I wrote enthusiastically about Cerroni's Purple Garlic when it returned to its original location on Austin Highway last year. I've become something of a regular there (again), because it really is excellent, outstanding, superior, fantastic pizza. I could go on and on about that, but there's more to a restaurant, and more to a dining experience, than just the main course, and I think I've made that point already.
Unfortunately, the other things that go into making a pleasant experience are somewhat lacking.
When you get to the Purple Garlic, you're escorted to a table, given menus, and then expected to go to the counter to place your order ... usually. This time, though, we were greeted by a somewhat unenthusiastic kid of about high-school age, who asked us if we wanted menus. We said we did, so he handed them to us and waved vaguely about the room, indicating, we surmised, that we could sit wherever the hell we wanted, he didn't care. We chose a place, examined the menu, and made our choices. I went to the register and placed an order for two salads, a pizza, and two glasses of wine. I paid the bill, gathered up the wine, which had been poured and left sitting on an adjacent counter, and went to my table.
About twenty minutes later, I remarked that, for the second time in a row, the salads were taking forever to arrive. Last time we went, about a month ago, the salads arrived just before the pizza. This time, they seemed to have been missed altogether. We mentioned it to the waitress, another disinterested high school student, who said she would check on them.
They duly arrived a couple of minutes later. They were not worth waiting for. I've given up on complaining about the lost art of salad preparation. Apparently, culinary schools no longer teach that nothing in a salad should be so big that a lady has to open her mouth to an ungracious width; and nothing in a salad should have to be cut by the customer. Tomato slices, onion, cucumber, and especially lettuce leaves should be reduced to an unobtrusive size before serving.
Well, like I say, that sort of graciousness is out of fashion. But these salads consisted mainly of whole lettuce leaves, with a single (intact) slice of tomato, a single (similarly intact) slice of red onion, a large crouton, and a pepperoncini. The whole thing was bland, in addition to being gauche. And the salad dressing (Italian, in my case) added nothing.
The place is generally pleasant, especially in fine weather with its large outside seating area, hidden from Austin Highway by shrubbery; in August, of course, there's no way I'm sitting outside when there's air conditioning to be had. But we were there on a Saturday night, and at the Purple Garlic, kids eat free on Saturdays (and Wednesdays).
This isn't really a bad thing, at least not for me. I'm at the age where a flock of moderately well-behaved infants and toddlers is a charming sight, and the common refrain of "Mommy, I have to poop" brings only a smile and a fond memory. But I can see where it'd be unpleasant for, say, a twentysomething out on a date. Just be forewarned: if that's you, go on a Friday night.