I used to eat lunch and occasionally dinner at Federico’s when I worked off Baxter Road and lived in that area. However, that was about 6 years ago, and I haven’t been there since. A social function placed Alex and me near Virginia Beach Town Center a couple of weekends ago, looking for a place to eat dinner. I’m sure the Town Center group wouldn’t like hearing this, but there just aren’t any restaurants in the Town Center that get me very excited. They are all upscale chains which lack the passion and originality that you can find in a privately owned and operated restaurant. When you have a person pouring their heart, soul and life’s earnings into a business interesting things happen.
Pulling up to the front of Federico’s was a bit shocking. Who had the great idea of painting it yellow and red? Bozo the clown? For a brief moment I wondered if it was now a Mexican Restaurant, but a peek inside proved me wrong. Egad, the interior was yellow and red too. For the record, I am not a hater of yellow and red. In fact, I have a chair that is yellow with red piping…very tastefully done, but this was a little bit too much “in your face”. That said, no emails from the People for Ethical Treatment of Colors, okay. Check out their website and you will get an idea of what I am talking about. Shocking contrast. Plus, there is a typo in the website header. The spelling is r-e-s-t-a-u-r-a-n-t, not r-e-s-t-a-r-a-u-n-t. Note to owner: Hire a professional designer. If you don’t know any, I know several good ones I can refer.
We were kind of early, arriving at about 6:30 PM and they were empty with the exception of two large parties. A senior prom table of about 12 and a senior citizen table of about 12, another contrast. Both seemed jovial and were wrapping up their meals. Of course, we get seated right next to one of these tables. Why spread us all out? One of the senior gents moved his chair around to chat with one of the ladies at the table. He might as well have just sat in Alex’s lap. He was literally at our table, completely blocking the walkway or access to our table.
Our waitress was sort of out there, as in outer space. I ordered a vodka martini and received it sans garnish. Gasp! The olives are the best part. When I mentioned the oversight, I got a loopy ‘oh yeah’ response, and the drink returned with three fat olives. Then she asked if we were ready to order, but we had not been told the specials. “Oh yeah”… again. She stumbled though the specials, which were completely unexciting, and we ordered.
Their menu is quite broad. I ordered the Pesce Rosalina, red snapper filet panko encrusted and pan seared over butternut squash stuffed ravioli and artichoke pesto topped with tropical jumbo lump crab salsa. It is the second most expensive menu item, next to a steak dish. When I asked the waitress if she would recommend it, she said she didn’t know. She’d never had it. Jeez, time to just give up on her. Our meals arrived in a reasonable amount of time. When not at work, we are a bit more relaxed about time, and Alex and I are never at a loss for topics of conversation. The dish was quite a lovely presentation. Breaking it down into pieces, the ravioli and artichoke pesto was to die for. That could and should be a standalone dish on the menu. The snapper was just okay. The fish was cooked perfectly but the encrusted layer was completely blasé. It had no discernible flavor. The salsa was incredibly delicious, but cold. I felt that topping the warm ravioli, with warm fish, and then cold salsa to be a bad layering combination. The salsa needed to be warm too. It just didn’t seem to go together well.
Obviously, Federico’s did not impress me. If someone else wanted to go there, I wouldn’t get upset, but it is not a destination I would choose. They are closed on Monday, offer wine specials Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, and have early bird specials daily from 4-6pm.
Like Laine, I had been to Federico's in the past when we worked nearby, but honestly, I cannot remember my meal. Bad sign? Not sure, but I was up for Italian and we were in the area, which is a rarity these days. I agree with Laine in that our waitress needed to check back in to her job. She was pleasant, but just not connected and while I do not want a server sitting at my table with me, I expect them to know the specials and serve what was requested quickly. Federico's has good bread, usually a positive sign of the meal to come.
I am glad the gent from the nearby (too near) party did not end up in my lap. The center tables are a little close to the outer booths. This might be due to the two large parties Laine mentioned, but with almost the rest of the place empty, I think we could have been seated in a better location. I do not care if the waitress has to walk a few extra steps; the place is not that big. The colors reminded me of the Mount Gay Rum shops in Barbados. While the red and yellow works on those buildings, it does not work for an Italian restaurant located in Virginia Beach. It seems Federico's is trapped between the old school red and white checked Italian decor and trying to be somewhat modern. Stick with retro.
I ordered the Tortellini Alfredo which came with ham and mushrooms. When I asked if I might have the dish without ham, she said no problem. Good answer, as I was not in the mood to haggle on this particular evening. I was hungry and glad the food arrived quickly. My dish was good. I am a sucker for a cream sauce and this one was just the right consistency, not too thick or watery as some can be. The price was $12, which is standard for similar pasta dishes elsewhere and portion size was very fair. Laine and I always have a good time and it was nice to not be on the one hour clock watch and outside of downtown for once.
I would recite the entire dessert menu, but it is not online and the waitress read it to us. No memory now except what I ordered, the Italian Lemon Cake. Very light with a hint of lemon and quite good, as it should be for $8.
I concur with Laine that I might not go out of my way to suggest Federico's but would go if someone suggested and I was in the area.
357 Independence Boulevard
Virginia Beach, VA 23462-2822