We have been hearing mixed opinions of Terra Nostra so the Discriminating Diner thought it was time to experience what they have to offer. Terra Nostra, at one time was located on Fort Myers Beach and is now in the Target Center on San Carlos Blvd in the location of the former Cork and Barrel. According to their website their mission is “to serve homemade food in a restaurant environment.” I am not so sure they have accomplished this. They are experienced restaurateurs and in some ways, it shows and in others not so much.
Terra Nostra – The Beginning
We were a party of 5 that particular evening. My first impression was that the décor was pretty much the same as it was when it was Cork and Barrel although they did open it up more and added large round tables for bigger groups. The tables are covered with vinyl table cloths with a geometric pattern. They are thick and not those thin ones you tend to see in more causal restaurants. The round tables have white cloth table coverings. All tables have white cloth napkins. However, a restaurant of this caliber with the average entrée price of $20, vinyl table coverings is not what one would expect. I understand perhaps the outdoor seating on the patio one would want to use this type of table covering but not inside.
Some in our party had cocktails and other had beer or soda. The cocktails, $10 for a Chocolate Martini, were very good. So, we were encouraged that the meal and service would also be very good. We were given bread with olive oil/spice for dipping and a Kalamata olive spread. The olive spread came pre-made and one had to pull off the paper covering. They really should have brought it to the table already opened and explained what it was. As for the taste, if you like Kalamata olives you will like this.
Terra Nostra – The Service
Our server was attentive and pleasant but I can’t say that was the case for all the servers. They have food runners, others who refill drinks etc. At one point one of my dining partners asked for more coffee and had to repeat it twice before the gentlemen server would acknowledge he heard her. Very few of the servers seemed to smile. There were other service issues, not with our server luckily but when they bring the food out they stand and ask…who has the__________? Commonly known as food auctioning. For a restaurant of this caliber and experience, that is not what one expects.
Terra Nostra – The Food
So now for the food. My dining partners all enjoyed theirs as I did mine. However, there was nothing special about any of it. I had the Farfalle Terra Nostra ($21.95) with fresh tomatoes, broccoli, sun dried tomatoes, chicken with wine and garlic. This is not a difficult dish to make. The chicken is in chunks and I sincerely doubt they cooked the breast and then cut it into chunks as each chunk was exactly the same size/shape. The chicken was cooked inconsistently. Some were moist/tender and other were dry and overcooked. There was not much garlic flavor despite seeing plenty of garlic slices. However, they were overcooked and mushy. The broccoli was cooked perfectly though. Overall it just did not have much flavor. The portions are average and entrees do not include a side salad but you add one for $4.
My dining partners had the Chicken Marsala $20.95, Veal Marsala 23.95, Penne Vodka with chicken $21.95, The Veal special for the evening. One guest had a side order of meatballs which were 4 small meatballs.
The desserts, we were told were made in house except for the mini cannoli and the spumoni ice cream. I had the almond torte which was very good, moist with just the right amount of almond flavor. My dining partners all enjoyed their tiramisu and cannoli’s. One of our dining partners was celebrating their birthday so the Maitre D was asked if a candle could be added to the tiramisu. She was told yes but it never materialized. When we were leaving, our waitress wished our dining partner a happy birthday.
Terra Nostra – In Conclusion
There are so many restaurant choices these days, that one must really enjoy the experience in order to return. I cannot say that I found any such reason. While it is not bad, it is also not all that great. It is all in the minute details. The servers did not seem to focus on their guests experience but rather they seemed to be just completing tasks. The menu is not all that creative and the food well you can get the same elsewhere and pay a more appropriate price for it.
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