I first of all have to note that if you follow a lot of Cincinnati Food Blogs, you will feel that this is repetitive of Cincinnati Bites post. Apparently, we were both at Barresi's on Valentine's Day! So, check out his blog too for more reviews if interested :)
I have lived near Barresi's for a really long time and have never gone. I walk past this restaurant on my neighborhood walks at least 3 times a week and had often wonder what it's like on the inside. Kris and I have both have lived near hear and always talked about going but never did. From the outside, Barresi's looks like a renovated stucco home with vines and flowers painted on the outside of the building. It appears very charming from the outside and was always a mystery to me. I had heard that this was a pretty pricey place, which was why I had never gone before.
I typically am able to talk Ross into going to a nicer restaurant for Valentine's Day. Yes, we do go out for Valentine's Day. It really is a good excuse for me to go to nicer restaurants that we wouldn't normally go to :) When I suggested Barresi's, he immediately agreed. He had been wanting to try it too!
We made reservations since it was a holiday and knew that it can fill up quickly. We made early reservations though and I think we would have been able to go on in and have a seat. Barresi's is a very warm and inviting restaurant. We were greeted by a hostess who offered to take our coats for us and led us to the hostess stand to check in for our reservation. The inside of Barresi's is pretty close to what I imagined it to be. Lots of rooms that have eclectic touches that make you feel like you're at home. We were led to an upstairs dining area that was broken into 2 or 3 separate rooms. We sat toward the back next to a fireplace.
After looking over the wine list for a minute, I selected a glass of wine and Ross opted for a beer. Our server was attentive and friendly, but appeared a bit nervous. She may have been new, but this didn't bother us in the slightest. She was very knowledgeable and shared good opinions about the menu items. The full menu was not available this night, but there were still plenty of options. As we looked it over, a basket of their famous Zeppoles. These things were AMAZING. I had never heard or tasted such things before, but these were addictive. Zeppoles are little square bites of fried dough and had just enough salt and garlic. They were served with butter. I tried not to eat too many before even ordering my meal because I wanted to save room, but I could have easily eaten that entire basket of these.
There were so many different menu items that sounded delicious that it was hard to decide. After asking the server her opinion and going back and forth a couple times, I decided to get the Beef Crab Gorgonzola. This was twin filets with lump crab meat, topped with a mushroom and artichoke Gorgonzola cream sauce. Need I say more!?
Ross ordered the Lobster Ravioli and Crabmeat Cardinale. This was one of our server's suggestion and was one that I almost ordered too. All the entrees were served with a house salad and a side pasta.
The salads came out first. These were just OK. I was actually expecting a better salad. The house dressing was pretty good for the most part, but again, just fine salads.
Now, for my complaint that really has nothing to do with the restaurant itself. Ross and I were enjoying the quiet ambiance of the restaurant, which was pretty quiet overall until the table next to us was sat. This was a family of 5 or 6 people with two boys and 3 or 4 adults. I don't mind groups, kids, or even noisy groups; however, this was by far one of the most annoying tables I have EVER sat by in my entire life. Keep in mind this was Valentine's Day in a more "upscale" restaurant that is pretty quiet. The kids were fine, but the adults talking to these kids was so distracting that it pretty much ruined my dinner. The continuous nitpicking then complimenting, then correcting, then praising...it was all too much for me. This non-stop banter continued the rest of the meal....
So, for the rest of my food...I can easily say it was delicious. The filets were cooked perfectly, juicy and tender. The crab, filet, and gorgonzola cream sauce was a very rich and flavorful combination. There was a little earthiness from the mushrooms and artichokes, but overall the entire dish was spot on. It was definitely a very rich and creamy sauce, so if that's not your thing this wouldn't be your dish, but I loved it and would easily order it again!
Ross also loved his lobster ravioli. This also had a lobster cream sauce served with it. I thought the portion was a good size and a really unique option for Italian. I tried this as well and liked it a lot, but liked mine better :)
Barresi's was a great choice for a restaurant for a special occasion. Like I said, Italian food is one of my favorites and this did not disappoint. I wish that the rest of the patrons had been a little more tolerable because it really was completely distracting and made it difficult to pay attention to anything else!
Service was overall good, nothing that stood out, but average overall. But if you want a nice, family-owned neighborhood restaurant, this will definitely give you what you're looking for.
Overall Experience: 3 (due to the other guests)