None of the secondi struck our fancy, but we did order a substantial number of dishes. So substantial that instead of ordering by the names, I curled my index finger and thumb into a square bracket and pointed on the menu “we’ll take these four and these four, and the potato, and the asparagus please.”
That was 10 out of 25 “dishes” on the menu, if olives and salads could count as dishes at all.
Three years ago, I had a bite of pork belly sandwich from Corso. I remember nothing of it, except that it was memorably good. I vowed to come back, but my cravings are always either rice noodle or pancakes (although every time I get pancakes, their texture is gravely disappointing), so for these three years, the vow stayed as a vow and didn’t happen. I kept hearing from multiple sources near and far about how good Corso was, though, so my confidence for this Italian restaurant increased. When I picked Corso for dinner last Friday, I didn’t expect the restaurant to wow us, but I felt confident that the meal would be solid and comforting, that we would be well fed by the end.
The high note: the server replaced our plates and utensils after each course, yay for a clean platform to taste new dishes.
The low note: how low would you like to hear?
In general, this Asian does not have paramount hope for Italian food (to me, Italian food is pasta and cheese, both of which I find to be comforting yet boring), but there’s a reason Italian food is comfort food: assuming that you start from boiling dried pasta and that you have any sense of taste at all, it’s easy to cook an edible plate of pasta. Not perfect, but edible. Guess what, the tagliatelle al sugo at Corso was NOT even edible: it was pungent, muddy and in dire need of more tomato sauce and minced carrots. Each of us took one single bite, then a drink of water and that was it. The plate looked untouched when the server later cleaned up the table.
As far as bad restaurant experiences go, Corso had set a new record the moment they managed to screw up pasta and ground meat.
Were we well fed by the end? Well, we were fed up for sure. Why am I not trying to be nice with this review? Because I decided on this restaurant for dinner. I feel responsible when my friends couldn’t enjoy the meal, thus a positive review would be akin to lame excuses to sugar coat my poor decision. In fact, Corso left such a disappointing taste that it doesn’t even deserve a longer title in this post.
Bonus story: the table next to us ordered the butter-roasted chicken. The lady, who appeared to be in her 70s, looked over when our pastas had just arrived and said to her husband, who was signing the bill, “Look, they got the tagliatelle and the cavatelli. It looks good”. So I turned around, smiled with her and asked how was her chicken. She said it was laden with so much butter and cooked perfectly. I replied “It looked ah-may-zing.” (Chicken breasts never excite me, but I figured the situation called for a diplomatic comment.) In hindsight, did we just order the wrong dishes? Nah, it’s much harder to make white meat succulent than to make pasta edible. But I’m glad that at least one customer was happy with her meal.
The APPETIZERS (antipasti)
The SIDES (contorni)
The first MAIN COURSES (primi)
The DESSERTS (dolce)
She also raised a good point: when the server approaches you with the question “Is everything okay?”, how do you respond when the food, in fact, is not okay? Do you say the common “yes” to just send the server away from the table? Do you explain what tastes bad? Do you ask to speak to the chef?
Address: Trattoria Corso
1788 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94709
Dinner for 4: $172.77
Reservation is advisable. Despite its surprisingly horrible food, Corso continues to thrive in North Berkeley. All tables later than 5:30 pm on Friday were booked.