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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Petrino: Nice Location, But the Mediterranean Food is Strictly Meh

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 3:15 PM

click to enlarge The standard-issue mezze sampler. - M. BRODY
  • M. Brody
  • The standard-issue mezze sampler.
Entering the recently opened Petrino on Kearny, we glimpsed a sleek bar area and dining room kitted out in rich dark wood. Until the host whisked us down a flight of stairs and to a window-lined space at the back, we didn't realize that the restaurant overlooked the festive outdoor patio that is Belden Place.

click to enlarge At least the people-watching is tasty. - M. BRODY
  • M. Brody
  • At least the people-watching is tasty.
The restaurant calls itself Mediterranean, which translates as Middle Eastern and Greek dishes (hummus, avgolemono soup, gyro wraps, souvlaki skewers, moussaka) and a few basic pastas (linguini with meat sauce or vegetables).

The Mediterranean mezze sampler ($11.95 for two, $18.95 for four) offered standard-issue hummus, melitzanosalata (not very garlicky mashed eggplant, roasted bell peppers, and tomato), and tzatziki, served with two herb-tinged falafels, two mussel shells heaped with lemony rice, olives, and nicely tangy cubes of feta. (Dolmas, mentioned on the menu, never made it to the plate.) A lamb and beef gyro wrap ($6.95) was also run of the mill, served with a so-called garden salad of iceberg lettuce.

Compared to the crab cakes ($8.95), the sandwich shone. They were two thin pancakes that betrayed very little taste and texture of crab, squiggled with red pepper sauce and served with the same unremarkable salad -- definitely contenders for the worst crab cakes we've ever had. The menu description ("made with the freshest crabmeat") added insult to injury. If the crab in those cakes wasn't canned, the Petrino cooks managed to transform it into a very good imitation.

Wonderful, or anyway better, dishes might be hiding on the Petrino menu, but the three plates we shared didn't encourage further exploration. Walking down Kearny, we passed a tiny, dive-y hole in the wall also serving gyro wraps for $6.95. The Petrino advantage is that you can sit at a white-linened table overlooking Belden Place for the same price.

Petrino 322 Kearny (at Bush), 391-3737; daily, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

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Meredith Brody


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