Cindy got for her lunch. And she thought it was pretty good. She gave me a bite and while I don't care for gorgonzola or blue cheese on a burger (it's too forward a taste combined with the beef), I thought it was also very good.
I thought for a moment about getting the Carnivore burger that is topped with ham, pepperoni, capocollo, and gouda cheese on a pretzel bun, but I ended up getting the Bella burger that is topped with a roasted portobello mushroom, mozzarella cheese and a sun-dried tomato pesto with chopped greens. The portobello mushroom was actually thicker than the burger patty and it was very delicious on its own. The ciabatta bun was lightly grilled, but was spongy and flavorful. It was a pretty good burger, I'd have to say.
The food at Ubriaco's Trattoria was good, but I thought the dinner we had was a pretty poor value versus the portion sizes served. The menu was lacking on what I thought would be more pasta offerings from an Italian restaurant. And the service was just abysmal. Plus it still had more of a bar atmosphere than a nicer Italian-style trattoria. The burgers and fine service on our return visit gave us hope that our first visit was an aberration. We had such high hopes for Ubriaco's Trattoria, considering it's less than a five minute drive from our house. We may give them a chance for dinner again at some point.
(Update - June 2016 - We never did make it back to Ubriaco's. They couldn't really figure out if they wanted to be a nice Italian restaurant or a night spot in the heart of the East Village of Davenport. They closed in April of this year for "remodeling", but we never really saw any work going on. I happened to see a guy whose family owns the building and he said, "Naw, they're not coming back. They're actively trying to sell the contract they have with us to some other restaurant or bar owners." So, that's that for Ubriaco's.)