I really, really wanted to like this place. I tried very hard. Unfortunately, there were two problems. First, the kitchen was unbelievably slow. And second, the food, to cut to the chase, isn’t very good. Besides that, this place is great.
But first, of course, the backstory.
I grew up just outside of Corning, which is a very small city in western New York State. The most salient fact about Corning is that it’s the home of Corning, Inc., which is a $6 billion technology company (formerly Corning Glass Works). Thus, you have a very large Fortune 500 companies, including senior management, technical and engineering people, everything, located in a dinky town in the middle of nowhere. This company would fit right in in Silicon Valley, but it’s not.
Accordingly, the company does a lot to support the development of the town. If you’re going to ask some guy to move his family to the middle of nowhere, and to work for a company there, it would be a great thing if there were, say, decent restaurants, things for his family to do, and so on. Tony R’s, in other words, is part of a broader effort, backed by Corning, to create a decent downtown both for visitors, and for businesspeople who come to the town for meetings. Believe me, other towns of 12,000 people in the region most definitely do NOT have restaurants like this.
Right in the middle of Corning, literally on the town square. There is all kinds of free parking on Market Street, in adjoining lots, and in an immense garage one block away. No problem.
Phone: (607) 937-9277
Monday – Thursday 16:00– 21:00; Friday and Saturday 16:00 – 22:00.
Sort of Big-Time Steakhouse-y. The place used to be a bank, so there are high ceilings, marble, mounted animal heads on the wall, big tables with white tablecloths, and so on. Really nice – there’s even a small table inside a bank vault.
Great. Prompt, low-key, friendly and knowledgeable.
However – and this is a huge however – it took an hour and a half for our entrees to arrive. This is nuts. I have no idea what was up in the kitchen, but I have a theory, which I’ll get to later. However, we sat there for ninety minutes waiting for our food to appear. This is a colossal negative, and is at least 50% of the problem with this place. The other problem is that when the food did arrive, it just wasn’t very good.
Pretty reasonable. We fed five people, two of who were twelve years old, for $143 before tip. That’s not cheap, particularly for the region, but it’s not bad.
The food is on the low end of mediocre. It’s edible, but whoever’s back in the kitchen turning this stuff out is definitely in over his or her head.
The menu provides a useful clue to this. It has everything but the kitchen sink on it. Italian. Steaks. Chops. Seafood. Thirteen different side dishes. Eight different salads. And so on. It looks like the menu from a roadside diner.
This is all fine if you’re running a big place, with a big, high-powered kitchen with enough good people to deliver all these different kinds of food and do them reasonably well. But you do not have this in Corning, New York. You also don’t have the cooking talent that you would in other places, although there are lots of exceptions to this principle.
The result is food that just isn’t that great. Since we had five people at dinner, I’m not going to go through the usual process of listing appetizers, entrees, desserts and so on. Instead, I’m just going to hit some of the high points. Remember this, by the way – I did not want to write a mediocre review of this restaurant. I love my hometown, I love the people who live there, and nothing would have made me happier than telling everyone in the world that the food there is awesome. And perhaps their steaks and chops, which we didn’t happen to order, were. But this place simply isn’t that great, and I’m not going to lie about it out of hometown loyalty.
For an appetizer, I ordered the sesame-seared ahi tuna, which tasted like … absolutely nothing. This isn’t necessarily Tony R’s fault – Corning is, after all, several hundred miles from the nearest ocean, and whatever they prepared has to have been frozen and thawed, before being seared, but the results were less than stellar.
Another appetizer to be shared by the table was bruschetta. This is usually a flat, toasted slice of Italian bread, with fresh minced tomatoes, basil and spices layered onto it. What appeared (slowly) from Tony R’s was what I can only describe as a Sara Lee coffee cake that used tomatoes and a lot of gooey cheese on a round piece of Italian bread, along with some kind of mysterious brown sauce. It’s difficult to describe, but what showed up was a roundish baked piece of bread about the size of your fist, with tomato sauce and cheese melted onto it. Very odd, and not that great.
As an entrée, I ordered pasta with lobster and crabmeat and a bunch of other stuff. What arrived was sort of a gluey mess, with big chunks of lobster and, yes, crabmeat in it, but completely buried in this cheesy, milky, heavy sauce that held everything together, but didn’t do much more than that.
The same outcome awaited scallops – these appeared in a heavy sauces, which was kind of sweet, and totally overpowered their taste. I’ve seen the same kind of thing happen with other seafood – you have to be careful.
My daughters split an order of macaroni and cheese, with the same outcome. Sort of gluey and cheesy, with not much taste.
To be fair, someone else in our party really liked their order – chicken Sorrento, which consists of chicken cutlets sautéed in olive oil, with eggplant, cheese and sauce. This was terrific.
By and large, however, the bottom line, again, was that after waiting for ninety minutes, the food was distinctly mediocre, with the exception of the one Italian dish. Which leads to a diagnosis. The problem with this place is that they’re overreaching. The restaurant is run by an Italian family. They are wonderful with Italian dishes. However, when they move into other areas – seafood, for example, or Japanese-style tuna, the results aren’t good.
If you go here, then, stick with the seafood or, I suspect, the steaks and chops. But as for everything else, don’t get your hopes up.Published On: Monday, September 1st, 2014