With curiosity brewing over the last six months (okay, more like the last two years since I came to TJSL), we all have been at the edge of our seats to know what Bottega Americano has to offer; especially, what does it taste like and how much does it cost? Since the restaurant finally opened its doors on August 31, 2014 I can say that it has been very busy. I have a unique viewpoint because I live next door. So, today I decided to venture inside and see if it was worth the wait.
I walked straight up to the front concierge. She greeted me with a great welcome smile, and was very helpful. She informed me that the restaurant offers “to-go” lunch and dinner menu items, and the marketplace (to the right of the front door) offers other pick up items too. There is not much difference between the lunch and dinner menus, and they do offer a some-what limited “grab-n- go” style pick for pre-made salads and bottled drinks – mostly "not-so-average" sodas and waters.
There is a small muffin delicatessen, and a beautiful display delicatessen featuring cured meats, olives, and sandwiches. But most importantly, there is an espresso and coffee bar. Because most TJSL students are wondering about the market to-go items, I think it is important to address their costs. I know that the restaurant and TJSL coordinated on a meal plan for students, but my experience is strictly coming from a non-meal-planner. I was not offered a TJSL discount when I ordered my dinner to-go meals, which was not surprising. But upon returning for a breakfast panini a week later, a 10% student discount was finally offered. I ordered the "meat breakfast panini" with mortadella, cheese and egg, with a medium coffee: total $6.17 with our discount.
The lunch panini costs are strikingly higher, between $8.00 and $10.00, with the most expensive lunch item going to their Niciose (ni-swaz) salad at $13.00. Overall, the lunch and market to-go items seem somewhat expensive at first glance. If you’re a foodie like me, you will appreciate the local market fresh ingredients and their modern twist on pairing flavors. As long as you’re okay with paying a little extra for great taste and a smaller portion, you’ll understand the price. But if you’re just looking for a turkey sandwich, you’re better off down the street at Dirty Del’s or The District where the prices won’t split your wallet. Fortunately, our cost-saving lies with the breakfast and espresso or coffee items. No surprise here with the coffee: its a- typical “Starbucks-like” strong coffee, but only a tad cheaper – and you can’t beat the fact that it’s downstairs or across the street!
Onto the dinner entrees. We ordered the Puttanesca Pizza and the Pappardelle Pasta (say that five times fast). The pizza is a great size for the price $13.00. It was thinner wood-fired crust, and definitely enough to feed a hungry dude or split between two. Most comparably, it’s about the same as a pan-size “medium.” The flavoring of the anchovies and capers was a bit overpowering at first bite, but the hint of the calabrian chiles at the end was a great surprise. The pasta was good, and the sauce reminded me a lot of a Bolognese, but the tenderness and richness of the braised lamb was delicious. Although, I would have liked for a little bit more lamb for the price $18.00. The entree was not too large: about a cup and a half of cooked pappardelle pasta.
Overall, the food is tasty and fresh, but “to-go” wait times will vary. If you’re willing to pay the extra dollar or two for items that “dress” up your salad or sandwich then I think you will be pleased. But for most students, I think the restaurant will have an adjustment period to cater to our cost needs. In the end it is still a place worth trying, and it has been packed since opening day! Good luck Bottega!