I want to love Bertucci's. It plants trees and recycles paper. It's aggressively anti-smoking. It helps chronically ill children through the Starlight Foundation. But it makes a lousy pasta sauce.
That's not quite true. I should say the Timonium Bertucci's made at least four lousy sauces the night I was there. When I ate at the Owings Mills sibling a year ago, we had a very decent meal.
The decor of the newest Bertucci's is a winning combination of techo-chic and sunny Mediterranean. The food has plenty of style in theory if not execution, and it's attractively priced. The staff is warm-hearted and attractive. So what's not to like?
Well, how about every dish arriving lukewarm, from the Tuscan minestrone to the three cheese ravioli. The dessert menu announces that the fruit crisp is served at room temperature; one of my guests said sourly, "Like everything else." When one of us ordered coffee and the other iced coffee, the same guest asked, "How will you be able to tell the difference?"
But lukewarm food is a minor flaw compared to the taste of the three cheese ravioli. (Burnt rubber.) Or the cavatelli with summer vegetables. (Bitter -- maybe it was too much swiss chard.) Or the mushy cioppino. Only the broccoli and chicken over rigatoni was even somewhat edible.
Worst of all was the garlic bread. It was downright nasty. It's hard to imagine that a restaurant proud of making its own sauces, bread and calzones daily would use powdered garlic, but that's what it tasted like. Powdered garlic gone rancid.
Not all of our meal was this bad. Pizzas should be a safe bet. I liked the marengo pizza with chicken strips, sauteed peppers and sliced tomatoes.
The house salad had fine lettuces, plum tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, grated mozzarella and a good Italian dressing.
The antipasto was enough for five of us, with tender cubes of chicken in pesto, wedges of good fontinella, grapes, roasted peppers, caponata (eggplant salad) and prosciutto. Ignore the broccoli salad made with that same overpowering garlic.
Desserts are decent -- the best is the tiramisu. But if I hadn't asked for a fork I would have had to eat it with my fingers. Our waitress was sweet, but she neglected us. Maybe she got discouraged by the number of barely touched plates she had to take away from our table, so after a while she just stayed away.
Where: 1818 York Road
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, until midnight
Credit cards accepted: Major credit cards
Features: Pizza and pasta
Non-smoking section? No smoking allowed
Call: (410) 561-7000