Monday, March 22, 2010

Galletto Bar and Grill, Westlake Village-where the SPECIALTIES by Santino Coccia are Overpricing, Bad Food, with a side of Rude

I had been waiting to go to Galletto Bar and Grill in Westlake Village for some time, it's been more than a year since I had planned to go. I even drove by when I was in the area one time to see where it was.

Looking at the menu online I noticed a striking resemblance to the 12 restaurant strong Sao Paulo based chain Galeto's. I went there on my first date there with my wife, so naturally I thought it was neat that there was a similar spot here in LA.

Italian food in Brazil is just as common and integrated into Brazilian cuisine as Mexican is here in the United States. Authentic Italian cuisine is better represented in Brazil than the US, and Brazilians eat risotto and pasta like we knock down tacos and enchiladas.

Galletto Bar and Grill has salads, soups, pastas, grill items, "Brazilian" brochettes called xixos, pizzas, hot and cold appetizers,and a full bar. The restaurant's name and menu are so much like the Sao Paulo based Galeto's that I first thought it was a branch of the restaurant that had come to LA, but I never got a chance to talk to Santino Coccio about it, who was seated in the table across from my friend and I.

The dinner started with a decent caipirinha, the national cocktail of Brazil made with cachaca, lime and sugar. I proceeded to take a close shot of the cocktail when someone barked, "No pictures!" I turned around to see the man seated across from me waving his finger at me and repeating, "No pictures!" I walked over to him, at this point he hadn't introduced, nor identified himself. I asked if he was the manager, he said no, so I asked to speak to the manager. He rudely blurted out,"I'm the owner, the cook, the everything" "I want my customers to have their privacy." I explained that I was just trying to photograph the food, nothing else." He stared for a second and he shrugged, "Well...then go ahead."

I looked at my friend who had given me the if-you-want-to-leave-we-can-what-a-jerk look. I felt very bothered, I mean, I respect a restaurateurs establishment and have complied the only other time I was ever asked to refrain from taking photos. I don't let poor service nor bad attitudes affect my review, except in regard to the service, and am very forgiving of my favorite ethnic restaurants that often lack professional service.

I paused for a moment and shrugged off the rude and gruff cook/owner/everything guy and started to order.

I think my friend Brian would rather have left at that point. The club has an awful band. A guitar owner, and an arythmic bongo player/singer playing along with bad karaoke tracks blasting well above the strain of our yelling to be heard. It's a cougar dance party, and I think that is really what Galletto Bar and Grill is about.

Our appetizer arrived, the burrata cheese special with prosciutto.This was nothing special at all, but not necessarily bad food. At this point we were like a couple of bored teenagers staring at the plate, eating out of necessity and routine. The prosciutto was super market deli quality.

The camarao(shrimp) Regia Victoria, named after an amazon lily claims to be a northern Brazilian specialty. I guess if just the presence of dende oil makes it northern, but where? Brazil is pretty big. That's like saying southern barbeque, vague. It's just a coconut, dende oil paste on blackened shrimp. The vegetables were stiff, the paste was simple, but this did not come together at all. The side of pirao was about the worst version I've ever had, completely off in the consistency and flavor. It only resembled pirao in name. Pirao is made with manioc meal and has a gravy like consistency, perfect for pouring over rice. It should not feel like a mound of tortilla masa.

It' not uncommon to give a dish that uses coconut milk and dende oil a name like shrimp baiana(from Bahia), so while I have no issue with a dish with an exotic name, I do have a problem with the appearance of a delicacy that clocks in at $26.95 and only delivers a fast-food quality entree. The version at Taste of Brazil in El Sereno is half the price and a much better plate.

Brian ordered the skirt steak which was fine, but the sides of instant farofa and canned vegetables were sad. Instant farofa is fine and will give you the textural sensation without much flavor, kind of like store bought tortillas. We don't mind using it at home with some beans, but I don't want it from a restaurant, especially not at these prices.

Our total with 2 drinks, 2 mains, and 2 shared appetizers was over $100 including tax and tip. The waiter was very nice and deserved a proper tip making up for the owners lack of decorum.

There have been other reports of bad service and treatment from this restaurant from others. I did a little digging around. I found out Mr. Coccio is behind Tropicalia, another non-Brazilian, Brazilian restaurant with a bad moqueca, fish stew, that also resembles the Regia-Victoria paste from Galletto, not at all the classic fish stew from both Bahia and Espiritu Santo in Brazil.

Some reviews had lauded this place for a bold combination of Italian and Brazilian cuisines, which is kind of like jumping up and down about Chili's because of its unique blend of Southern and Southwestern cuisines. There are countless chains in Brazil like Galeto's and Viena that feature this very typical blend of Brazilian dishes with the deeply rooted traditions from the Italian immigrants in Brazil.

Santino Coccio runs a Westlake Village dance club for people who aren't concerned with food nor music. I think this is a place for his regulars, but not for someone looking for good pasta, or Brazilian food.

Mr. Coccio never once looked over to smooth out the misjudgment, nor did he say a word as we exited, he was on his cell phone the whole time, and some of his regulars came by to say goodbye, he never once stood up to see them off.

I you feel compelled to try this place, I suggest you keep driving until you hit Oxnard and dine at Moqueca, where the seafood stews there will change your life.

Galletto Bar and Grill
982 Westlake Boulevard
Westlake Village, CA 91361


crustoner said...

Yuck! Thanks for the review. Not that I find myself in Westlake Village much (ever), but with stories like this, emanating from it, why would I?

Such a shame. Such an opportunity, such a waste. The owner (if indeed he is) sounds like just the WRONG kind of person to be in the food service & hospitality industry!

Shocking prices add insult to injury and begs the question - why do people keep a place like this open?

It may sound snobbish, but perhaps in Westlake Village, people don't have a discerning palate. Then again, I can think of dozens of places all over L.A. where the story is the same.

Having just come back from a weekend in San Francisco, where even cheap, local, cafe food is delicious. I find myself wondering if the grass is always greener over there, or perhaps in this case anyway, it rains more in SF! At least that would explain the greener grass right?

streetgourmetla said...

Hey crustoner, yes it is a shame. He's the wrong kind of person as an individual and a chef.I don't want to pick on people from Westlake Village, but I will say that the people in THAT restaurant do not have any taste, in music, food, or in scene.

He's a mediocre Italian chef and not a Brazilian chef at all, I won't be going to his restaurants ever again.

Food GPS said...

I'm normally forgiving of one-time bad service, but it sounds like the service you encountered was of the lowest order.

Canned vegetables make me sad too.

"Cougar dance party"? That's just funny, or was it?

Eddie Lin said...

Nice write up. Glad I was under lockdown that night. I wanna go back next time with the tv crew from "Cheaters". I bet half those Westlake Village cougars there are. Haha!

streetgourmetla said...

foodgps-I also am forgiving to a fault. It was the lowest of lows.

The cougar dance party was entertaining. It was like being on another planet.

Eddie-Hey, you still should have been there, my brother. Cheaters? I love it.There were no celebs but for sure there was some hanky-panky.