I made the mistake, or rather, choice, to go on to Yelp and read only the negative reviews of Saranello’s in Wheeling on Sunday, before we went there for dinner. I think I read only the negative ones because I felt like all I’ve been doing is praising the restaurants we’ve been going to lately, and it made me feel like an actual foodie, not an anti-foodie. I’m not supposed to like this food, although, to be fair, I am just eating super normal stuff and not really venturing too far out of my comfort zone. But either way, I felt like I needed to write about how terrible a place was, so reading just the bad Yelp reviews of Saranello’s put me in the mindset that it was going to be a terrible experience, but with decent food.

All of the bad reviews I read basically threw the bartenders and the servers under the bus, saying that things were slow, there was no communication, and some of the bartenders just seemed like they didn’t want to be there… I can’t speak for the bartenders, because we didn’t sit at the bar, but I did not experience any of the other issues these reviewers had.

Now, keep in mind that there are far less bad reviews than there are good reviews for Saranello’s, but when you read only the bad reviews, it still makes a place seem absolutely awful, so I really was expecting to wait a long time after our reservation time, have terrible service, and mediocre food, all of which I was prepared to write about at length… but that wasn’t the case.

Saranello’s Service

We had a 6:30pm reservation on Sunday for a group of 11 (8 adults and 3 kids). I thought for sure the size of our party was going to have a direct correlation on our service, but our server J.D. was incredible. We were sat kind of out of the way in the main dining room, which was perfect because if you’ve ever dined with 3 kids, you know it can get annoying… and while I don’t mind other kids around me when I’m having dinner, I hate when my own kids start annoying people that might not be as forgiving as me.

Our server, J.D. came over and immediately started playing around with the kids as he was taking our drink orders. He was extremely friendly, personable and professional the entire night. I think he may have even brought out a few extra desserts for us, but I’m not sure… I honestly don’t know what we actually ordered for dessert.

The only minor issues we had with the service, and really, they weren’t anything that would cause me to write a bad Yelp review about the restaurant, were it took us asking a couple times to get bread for the table. But of course, when it did come, J.D. brought us like 2 full loaves of bread, which was perfect. And the other little thing was that it took quite a while for our desserts to come out, which may be why a couple extra plates made their way to our table, but I’m not sure.

Overall though, we had the exact opposite experience with the service that those bad Yelp reviews had. I’m not sure if the bartenders are just worse, or if those people writing those reviews just have stupid high expectations for things, but we did not experience anything with our service that would cause me to talk bad about them. In fact, J.D. was probably one of the best servers I’ve had at a restaurant in a long time.

Spaghetti, Meatballs, Fettuccini, and a Burger

Alright, full disclosure, I ate as basic as you could possibly eat at this place, but I did try a couple bites of other people’s foods to see how they tasted. Not to gross anyone out, but I’ve had a few IBS flare ups and have been trying to go back on the low fodmap diet a bit to even out my digestive system… not that you really needed to know that, or cared, but it explains why I ordered a cheeseburger instead of something else.

I mean, let’s not kid ourselves though, I probably would have ordered the cheeseburger regardless of what was going on with my stomach.

That being said, let’s talk about that cheeseburger.

cheeseburger saranellos wheeling
Cheeseburger and Fries – Don’t Judge

Being a ‘Rustic Italian Restaurant’ I wasn’t expecting much from a medium-well cheeseburger with American cheese and nothing else, and based on that picture above, it doesn’t look like much… but I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was.

I usually order my burgers medium-well because it’s pretty rare that a place actually cooks it right, and it usually comes out medium, which is perfect. And this case was no different.

The burger was one of the better restaurant burgers I’ve had, outside of places that pride themselves on their burgers of course, but it was good enough that I was actually surprised by how good it tasted.

And the fries, oh man do I love salty fries. The only way salty fries get better is if you load them up with pulled pork and cheese, but these fries on their own were pretty damn good.

tomato caprese saranellos wheeling
Tomato Caprese

We did get some appetizers as well, the crispy calamari and the tomato caprese. I can’t have tomatoes so I stayed away from that one, but the calamari was pretty tasty. I was a little disappointed with the amount of calamari that was on the plate, I thought there should be a bit more, but they tasted pretty good. A little note, it says that it’s just crispy calamari with giardiniera, but it does come with cocktail sauce as well, and both were on the side. I don’t really care for giardiniera, and I’m sure others don’t either, so just wanted to make sure you knew that it does come with cocktail sauce as well.

crispy calamari saranellos wheeling
Crispy Calamari

As for the other entrees at the table, my wife got the fettuccini with pancetta, sausage, peas, parmesan, truffle cream. I took a few bites to see how it was, and it was decent. The sausage was a little on the spicy side, but everything else was fine. I could definitely see myself ordering this as an entree if we make it back over here.

fettuccini chicken meatballs saranellos wheeling
Fettuccini w/ Side of Chicken Meatballs

In addition to the fettuccini she also ordered a side of the chicken meatballs and sauce. These were not as good as the fettuccini, nor were they as good as the pork & veal meatballs. I like chicken, but I don’t like chicken meatballs. It just seems way to dense for a meatball.

They were a little bit spicy, just as the pork & veal meatballs are, but I don’t think it was too spicy that it was unenjoyable. In fact, I didn’t even get a spicy piece of the chicken meatball, but I did with the pork & veal, and someone else got a spicy piece of the chicken meatball while another person didn’t with the pork & veal. So it seems like the spiciness was a little hit or miss in the meatballs. But if you generally don’t like spicy food, you might want to avoid the meatballs.

lasagna saranellos wheeling

A couple people at the table got the lasagna, which I did not get to try because they cleared their plates way too fast… and I don’t mean the servers did, I mean they ate all of their food extremely quickly, so I’m guessing it was pretty good. My sister in-law got the spaghetti and meatballs (pictured at top), which is how I tried the pork & veal meatball, and the whole dish was another one of those dishes that I could probably order if we went back in the future. In fact, I was actually going to order this, but decided to play it safe instead.

The only other thing that I tried that night was half of my daughter’s grilled cheese sandwich, which was right up there with my love of the burger. It was awesome, and they even cut the crust off of the bread… who does that?

As for the desserts, I only got to try a small bite of some sort of chocolate cake/brownie thing, that I’m not even sure is on the menu online. It was delicious, but with my 9-month old getting antsy (it was way past his bedtime), I had to get up and walk around to keep him calm.

Overall I don’t know if I liked the restaurant so much because I had such low expectations after reading the bad Yelp reviews, or if the food and overall experience was just that good, but I’m going to just remind people not to use the few bad reviews you may read to prevent you from trying somewhere.

We had a great experience at Saranello’s Ristorante Italiano and would definitely come back to try it again… as long as J.D. is our server though…

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