Monday 16 February 2009

Avanzare's Creative Cuisine and Spirited Atmosphere Not Extended to Bathroom

1932 14th Ave.
Vero Beach FL USA

Where is it?

A little tricky to find and for many it will be best to just ask someone for help, as I got lost trying to find it on my own.

If you try to go it alone, do the following: The dining room is split into two distinct sections. When you enter, you will find yourself at the back of the right dining room. Head to the middle of that and look for a small hallway opening to your left (a kitchen station will be on the right, which will help you find this hallway; the hallway itself has several racks of wine in it).

Once there, turn left down that hallway -- this narrow passageway leads to the restaurant's other dining room.

Halfway through is a unisex bathroom. There is another bathroom at the head of the hallway, at the point where you turn into the hallway from the right dining room -- this is the bathroom visited for this review.

What's it like?

This friendly, charming Italian restaurant sits just south of downtown Vero Beach and is one of the better eateries in town -- quite an accomplishment considering how many quality places sit oceanfront.

From the outside, it looks like a typical neighborhood joint. The front windows are covered up so you can't really see inside and the glass is covered in a variety of words, hinting towards the comfort foods prepared inside ("pasta," "calzones," etc.).

Inside, the vibe takes a decidedly hipper turn. The dining room is filled with large tables, low lighting, red walls and loud conversation. It's a hectic scenario to step into, especially from the quiet street outside, but it's a fun place nonetheless. Waiters jet to and fro, people make toasts and swallow food. It's a scene that's also a comfort spot, if that makes any sense.

The food as a whole is pretty inspired and a definite cut or two above the standard Italian joint. The freshness of the ingredients, whether its freshly caught fish or in-house made sausage, really shows. On my recent visit, I had a wonderful artichoke appetizer, in which the veggie was lightly fried and matched with a fresh tomato sauce, that managed to highlight the flavors of the veggie and the sauce. Also worth noting was a fresh ricotta al forno, in which the fresh cheese was prepared in a brulee style that made it both rich, creamy and light. Likewise, a fennel crusted grouper was both meaty and complex but not over-filling, and the sausage bolognese proved to be an impressive spin on the traditional dish.

Service was good but also a bit too gregarious on the front end; and as a result there was some communication mishaps perhaps because the waitress didn't realize we weren't on her wavelength from the get-go. Our soup arrived lukewarm, even after being sent back twice for reheating, and a pasta dish came trailblazingly spicy even though we had asked it to be toned down for a member of our party that couldn't eat spicy food. Prices are good, considering the quality of food. It's just a fun place to visit, with lots of activity and good spirits, as well as some truly creative, well-prepared food.

The bathroom is a far cry from that, however. The single unit facility I visited was a narrow chamber and very long. The toilet sat in the far back corner, the sink in the middle, a urinal just beyond that, a trash can and paper towels in the front corner, behind the door. It's right at the base of that noisy, busy corridor, so you hear a lot of that while inside, which takes the privacy factor down a good notch.

The walls here are dark red in color, the floor covered in medium-sized off-white tile (smaller versions of what I've found at places like like Sharky's Shrimp Shack, Long Point Cafe and Pho 88, among others.

The walls are bare, except for a lone thickly framed stretch mirror hanging above the toilet and sink station. Of course, since the paper towels are on the opposite end of the room from the sink, getting to them is a bit of a stretch -- literally. To be honest, it's one of the worst placements I've seen of paper towel dispensers since my experiences at Bloomingdale's Orlando, which chose to put the towel dispenser in its handicap stall as far away as possible from the stall's sink.

The room itself is pretty dark -- approaching the levels of Shari Sushi, and as a result it makes the noise factor a little harder to swallow (kind of has the effect of noisy neighbors banging on walls while you're trying to sleep).

The toilet, urinal and sink are your standard white porcelain variety. The toilet seat is particularly strange as it has a plastic hair growing out of the bottom of it, which kind of pokes out at you when you've raised the seat to pee. Very unique -- most unique (unintentionally so) toilet seat I've seen since my trip to Thai Singha, to be honest.

Cleanliness-wise: It wasn't bad. Some spilled water on the floor -- no doubt because the towels were placed too far away from the sink and people had to reach for them with dribbly hands.

But at the same time, I couldn't help but be disappointed. The dining room is such a fun, boisterous environment, you kind of hope the bathroom here would follow suit -- be more like Greens and Grille, if you will, than the Ravenous Pig. The possibilities are there but the execution isn't.

Marks of out 10:

6. Really a 5, but I like the rest of the place so much that I have to give it a little more love.

Comments to the Management:

The rest of your restaurant shows lots of inspiration and personality, so why not include those same elements in your bathroom? Make it as much fun as your dining room. Add some fun decor, pipe in some music (so the outside noise isn't as detectable) -- do something other than the bare minimum. Also, it wouldn't hurt if you increased the lighting some. And moved the paper towels closer to the sink. And perhaps cut that plastic thread coming up from the bottom of the toilet seat -- it creeped me out some.

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