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Johnny's Italian Steakhouse

NeonIn a word: The price isn't right.

The specs: #0282
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Madison Packard, Yelp, Madison Hot Bite; official web site, Johnny's Italian Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Latest Johnny's Italian Steakhouse news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the steak Sinatra.
Nichole ate the seafood skewers.
Ting ate the filet mignon.
The bill was $90, or $30/person, plus tip.
Ting gave Johnny's Italian Steakhouse a B+; JM gave Johnny's Italian Steakhouse a B; Nichole gave Johnny's Italian Steakhouse a C (see our grading rubric).

Johnny's Italian Steakhouse lives out in Greenway Station, another Middleton Food Mall (thanks for the good label, Irene!) outpost. We went on a weeknight and found the place reasonably well attended - enough for a not-unpleasant outside wait for a table.

Filet mignonTing observed that the atmosphere was fun and a bit classy. Heavy on drop cloths instead of walls. We were all a little disappointed with the waitress' answer to our question about what makes Johnny's Italian - "we serve Italian food as well as steaks." ('Spose simple is enough.) Ting found his filet mignon a bit overdone on the outside, but the inside was just right. The portion was average.

The steak Sinatra was a surf-and-turf affair, the evening's special, and later cause for much buyer's remorse for JM. Smothered in a reasonably tasty lobster sauce, the steak itself was not very tender and seemed like a steak JM would have put A1 on back when he was in short pants. The bits of lobster and shrimp were decent. We may have been an fault for not asking the price ($30) but we did get some sticker shock, given the caliber of preparation. (Yes, yes, the ingredients were expensive. All the more reason to use them well.)

There was also the unpleasant little switcheroo where, while jotting down Nichole's entree, the waitress offered salad, seeming to imply it came with the meal. So Nichole bit, only to find later her overdressed spinach salad was a la carte. Again, maybe we're to blame for not being vigilant, or for being cheap; but still. Especially in contrast to Johnny Delmonico's, where the staff seemed genuinely friendly and honest about the food, Johnny's Italian came off as offputtingly salesmannish.

Seafood skewersThat said, Nichole's seafood skewers were actually pretty good. Bits of salmon and shrimp joined up with peppers and onions on a bamboo skewer and got broiled. A very buttery orange sauce came on the side, a fortunate place for it, since a little went a long way. The "wild" rice most emphatically was not, Ting and Nichole concurred.

Though the skewers were good, Nichole did struggle to find something reasonably healthful to eat at Johnny's. The menu is obviously not vegetarian-friendly, but the non-steak options tended to gravitate towards the pasta-cious and heavily cream-sauced.

The overall verdict was a big "enh." We did see an amazing sight that clued us in to the best way to enjoy Johnny's Italian Steakhouse: a waiter trekking across the parking lot to a nearby hotel, covered dinners in hand. So if you find yourself traveling in a strange city, have no idea where to eat, and you've got an expense account, see if Johnny's will do room service. (And tip generously.)

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Uh oh! They're off the reservation! Eats List alphabetization, be damned! The librarian is running amok!

No worries! Is it that we skipped Johnny O's?

Well....yeah, I guess....

So I pay too much attention.

I'm re-reading Randy Taraborelli's Sinatra biography right now, and I wonder: what makes a steak Sinatra?

At any rate, I'm really craving red meat now. Thanks a lot, JM & Nichole. :-)

Yeah, 2 manly red-meat meals in a row! It might have been 3 but Johnny O's was closed for the summer, as far as we could tell. We'll hit them on the flip-flop.

Closed for the summer? Oof.

That tells you something about the probable quality, given that they don't have enough business to stay open when a certain academically-minded clientele leaves town. Do they close during Spring Break, too?

I don't normally like chain restaurants so I don't mind passing on this one.

My husband and I met some old friends at Johnny's last night. The bread was actually pretty good, the Caesar salads were average. My husband was pleased with his lasagna. My chicken marsala was OK, but nothing to write home about. We thought the prices were a bit high given the quality of the food. The food isn't necessarily bad, but it's not that great, either. Average to slightly above, I'd say - and probably not worth what they're charging. I tend to agree with the "enh" verdict of the review. It was fine, but I'm not sure I'd go running back there anytime soon.

They're generous with their wine pours at least. And they have very good bruschetta. I'd have to say, there are quite a few higher-end places in Madison where it's worth going for drinks & appetizers, then going to a less expensive place for dinner.

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