Jacksonville, FL 32223
I am always looking for the Italian restaurant, I would return to, and I’m still looking. Benito’s may be the closest I have come so far. A family owned spot in this area for the last 13 years, I was up for some Italian food, so I picked this spot.
Situated in another mall, easy to access right off Loretto Road.
Service was quite relaxed, when I arrived it was well past lunch, but too early for dinner so I had the place to myself. That’s always like a kiss of death, for me; you’re the only person in the place and everyone ignores you. But to blow that myth out of the water, as I sat someone was rushing out of the kitchen to place a just out of the oven Bruschetta on my table, I was not going to complain.
The menu finally appeared, and I ordered something to drink as I read. This is how it went.
First choice, the Eggplant Rollatini, fresh eggplant rolled with ricotta cheese, topped with mozzarella and marinara. The sauce was quite nice, eggplant tasty and full or ricotta. I make these at home, I was not unhappy with their version.
Along with that the Mussels sautéed in spicy Fra Diavalo sauce. They also offer a garlic oil version I went spicy.
This dish was a big fail. The menu read 12 mussels, and there were clearly more which is never a bad thing right? Here is the rub, many of the mussels were unopened, and had to be discarded, that along with the fact the sauce was full of broken shells, causing the diner to have to stir the gravy in order to pluck them out so you don’t bite into one. Total turn off. The Fra Diavalo was quite good, sadly I am so turned off by now it was done. What was sinful there was some beautiful garlic bread, served with the meal, that would have been happy to be dipped in the sauce.
But the story has a happy ending. I am a pretty basic pasta person, my go to dish, wherever I am is Aglio e Olio, Spaghetti, and it’s always Linguini. Good olive oil is a must and fresh garlic can make or break this dish. This dish made up for the lackluster service, bad mussels and every thing else that may have gone wrong that day. It was brilliant. Al dente, well salted, smooth light olive oil, ample amount of small diced garlic. Truly a gem.
I would return just for the opportunity to eat this dish again. There are several items that deserve a test, and for sure I will return to do the testing. Gather the besties, go hungry, and have some fun.