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The Woodlands Texas Restaurant Chew and Reviews

Via Emilia Italian in The Woodlands

In grade school (and junior high… and high school, for the most part) I was teased endlessly. For the lack of designer clothes, for the braces which I wore nearly four years, for always being the youngest in the class. I’d go home in tears, dramatically retelling the tales of the latest slights from my so-called friends and other classmates. In my anger, I’d recount the terrible things I could say about all of them (if I would ever just speak up). But mom and dad always had two things to tell me – what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, and if I didn’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.Well, the practice of not saying unkind things is a difficult one at times. We like to be able to only have positive things to say about a restaurant we dine in and fortunately, rarely have something be so negative it’s worthy of focusing our attention. Any restaurant can have bad things happen; an undercooked/overcooked entree, an impatient server, or a fly in your drink; *things* happen. But if for the most part our meal and our service was a pleasant experience, that’s what we prefer to share.A couple weeks back, we asked some friends to join us for dinner, and opted to try the recently-opened Via Emiliain Indian Springs. Though still new-ish to The Woodlands, we had high hopes for Via Emilia, as this is their second location, and their first one receives rave reviews all around.We arrived around 7:00 on a Tuesday and were politely informed that without a reservation, our wait time would be at least 45 minutes! The reason, we believe, was two-fold; Via Emilia’s reputation precedes them, and their store-front location is not the most spacious. We took the brisk business as a good sign, and decided to pass the time looking over the restaurant’s herb and vegetable potted garden, located right out in front. Before long, a cancelled reservation freed a table, and we settled in.
We started with a warm basket of bread – a fresh baguette, sliced and slightly toasted, then topped with olive oil and a blend of Italian herbs and spices. The five small pieces given to the four of us quickly disappeared – unfortunately to not be replaced for quite some time.We were all very hungry and opted for two appetizers; Calamari Fritti with Pomodoro Sauce ($10) and Pere e Gorgonzola ($11). The calamari was hot and perfectly seasoned, however, the portion was less generous than many of the average chain Italian restaurants. wonderful garlic bread at via emelia
The Pere e Gorgonzola was quite interesting, four grilled slices of pear, topped with melted Gorgonzola cheese and served on a bed of fresh spinach, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. It had a wonderful, salty-with-sweet flavor to it. Other than the portion sizes and that empty bread basket, things up to this point were going rather well. A mere 30 minutes had passed between being seated and receiving our appetizers, then salads.It was, however, another 20 minutes before our entrees arrived, bringing the total elapsed time at this point to nearly an hour. grilled pears with gorgonzola cheese on spinach at via emilia
Pere e Gorgonzola
Going around the table, one of our friends decided to stick with what she knew and ordered the Lasagna della Nonna ($13). It was beautifully presented, and flush with tomatoes that may have come from that aforementioned potted garden out front. The sauce was richly tomato-y, and the pasta was very tender without being mushy. Again, the portion seemed incredibly small, especially as a dinner. It seemed as though it was a typical lunch portion. Now that a few days have passed, we’re even more disappointed to know it was an atypical portion. It seems our friends over at H-Town Chow Down sampled the lasagna recently and were more generously served. lasagna with meat sauce at via emilia
Lasagna della Nonna
Next up, my better half ordered the Pollo alla Picatta; a chicken breast sautéed in white wine with capers, lemon, butter and mushrooms ($18). It was served with linguine, tossed with spinach, olive oil and garlic. After the first bite, he discovered it was veal and not chicken. When our server brought out the correct dish we noticed that the two plates look nearly identical but the veal was much better tasting. The chicken had the oddest texture he’d ever experienced. It was actually sponge-like in consistency. Every bite of the chicken breast was like eating soup, possibly due to the chicken being packed in water prior to delivery. This had the unpleasant effect of removing the flavor of the hand-breaded chicken breast. the incredibly watery chicken at via emilia
Pollo alla Picatta
I ordered the Penne alla Arrabiata, and opted for the Italian sausage ($15). The spicy tomato sauce with Parmesan was not overly spicy, but had a nice kick to it. The sauce was perfectly matched to the sausage, the flavors complementing each other beautifully. Sadly, though it was agreed around the table this was the best dish, even it fell short of our expectations as the sausage seemed more like a pre-packaged, store bought variety. I likened it to Kiolbassa brand. Again, a nice flavor, but definitely not freshly made in house – or at least, it didn’t taste like it. The pasta however, was perfectly al dente – a redundant statement, I know, but it, with the sauce, was wonderful. penne pasta with sausage at via emeliaPenne alla Arrabiata & Sausage
The last member of our party ordered the Vitello Osso Buco ($29), at the recommendation of our server. He had asked the server for a recommendation, because what he was looking for on the menu was a steak, or filet. The Vitello Osso Buco is a veal shank, braised in wine served with linguine, tossed with spinach, olive oil and garlic. No one could ever say the meat wasn’t tender – it was so tender it nearly fell off the bone when the plate was placed on the table. But the flavor was no more remarkable than your average Sunday roast at mom’s. Our guest is of Russian descent, and his opinion was that it reminded him of the boiled meat-and-potatoes stew he remembered growing up on. roast-like veal shank at via emilia
Vitello Osso Buco

Sadly, his disappointment was so complete he opted to have the meal removed and attempted to fill up on the better-late-than-never bread basket that arrived when we were about halfway through our meal.Maybe it was just a bad night for Via Emilia. Perhaps the region of Italy Mama Elda is from just isn’t the right one for us. One thing we did all feel was worth ordering seconds of was Elda’s Limoncello. Our server says it takes 18 of lemons to make each bottle, and as only the rind is used, you can always tell when Mama’s been making it because the lemon wedges in the drinks will be skinless that day. The limoncello is offered straight as an after-dinner digestivo, and used in the delicious looking Limoncello Cake. For us, though, we think we’re going to stick with Pallotta’s. Though it’s nearly impossible to save room for dessert there with Phil’s overwhelming generosity, we think we’re overdue for some Dominic’s Mud.

Related:

Brio Tuscan Grill
Crust Pizza
Luca & Leonardo
Mama Mia Italian
Pallotta’s Italian
Russo’s New York Pizza

Via Emilia Italian Restaurant The Woodlands

9 Responses to “Via Emilia Italian Restaurant The Woodlands”

  • I have to disagree completely with this review. We have dined at Via Emilia in Woodlands ever since a week after it opened and the food and service is fantastic. We did try Palotta’s, which the reviewer apparently loves, and the food tasted just like what you can buy frozen at supermarkets; it was mediocre and service was dissapointing. A few of our friends who ate there were likewise dissapointed. We actually just got back from a family trip (went to France & Italy), and have to say the food at Via Emilia was just like what you find in Italy. And to make such a big deal about the bread seems a bit ridiculous. Some Italian restaurants charge $5 dollars for extra bread–it’s free at Via Emilia. Plus if you want more bread you could always simply ask for more.
    It’s all a matter of opinion, though. Like I said, their review is relative and definitely not a real depiction of experience at Via Emilia, since everytime we go the restaurant is busy and the people who we have talked to also love dining there.

    reply:
    The Woodlands Events and Entertainment Thank you very much for the feedback. We always appreciate knowing how others feel about our posts, and to be able to get a better feel for whether or not we were the exception, or the rule.
    As we stated in the review, we understand we may have had a meal that was the exception and not the rule at Via Emilia. I don’t believe our level of service was out of the ordinary, as we observed for the duration of our 2+ hour meal, many of the same patrons were also still in the restaurant. We also stated that our dislike of the flavor of the dishes could have had more to do with the region the recipes come from. For example, I know from my own experience that my better half’s lasagna has been deemed Sicilian by her friends in Palermo – and as a result I’m not so big a fan of, say, Tuscan lasagna. But regionalism does not explain or excuse the QUALITY of the ingredients – only how they are PREPARED.
    As for the bread, we omitted from the review the fact that we did actually ask for more bread on several occasions, from our server (whom also asked someone else to bring it to us – twice) as well as the manager, and yet still waited well over half an hour for it. Again, we try to focus as much as possible on the positive aspects of our dining experiences. We also try to keep our reviews to a less-than-exhaustive length. In light of both of those thoughts, we did not account for every minute of our extended visit.

  • “Wow! I am shocked at the inaccuracy in this review! My husband and I used to go to the Champions restaurant all the time and loved it. Now we are closer to this location in the Woodlands and we dine here typically on the weekends. We have t…aken this to heart because we truly find this restaurant special and reminds us of our experience in Italy. Let me just mention that my husband is a lawyer and we will definitely make sure that the party responsible for this false review is sued, for grounds that we will not disclose. No wonder so many restaurants in The Woodlands close due to defaming, false critiques that in no way represent reality.

    reply:
    The Woodlands Events and Entertainment Hi Sherri! I have to say I am shocked that you could find inaccuracies in our opinions of our experiences there – I don’t remember you sitting at our table, sharing in the conversation… :-)
    Seriously, though; our review is just that – a recounting of our opinions of our own experience at the restaurant. We’re thrilled that others are having more favorable experiences at Via Emilia – we love to see local businesses thrive!
    Any information, in ANY review, which we convey as fact (i.e., ingredients in a dish, length of a book, etc.) we verify by any means available. For example, when we discuss the Vitello Osso Buco, we took the dish description from Via Emila’s menu verbatim “veal shank, braised in wine served with linguine, tossed with spinach, olive oil and garlic” – it can be found on their website: http://www.viaemiliarestaurant.com/uploads/3/5/5/9/3559657/togo_menu_ve_2.pdf But our guest’s opinion of it – how it tasted to him, whether or not he liked it, and whether or not he ate it – well, frankly, that “reality” can only be verified by those of us that were at the table that night.
    Feel free to read our review again; I think you’ll find we had a lot of positive things to say about Via Emilia. In the meantime, if Via Emilia is one of your favorite restaurants, that’s great! Keep supporting local business! :-)
    …By the way, does your husband practice law under a different surname, or in a different state? We couldn’t find any attorneys named Onsen listed with the Texas Bar…
    (her original comment was soon deleted from Facebook sometime before 9:38am 6-17-2011)

  • We love Via Emilia!! Being about 5 minutes from it, we don’t have to go downtown anymore for good italian restaurants. Perfect place to take my husband for father’s day! ;)

  • James:

    I’ve had the Chicken Picatta there and was very good, so don’t go by this review.

    Service is always wonderful and very attentive. My wife did try the Osso Bucco which she loved how traditional and delicate it was, very comforting.

  • Kat Furman:

    As a frequent patron of Via Emilia, I’d like to rebut the sneakily negative review you gave. Why do I say “sneakily”? Because you wrote just enough positive comments to make it look like you were being fair.
    But, no. You weren’t. As a matter of fact, your review was snide and whiny. And childish, which matched your ridiculous first paragraph detailing your four-year struggle with braces and lessons about being nice from your parents. Yes, you were attempting to set the tone of your article, but it was a really stupid way to do so. Your mouth of metal had no place in a restaurant review and you took up serious space with this useless information. People want to read about the food and service, not your funky dental apparatus.
    Now, please allow me to dissect the rest of the mess you call a review.
    You came into the restaurant, which you admit is a busy one, at the height of the dinner hour and complained about having to wait. Who died and made you king (or queen)? Just because you review restaurants, you need a seat right away? What you really need is a spanking. I’ll bet you didn’t have to wait 45 minutes either. Whatever time you waited, it’s obvious that you gleefully spent that time planning your restaurant ambush.
    You also moaned that by the time you got your entrees, you had waited almost an hour. It’s common practice in the restaurant business to allow your customers to enjoy their courses. Also, this isn’t lunch hour. You aren’t supposed to rush through dinner at lightning speed. Nobody wants their courses piled up in front of them within a few minutes.
    The bread you received was free. Stop whining. The waiter isn’t supposed to stand there at your beck and call and watch you devour the bread in three seconds, then anxiously replace it with more so he can avoid your wrath. He has other tables. And the portions of bread tie in with your complaints about entree portions. It’s well documented that American restaurants give huge portions of food, which very much contributes to our nation’s obesity. Since your better half compared his veal with Russia, let’s go there: in Europe, food portions are small. They don’t dump huge slabs of lasagna or whatever on one’s plate. Personally, I find the portions at Via Emilia to be perfect. I’m not interested in wallowing out of their place looking like Mr. Creosote from The Meaning of Life (Monty Python). By the way, their food and service, in my opinion, are impeccable. I’ve never had a problem there and the servers are unfailingly polite. Which must have been a real challenge for your poor waiter. I’m actually cringing thinking about the tip you might have left him.
    Your comments about your entree made me laugh like a hyena. First, you misspelled “Kielbasa”. Now, this sausage has several different spellings. But I’ve NEVER seen it spelled “Kiolbassa”. Back to the dictionary with all speed! Second, if you want homemade sausage, go to a restaurant that specializes in charcuterie. I really doubt that Via Emilia’s chef ran to Kroger and grabbed the first sausage he saw on the night you dined. Wait—maybe he knew you were coming in and purposely made your evening miserable. Hmm—no, that’s not it. You’re just a bunch of whiny babies after all; read on.
    The complaints about the Pollo Picatta are really curious. Your photograph shows a picture of chicken parmesan, not picatta. I worked at Nino’s restaurant downtown for nine years, and I’ve never seen picatta look like that. Maybe your friend really got the chicken picatta and mistook it for veal. After all, your better half did mistake the veal shank bone for a rib (see below). Perhaps the lack of bread made all your brains dizzy.
    The mayhem at your table continued unabated: by this time your better half seemed to be in the clutches of a carping tantrum, and whined about the Osso Bucco. First of all, Osso Bucco doesn’t contain ribs. It contains a shank bone, which is rounded and looks absolutely NOTHING like a rib. Perhaps a lesson in calf anatomy might be in order here, because you guys really showed your ignorance with this statement. Second: While the comments about flavor may have had some subjective merit, it was totally unfair to compare the veal with Mom’s Russian beef/potato stew. I can see your guy now: sending his food back in a snit, folding his arms and sitting there threatening to take his ball and go home. Nobody cares about your better half’s Russian background and if he likes it that much, find a Russian restaurant.
    Better yet, cook at home so you aren’t tempted to write ludicrous manifestos that show such a lack of analytical skill It’s people like you and your party that made me quit the restaurant business years ago. Oh, and by the way: if you insist on continuing to review restaurants, don’t forget your playpen next time.

    Submitted on 2011/06/24 at 9:46 am

    I made a mistake in my rebuttal, which I’d like to correct. For some reason I thought your better half said something about a rib in the veal shank. He did not, for which I apologize; not only is there no comment about the bone, but your better half had the picatta. Oops. I, too, must be dizzy. But my other comments still stand.

    • My goodness, Kat, but aren’t you a feisty one! First, I’ll take no offense to your issues with my personal story – besides, I’ve heard it all before, it’s nothing new. But now that you’ve had your say, please allow me to “dissect the rest” of your comments with my responses:

      1. You are correct, we did not have to wait 45 minutes to be seated – as I stated in the review, a cancellation of a reservation opened up a table for us and we were seated. Nor did we complain about the wait – In fact I even stated that we were politely informed of the wait and that we passed the time outdoors looking at their vegetables and herbs.
      2. I don’t believe it would be reasonably considered “moaning” about the wait time for our entrees – we, too, hate it when our entrees are served right on top of our appetizers. Rather, the point was that the service seemed well-paced at the beginning of our meal, but slowed throughout the evening. We also made the observation that it was not just our table, but many other patrons in the dining room whom also experienced what seemed like an excessive wait time for entrees. In short, yes, 5 minutes or less between courses is too fast, 10-15 minutes seems reasonable, 20+ minutes seems a bit long.
      3. As I responded to a previous commenter, the whole bread thing is really not as big of deal as others have made of it. I’ve tried to explain why we even brought it up, and offer more information as to the circumstances around it, to no avail. I’ll try again for you – it was our extremely polite server who made the repeated observations that the basket was empty all that time, and it was he who also asked someone else to refill it. We only asked twice (as I stated). Once when he asked how we were doing while we waited for our entrees, and once when the manager stopped by a little while later.
      4. When people read reviews, they like to know the reasonableness of pricing in relation to portions. Via Emilia seemingly markets itself as upscale, and their prices reflect that. To that end, when higher prices are expected for smaller portions than other restaurants; when a dish that is made of less than one whole fruit is deemed worthy of an $11 price tag; and when other patrons to the same restaurant ordering the same dish offer photos of inconsistent portions (as with the lasagna) we point these things out in the review.
      5. You can stop cringing – one of us having a food-service background ourselves we gladly leave generous tips! :)
      6. I actually was referring to the Kiolbassa brand name, which is why it was spelled that way. I likened Via Emilia’s Italian sausage to a brand known to be sold in many Woodlands-area grocers, in order to give context to my comment. And while of course I didn’t expect theirs to be in-house made unless they had stated it was (which they didn’t) I was surprised at the lower quality of the product served in light of their attention to detail and the high quality of what they do make in house, such as their pastas.
      7. I agree that the Chicken Picatta looks like Chicken Parmesan, but we assure you it was Chicken Picatta he ordered (we take notes when reviewing, to make sure we remember the dish titles correctly). In my notes, I had written that he ordered the “Pollo alla Picatta” without mushrooms, and what he was served didn’t have them. Thinking back on it now (and rechecking the menu) it would appear that actually, he wasn’t served either the Picatta or the Parmesan. The Picatta shouldn’t have been breaded, and the Parmesan was supposed to have had ham on it, which this dish did not. So thank you for the observation there. I suppose in the confusion after having first received veal, and then chicken, we didn’t realize it still wasn’t right.
      8. It wasn’t my better half that is of Russian descent, it was our guest (as I stated in the review) – we pointed out his heritage to give merit to his observation on the taste of the dish. And the reference we did make to the shank bone was “it was so tender it nearly fell off the bone when the plate was placed on the table.” As to his opinion of it’s flavor, I assure you I did/am quoting his exact observations of it. I also assure you he did not have a “snit” – he’s actually quite reserved. Which is why he apologized to the server for not liking the meal, and declined to have them go to any trouble fixing him another.
      I’m going out on a limb here, but I don’t believe we’ve ever met in person; to that end, I’ll leave all of your personal barbs about our physical appearance and our mannerisms unanswered. But I do thank you for your feedback. As always, we take the good with the bad, and try to keep it all in mind when writing future reviews. Cheers!

  • Jen IN The Woodlands:

    Ha, that was a funny read, I read each and every comment. I will say I find this “like our way or the highway” attitude common here in TW. Love it here, honestly, but these reactions don’t shock me. It’s sad. Everyone’s a “hero” behind their keyboard. Keep up the good work, honesty is what we appreciate.

  • Mike:

    My wife and I have eaten at Via Emilia in The Woodlands several times. Nothing in our experience supports the negative comments in the review. The quality of the food and service have been top notch. The portions are ample. We like the cozy atmosphere. It is small so a reservation is a good idea for evening dining. We will continue to enjoy Via Emilia.

  • Julie Sanchez:

    I think the restaurant’s (or so called loyal customer’s) threatening of pursuing legal action because of a review (a review is just that, a personal opinion because we are allowed to speak our opinions in the USA) speaks loudly! I love Pallotta’s, you can’t sue me for it either.

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