Piccobello Pizzeria

Setting, Theme and Other Background Info

Found along Glenara Avenue (47 Glenara Ave), it is set atop a “hill” (used very loosely here), giving the impression that you are watching the world go by. It has an Italian fused with African theme going, the Italian can be felt in their menu and the African filters through some of their decor. You have the option of eating out in the open with overhanging trees or you can sit inside, this is a plus in my book as it gives your patrons the option of either being out in open enjoying our sunny weather or you can opt for the more private indoors feel. Personally I prefer inside as I am not a fan of insects and the like buzzing around my food. They have an outdoor children’s play area which makes it family friendly. Their staff wears the typical and boring black and white attire common in many restaurants. I love their location, you can see cars going by, people going about their business but you watch from a distance as if you are a spectator secluded from this busy world.

Ok, on to the problems; They do not maintain their green spaces. I am strong believer in order and neatness. If you are going have a green space at any establishment, maintain it. Do no let it overgrow or have patch of green and brown lawn. Their children’s play area looks a bit dodgy and made me wonder whether they have any procedures for sanitizing that space, after all children play there. Due to the inclined nature of the restaurant, they have stairs which lead to the tables but this was not ergonomically designed so there is a bit of stretching involved. I felt there is a lot of wasted space, they could extend their eating areas to accommodate more patrons. Another issue was bugs and flies,  I understand we have a warm climate making it difficult to control such but it is not impossible. I do not enjoy sitting down for a meal and every few seconds I have to swat flies away.  There is no real shade/cover on their open eating area which makes me wonder what they do during the rainy season. They also have these bead/reed curtains on the walk-way leading to their bathrooms, its kinda corny and out of place.

Menu and Food, you know the important stuff

Their menu offers some delicious sounding meals and pizzas (after all it is a pizzeria first and restaurant second). They have everything from salads, pastas to pizzas. They do however have a very narrow range of desserts of which the majority are boring. They have small descriptions of what each dish offers (always a plus in my book, patrons need to know what they are getting if they wish to try something new). The actual menu itself is well designed and extensive enough to offer a variety but not excess to the point of creating confusion. Now comes the ordering, the staff is rather relaxed, a bit too relaxed for my liking, I understand that it was a slow day (Sunday) with very few people there but service should always be stellar regardless of the number of patrons you are serving.  They seem almost disinterested in their customers, I felt like I was an intruder instead of a valued customer. As is customary the waiter came to take our order for drinks which arrived in a very reasonable amount of time. He then took our meal order and informed us it would take 15 minutes but left nothing to appease my grumbling stomach while I waited for my meal. I always have issues with this, when people come to you for a meal, they arrive hungry you need to give them something to keep them comfortable while they wait, even if they do not eat it offer it still. It shows you are sensitive to the need of your patrons. So I ordered a seafood pizza, I wanted to try something new and unusual. It arrived in less than 15 minutes on a plain white pizza plate with accompanying plain white and somewhat tiny serving plates. The good thing was it was steaming hot, I had to wait a few minutes before I could dig in. Okay I cut away my first pizza piece and took a bite… It was very very very very salty. I figured I may have gotten a bad piece and finished that one and tried another one, no no no things did not change. I do not know if this is how a seafood pizza should taste but it was not friendly to my mouth. I could feel my tongue throwing a tantrum, crying its little tongue eyes out, clutching it tongue throat signalling “water, water”. I quit after those two slices. I doubt that any chef would intentionally add that much salt to anything, which made me assume that they probably use canned/tinned seafood instead of the fresh/frozen stuff. It may be canned in brine which would explain the saltiness. I mentioned this to our waiter but he seemed “unmoved by my experience, not to mention torture and instead produced the bill.

What’s Good.

The food comes hot, I did not have the pleasure of trying out their other dishes. I am certain that my choice of seafood pizza was just that a bad choice and is no reflection of the nature of their other dishes. The set up is almost perfect with the exception of a lack of maintenance of green spaces and back pain inducing stairs.

What Could Be Better

Again, be warned.. I am picky.

Green spaces should be manicured and not unkempt, I get that I am in Zimbabwe, an African country but the bush should stay in they bush. Any children’s play area should be kept clean and sanitized that is a must in my opinion, no exceptions. They need to pick better desserts. It would be cool if they could personalize the pizza plates with the restaurant’s insignia. They need to lose that bead/reed curtain. Lastly they need to improve on their service, no matter that you have a few patrons, do not hold back on service. Ooh almost forgot… They need to remove the seafood pizza from the menu.

Overall experience; I liked the set-up. I liked the dishes on their menu, desserts being the exception. Service could be better. Its a lovely place to visit on a sunny afternoon and is child friendly.  There is room for improvement.

 

 

 

 

KwaMambo Restaurant

Okay so this is the first restaurant I visited since my last post. My thoughts??? Here goes……

Setting, Theme and Other Background Info

So this place is tucked away in a nice walled corner (40 Cork Road, Avondale, Harare) which almost creates the illusion that you are far away from the hustle and bustle of city life. It has an African theme going [evident in its name;KwaMambo (King’s Court)]. They try and highlight their theme through their decor mostly (metal tables,wooden benches and art pieces) and off course the curio shop which is bursting at the seams with hand-crafted items. Their staff is also dressed to complement this theme with batik style uniforms. There is a lot of green areas (grass and other small plants), trees, a pond and water feature so you get this outdoorsy feeling. I love the feeling the place gives you, it clears your mind for the few minutes or hours you spend having your meal. The greenery makes the place cool and comfortable, you really feel like you are at the king’s court.

My problem, they do not put a lot of effort into maintaining their green spaces so some of it has this unkempt appearance, it tends to attract small insects which just fly around here and there. If you are someone who is not fond of bugs this may put you off. Their curio shop is so full of items, may of which are delicate making it difficult and even scary for patrons to move freely, you constantly worry you might break something. They could dial the curios down a notch. They have this whole African theme going but it is not evident in the presentation of their food. It would be kinda cool if their plates, mugs,glasses and even cutlery resonated this African theme. If you ask me they could borrow some of this stuff from the “dreaded” curio shop. They offer wifi services which is attracts customers who want to have a “working lunch” (yeah right we all know now one really does any work at a restaurant).

Menu and Food,you know the important stuff

They have a menu of the tables but it just gives you the items available for breakfast and drinks. The rest of their menu is on written on chalk boards in their reception area. I get they want to have an eclectic vibe to the place but its confusing to have two different menus, either have one menu with everything on the table or have everything up on the chalk board. So when you want to order something you have to get up from your seat and go to the reception area, there you go through a pretty long list of meals but you don’t order right away oh noooo… you walk back to your table and then you give your waiter your order (maybe they are trying to get people to exercise more). Their service is pretty timely, while you wait you can nibble on these super fresh buns they put on your table with butter (if you are not careful you could leave without ordering anything else coz those buns are pretty goooooood). My issue though is once you receive you food, the waiter has a tendency to disappear (if you ask me I think the waiter is probably lost in that maze of a curio shop). I am not saying they should wait on you like a lion stalking it prey but I think once in a while you should return to check on your customer. Okay okay enough of the bad stuff; They offer all these different tastes on their menu from Mediterranean, Italian to Asian style dishes. I had Thai fish cakes with mashed potato and vegetables for the day (I was hungry okay, a salad was not gonna cut it). Their food is very well prepared, it comes flaming hot (not in flavour but temperature), they offer a lot of salads which work well with the sometimes hot climate here. Everything is freshly prepared so you won’t get a soggy salad with sickly looking lettuce that looks it was lost in that curio shop for days (it may be evident that I am not a big fan of the curio shop at this point). They offer some simple but lovely and delicious house-made juices such a lemonade among others. This picture would not be complete without some confectionery, they do have cakes, muffins, the usual. My only problem is sometimes these items are not fresh as witnessed by the crumbling blueberry muffin I ordered (I was hungry okay don’t judge me). Their prices are reasonable, you do get value for money and if you want to switch… ooohhh lets say a salad for mashed potato they don’t charge you extra.

What’s Good

Their food is great and I love the variety. I love the fresh salads and drinks. I must commend the effort to ensure food is served hot. I enjoy the African theme and green spaces, as I said before it creates the feeling of being isolated from the distractions of the City. I like the curio shop to some extent.

What Could Be Better

Before I start I will admit I can be picky…okay very picky. So bear with me.

They could put more effort into maintaining the green spaces, bugs no matter how minute and food don’t make for a good dining experience. The curio shop is too crowded and it takes up too much space, they should tone it down a lot. The African theme should be evident in their presentation of food, an African king does not use average looking white plate or mugs. They could use some of the items in their curio shop as part of the dishware. Their baked goods should always be freshly made that day, stale items are a no no…..NO!. They close too early for a restaurant in such an ideal location (16:30 on weekdays), I mean cmon now.

Overall experience; This place is really the King’s Court, the food and atmosphere is simply great, it is worth every penny but they could improve on a few aspects. 

Eating out. What should I expect??

What makes for a good experience when you eating out?? Mind you I am not talking about your run of the mill fast food joint. I mean your restaurants, bistros, cafes e.t.c. Okay so back to my question. Is it the set up of the place? Is is the service? Is it their menu? Or the accessories and condiments they use to decorate their tables? Maybe its the ambiance they try and create? Or is is just the quality of food they serve and they way its presented does not matter. What about the food safety aspects of it all? Are you still going to go ahead with your meal if your glass of water comes with a dash of  fingerprints of the last person who used it? What about other issues such; Are they child friendly, do they have a dress code and pricing??

Well I am no expert but I think all of this matters and then some. There is something appealing about an establishment which pays attention to detail. It may be the colour of their tablecloths or the size of their tea-cups. It all has some effect on how a patron will feel dining there.

My question still remains. What makes for a good dining experience??? I won’t answer this question sitting in front of my computer. So  ” Challenge accepted!!” I am on a mission to find some of the best places to eat in my not so famous city, Harare (in Zimbabwe). The fun is the journey right?? or something to that effect. My plan is to eat somewhere different every chance I can get and well.. write about it. Will this help find a cure for cancer?? No, buuuuut the researchers searching for the cure may read this and know where to eat if they ever visit Harare. So armed with my taste-buds and camera I set off to face good/bad food, possible food poisoning, maybe even bankruptcy, restaurant security kicking me out thinking I am spy and even weight gain all in the name of defining a good dining experience… Wish me luck and some antacids!