Sunday, August 14, 2005

Amazing Johnathans.

Not the goofy magician

but Johnathan's Italian Bistro in Appleton (actually I believe it is in Grand Chute which is an important distinction for at least those who smoke).

Last night Claudia and I stopped at Johnathan's Italian Bistro at 1910 N. Casaloma Dr. in Appleton. This is near Fox Cities Stadium and in the same strip mall as The Cooks Corner, in fact you can get to one from the other.

FYI Johnathans is owned by the same group that owns Fratellos the joint that I panned a couple of weeks ago in this same blog!

Scenery and Ambiance

The ambiance inside Johnathan's nice, IMO, not quite as good as Fratellos. Very high ceilings and the main dining area is in the barroom and the lighting is subdued. They have side dining rooms with full windows so the light is brighter.

The scenery one sees outside the windows is very much ho-hum (at best). I was seated and my view consisted of a nearby mill with hoppers and bins and trucks etc. Hardly the sort of thing one wants to look at while eating in a nice restaurant, at least it wasn't a stockyard. The views Claudia had were better but not by significant amounts.

Fratellos is in an old mill on the river, Johnathan's is in a new strip mall in what used to be (admittedly it has been years) flat farmland. They should switch locations, and not just because of the scenery but because I think Fratellos would draw more people before and after a Timberrattlers game.

The Bar

Looks nice and appears well stocked. The ginnentonic I had before dinner was acceptable (the two I had the night before at an area supper club had flat tonic water) and crisp. Since we were seated immediately I have little to report but my superficial impression is the bar is good.


Of good things came with the bread service. Immediately after being seated they brought out a loaf of bread with a little dish of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The bread was average and they need to put the oil & vinegar on a plate. The vinegar and oil separates and unless you make an effort you only get the oil on your bread. Don't get me wrong the olive oil was good but I really like balsamic vinegar and most people are familiar with olive oil but not balsamic vinegar.

A huge bowl of salad was brought out and Claudia and I received individual salad bowls. The salad was good and was pre-dressed with some sort of oil and vinegar based dressing. Just enough to add good flavor to the salad but not so much to be wasteful or sloppy. The salad contained a variety of greens, red onion, cucumber, croutons, and cherry tomatoes. Basic but well done.

The Wait

Just right, Claudia and I had time to chat but not hours. Our dining mates were treated to one end of a discussion in Bisayan (Claudia phoned her sister in the Philippines)! In any event the pre-meal appetizer were brought out in snappy fashion so we did not have any problems with people getting too hungry.

The Menu and Food

The menu is not as large as Victorias but it contains all the basics. The basics if executed well are all a restaurant truly needs.

I ordered the sausage and peppers, Claudia the vegetable rissoto (made with a chicken stock, so not for vegetarians). I also had a glass of heart medicine aka red wine! I can not recall the exact and full name of the wine but it was Italian, and I recall primitivio being in the name.

The sausage and peppers was a standard but well executed dish! Three links of Italian sausage, a marinara sauce with plum tomatoes, peppers (both red and green), and a tube pasta. They placed a honking huge fresh basil leave on top of the dish. YUMMY!

The wine was good. I do not have highly developed wine tasting abilities yet. I can differentiate between various classes of wine, I know some rough sorts of flavor characteristics (body, astringency), I can tell a bottled wine from a boxed wine but beyond that forget it. Trust me the wine was good and complemented my sausage and peppers wonderfully!

The risotto (which as usual Claudia allowed me to generously sample) did not mix well with my dinner and wine. Its flavor was much more delicate, and I liked it but it needs a separate evaluation. The bites I had contained a large piece of cauliflower and asparagus. This dish too came with a large fresh basil leave. This needed a white wine and not a red wine to go with. The wine I was drinking and the dish I had pretty much negated any chance I had to do any serious tasting of this dish.

In Short (order)

  • The view I give a 1/5 (0 being overlooking a stockyard).

  • The ambiance I give a 4/5 (0 being a joint with the stud walls still not covered over).

  • The menu I give a 4/5 (0 being "you get what I give you").

  • The food itself I give a 4.5/5 (0 being Irish sausages).

  • The service I give a 4/5 (0 being you have to wash your own dishes afterwards).


  • Overall I give 4.0/5 (0 being they would have to pay me to eat there again).

Despite the fierce competition in the Italian style dining in Appleton I will give Jonathan's Italian Bistro a slot in our restaurant rotation. I suggest you do too!

Don't forget this weekend's contest!