Gianni’s Steakhouse in Wayzata

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

What is “value”? The idea of getting your money’s worth while dining out is such a controversial and subjective thing that many food critics dispense with it, in part or entirely.

The problem is at least twofold: First, gourmets sometimes take the sniffily privileged attitude that if you have to ask what something costs, you really must not care much about food in the first place.

Secondly, we all have friends or relatives who could be taken to Bar La Grassa on a great night only for them to emerge complaining about how the portions are so much bigger (and less expensive!) at the Burnsville Olive Garden.

That said, there has to be a useful, transparent way to wrestle with what restaurant food should cost versus what it does cost. We thought we’d take a crack at this goal by evaluating our experience at Gianni’s Steakhouse, in Wayzata.

My wife and I visited Gianni’s due to an enthusiastic recommendation from a friend. We were told that it’s a traditional steakhouse, a family place — these are things we’re familiar with and enjoy, having both grown up with Wisconsin supper club culture. The plan was to have a leisurely, old-fashioned Midwestern meal, but by the end of the night, we felt as though we’d been politely mugged by steak-toting bandits.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

But how to unravel what happened without sounding like a jerk? The food, after all, wasn’t bad — it simply felt overpriced. What follows is my best stab at forensic gastronomic accounting, an attempt to account for where the money went.

Two numbers follow each item we ordered. The first, the menu price. The second, the perceived value — what we thought seemed fair based on competing restaurants’ dishes, quality of food, estimated cost of ingredients, and overall enjoyment of the item.

Item: Glass of Pinot Grigio

We failed to note the maker of this aggressively priced glass of wine, which is a shame — it would be worthwhile to buy a bottle and see if measured down to the version served at Gianni’s. We asked the waiter for a wine recommendation, and he steered us (without detailed explanation) toward the most expensive glass on the menu. The wine that arrived was in a carafe, rarely a good sign (and a reason why the name of the bottle escapes me). It tasted like something from a decent $5 bottle at Trader Joe’s — flat, lifeless, a bit sweet, and ultimately too lame to drink.

List price: $13.50
Perceived Value: $3

Item: Summit EPA on draft

The Summit EPA, however, tasted like a Summit EPA.

List price: $5
Perceived Value: $5

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Tableside Spun Salad

One of the most charming aspects of Gianni’s is its tableside “spun salad” service. A wide range of toppings (including anchovies and shrimp) can be selected on an ala carte basis and added to a salad which is mixed by being spun at high speeds in a bowl, tableside. It would be nice if these salads would be included with the high-priced entrees, but since they aren’t, $6 certainly seems fair.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

List Price $6 (with entree)
Perceived Value: $6

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Oysters Rockefeller

Eggy enough to taste like mini-omelets, these Oysters Rockefeller were somewhat redeemed by an aggressive shot of Tabasco. An order of Meritage’s Oysters Meritage is $5 cheaper and considerably tastier, but it’s understandable that this kind of an appetizer would price out at at least $1.50 an oyster, so let’s stick with that ($9) as our perceived value for the dish.

List Price: $16
Perceived Value: $9

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Potatoes Papallete

This house specialty side order of sour cream, cheddar, and onion-laced hash-brown style potatoes is supposedly big enough to feed two to four people — in reality, the giant mound of food that arrived could easily satisfy a table of six.

The enormous side would in theory make the dish a great value were it not for the quality of the food involved — the cheddar was flavorless and low-grade, the onion flavor un-noticeable (some chives, scallions, or other more aggressive flavor would have really helped wake up this food-service grade mountain of glop) and the whole mass was akin to breakfast at Denny’s. The total cost of ingredients involved to make this spud dump can’t be more than $3, and that comes through on the plate.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

List price: $13
Perceived Value: $5

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Petite Filet Mignon

Gianni’s makes a decent steak. The Petite Filet was pleasantly mild and buttery, and had a good char to it, but it didn’t compare in intensity of flavor to a similar cut and style we’d tried at Manny’s. Gianni’s wet ages its steak, while Manny’s dry ages its meat — a more time-consuming method that further concentrates the flavor of the meat. To be fair, Manny’s charges more, too – $41 for its small filet.

List price: $35
Perceived value: $25

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Pork Chop

Ordered medium rare, this Duroc pork chop arrived medium well and difficult to cut. Compared to a Duroc pork chop sampled at Heartland, it lacked both flavor and tenderness. A Ponderosa pork chop is $10 and includes buffet plus choice of potato. Let’s grant that the Gianni’s pork chop is arguably better, but after you deduct the potato (value $6.50 at Gianni’s) and buffet (heck, $3.50), the perceived value of Gianni’s version ends up, generously, at about $10. An accompaniment of sweet corn and thick-cut bacon bits was tasty, however, and certainly worth $5.

List price: $28
Perceived value: $15

So, let’s run the numbers:

Total price of meal (before tip and tax): $116.50

Total perceived value of meal (before tip and tax): $68.00

Ultimately, then: By the time we were done with dinner, it felt like we overpaid by almost double, which is pretty brutal. Subjective? Sure. If you disagree, run the numbers yourself for us in the comments section; it’d be interesting to see another perspective.

And if you’re wondering about dessert: By the time we finished the entrees, we were in cut-our-losses mode. We hit the Ben & Jerry’s shop down the street, which, valuewise, turned out to be a fine move.

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

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59 Comments

  1. I’ve dined there 3 times in the past 10 years (never by my choice) and I have to say this review is spot on. and you were far more even handed that I would have been.

  2. Agreed. I’ve dined at Gianni’s a number of times and always found it satisfying, but not fulfilling, if that makes sense. It’s a nice setting and concept, but always seems to underwhelm.

  3. I couldn’t agree more. That has been my experience coupled with snotty service

  4. You forgot to add the perceived value of dining in Wayzata! There is a segment of the population that finds great joy in overpaying for mediocre food while remaining in their homogeneous suburban enclave, rather than braving the scary confines of urban Minneapolis.

  5. Have never had snotty service there but have had the upsell on pricey wine.

    I love that cheesy mess and yes you described in perfectly of course I love cheesy hashbrowns at dennys too and for about three years they were the only thing that got me to go to a Minnesota Grill.

    Regarding price – it’s Wayzata for Christ’s sake. Every time I go there a Ferrari or Bentley is parked on the street… it’s a pretty good indication of where your tab is going to end up.

    Never had seafood – I usually order steak. I go down the street for seafood.

    Desert is always a stroll in the sunshine down to the dock at Sunsets with a Ben & Jerrys.

    Dining in Wayzata for me is as much about strolling down to the lake and enjoying the sunshine as it is eating.

    You pay more, is the food better? maybe not.

    That said – I’ll pay a little extra to walk in sunshine along Lake Mtka over paying for parking and eating downtown any day!

  6. That was an interesting approach to a review and I think duplicates what a lot of people may go through in their mind as they have dinner in a restaurant. When I encounter a price/value as you did on the wine order, I prefer to cut my losses, empty the glass and find a nearby Thai restaurant to finish the evening.

  7. SarahinMinneapolis04/15/2011Reply

    If Heartland is the gold standard for pork chops in this town, we’re in trouble. Went there last night. Two people had the pork chop and they didn’t think it was anything special. Nothing anyone had was special. What a disappointment.

    As for Gianni’s, now I know not to go there. Thanks for the review. Never did understand why some places first put the wine in a carafe. That certainly doesn’t justify $13 a glass for a house wine.

  8. GO TO HEIDI’S.

  9. I agree with Mike K and hope this this Value Check form of reviews becomes a semi-regular thing.

  10. Right on review and I agree with all the comments. It’s amazing that this place is still in business, what a racket! Wayzata is void of great restaurants and it seems the majority of the population doesn’t really mind eating overpriced sub-par food. The exception here is Blue Point.

    Side note: Gianni’s had a little sewage backup problem that shut them down briefly (I believe occurred in late 90’s/early 00’s) -that always stays in the back of my mind when I hear of the place.

    Another note, try Adele’s custard on the other side of the lake in Excelsior, it’s pretty special.

  11. 1. Lovely photos of that potato thing. It looks delicious.

    2. Manny’s. I understand why you would use them to compare the steaks, but for no rational reason, I find local reverence of that place to be tiresome.

    3. Interesting review. I like the idea of putting the price versus what you think a more correct price would be.

  12. Gianni’s is priced at the same level of the so called gold standard of steak house’s in Mpls, Manny’s, Murray’s, Ruth christ’s etc, but yet it is not even in the same ball park in my mind as those places. On a level of service, food quality and the finished product on the plate. I must admit I love the spun salad! I wish more places offered this.

  13. Coming from a decent steak town, Chicago, I can attest to the pricing upcharges of steak houses like this. I’ve never been here but it seems to be in a similar price point to other “wet aged” steak places but doesn’t seem to live up to those standards – experience/quality/taste-wise. I’ve overpaid for a number of steaks but here’s what you should get in return: Great service (dedicated service people that pride themselves on being a service oriented wait person), Over-the-top presentations (the “wow” factor for either you or potential clients – I need to see that big cart of meat rolled by my table and hear the breakdown of their specials), Consistency (are their signatures items the same, every time you go), A good steak (that’s why you’re there. It needs to be done the way you ordered it – perfectly), Environment (white table cloth, heavy silverware, “mood lighting” – at least the perception you’re getting what you paid for), and Over-the-top portions – especially the baked potato, steaks, and dessert.

    You know you’ll pay the big upcharge on wine but it should be good and you should feel special ordering it. Lots of big reds in big glasses.

    If it’s not all of these things, you paid too much. I also think you may be a little unrealistic on your “perceived” value, especially compared to other steak houses (not Denny’s or Ponderosa) but I totally get it. I felt the same way at Heartland (comparing against similar rated restos in other cities – most notable Chicago).

  14. not a connoisseur by any means but I’ve been to Gianni’s and Mannys each maybe 5-6 times….not glaringly different in my opinion…of course I’ve never eaten them back to back.

    Only been to Murray’s twice and was underwhelmed with steak both times, the decor and service is however awesome.

    Don’t think I’ve ever been to Ruth Chris

    @Kate I haven’t been in over a year but the brunch at Sunsets was good the last time I was there. Patricks is good but not spectacular. There was a bread outfit by the Lunds that used to make a good sammy too – not sure if it’s there still.

  15. Mr. Norton,

    I like the way you laid out the “Perceived” versus “Actual” value concept. I think you would be on to a fantastic article if you wrote a piece on your top 5 or 10 restaurants in the Cities where “perceived” is significantly GREATER than “actual”.

    I think a lot of people would read it and find it truly useful.

    Thanks!

  16. ^^ That would be a good feature. I often think Punch Pizza is off-the-charts @ having a high perceived price v. actual price.

  17. Mickey, why the dig and the perception that anyone that lives outside the Minneapolis city limits is scared to enter urban Minneapolis. La Belle Vie, Bar la Grassa, Piccolo, etc. wouldn’t without the $$ from the neanderthals from the burbs.

    Kate, you might want to consider the Adele’s in Wayzata. About a quarter mile from Gianni’s.

  18. My only quibble is that there is no external reality of price– the price of something is that amount which someone is willing to sell it for, and which customers are willing to pay. That is to say, the price will vary depending on all sorts of factors. In this case, the price has something to do with the location (both the fact that it’s in Wayzata and the fact that it’s in a pretty spot). It has something to do with the clientele– in many cases, they might be disappointed if the price were to come down! There are people out there who WANT to pay a bunch for their dinner because it makes them feel exclusive. It would be like looking at housing prices in Wayzata versus the North End of St. Paul and saying that this shows that housing is way overpriced in Wayzata. It may or may not be true, but it’s kind of irrelevant….

  19. Interesting review approach, and having been to restaurants that did not quite live up to the hype, it is an objective way to assess a not terrible, but not satisfying experience. if you had bee charged $68, you would have enjoyed it more.

    The review also points out the importance of a restaurant wine list, especially the selection by the glass. A poor wine (not to mentioned an overpriced one, or a poorly recommended one) can set an evening out on a bad note that is difficult to recover from.

    For bad wine service, I rate Salut among the worst. Bad wines served at the wrong temperature and in not very clean glasses. Their wine, like the food seems to decline the more popular it gets. Remember when you could get a good steak au poivre and a decent Cabernet?

    For best wine service, Bar La Grassa has it down right. Villa Antinori by the glass? Yes please.

    So I wonder, if the Pinot Grigio was kick ass, would that have changed your opinion about the rest of the meal?

  20. Author

    Thanks, everyone, for the thoughtful and excellent comments. We’ll definitely try to repeat this style of feature down the road, hopefully with a place that generally yields a fair (or even advantageous) perceived value / actual price comparison.

    Gumpster, re: the wine — if the Pinot Grigio had been terrific and the wine service had seemed thoughtful and informed, it certainly would have mitigated the overall damage. But changed the overall opinion? Not at all — the potatoes and pork chop were both badly lost causes.

  21. Why is there no where to eat west of the 494/694 loop out here? You would think some of the talent from Mpls would open up a restaurant out here with all of the big money folks around lake Minnetonka and Orono. Its really shocking how little of a selection we have out here.

    Blue Point the Oyster Bar a few doors down from Giannis is the same high end poser food with attitude. Their happy hour wine pours are a good deal but the appetizers say Sysco! Whats really a joke in Wyazata is Sunsets across the street from Blue POint and Giannis.

    I’ve given up on eating out here near my farm except for the Boni Bistro.

    While they have a small menu, the Boni Bistro in St Bonifacious on Hwy 7 is high quality made from organic and local ingredients.

    http://www.stbonibistro.com/

    3 Crows Cafe and Coffee Shop in Delano is also a good choice if you want edible, healthy food.

    http://www.thethreecrows.com/Three_Crows_Website/Welcome.html

    But that’s about it…

  22. One wonders when reading blogs like this if the writers have ever actually worked in, let alone managed (or attempted to manage) a restaurant. While I do appreciate good writing, and opinions on food and wine, I am often given a bad taste (see what I did, there, with the bad pun?) while reading a subjective review of a restaurant that fails to include attempted remedies to problems that were encountered while dining. OK… I’m also trying to be clever; sorry for that. But here are my quibbles with this review:

    • If one receives a glass of wine that doesn’t meet the expectation in a place such as this, asking for a different wine is not out of character for a person seeking to assess the real “value” of the place, and is exactly the right thing to do.

    • Similarly, if the pork chop is over done, why not ask for it to be re-cooked? And point it out to the manager or maître ‘d? How this is handled is a direct reflection of the house’s service and performance attitude. Hint: this is a factor in “value” perception.

    • As I understand it, Manny’s does not dry-age tenderloin, so why bring up a comparison of wet versus dry aging for this? NY Strip, fine. Go ahead and draw comparisons. But in this case it is inappropriate.

    • Lastly, I have to echo Eric’s comments, as they are the most precise assessment here. What do you suppose the rent is, in downtown Wayzata? (I’ll give you a hint: seven years ago, another Wayzata restaurant was paying over 30K a month, I have it on good authority.) Finding the price-point for the market is an essential part of doing business, and Gianni’s has been there for… what? Twenty years? Granted, it is not my kind of place. Personally, I find sharing a room with the likes of Bill Cooper or Norm Coleman to be much how I would imagine it to be with Emporer Palpatine or Herman Goehring. Unappetizing, at the very least. But a house that still has many of the same employees over two decades is not so bad off. The place has the same loyalty among its regulars, and to most of us in the business, that spells success. Also, as Eric pointed out, location has an unfair effect on pricing. His real estate analogy is correct. An Oak Park realtor valued my house at over one million… in Oak Park. Here and now the value is far more blue collar. For Pete’s sake, it’s Wayzata. Of course it’s going to cost more for the same food. Have you never been to London or Tokyo?

    I know it seems like I am defending Gianni’s, and in a way I suppose I am. But I am more concerned with a very prevalent dilettante approach to criticism of restaurants that results in comments like “As for Gianni’s, now I know not to go there.” This type of writing seems like the author has a chip on his shoulder, and does a disservice to those who rely on the place to support themselves. Not just the employees, but the purveyors. Professional critics point out that they have given their subjects opportunities to succeed as well as fail. You may have given Gianni’s several attempts over a few visits to give them a “fair and balanced” objective review, but it looks as though you didn’t. You did mention the subjectivity aspect, but all reviewing is subjective. It’s the least a writer of repute can do to take a stab at objectivity.

  23. James Norton04/16/2011Reply

    Prufrock, the name of the feature is “Value Check,” not “To What Extent Can the Meal Be Salvaged By Complaining to Management.”
    Morever, re: rent – I suspect 112 Eatery pays a pretty good rent – and they offer a great value of food. I don’t knock restaurants lightly, and if you read my existing body of work, you’d know that. Thanks for the comment, though, it’s good to get the other perspective.

  24. Mr Norton, satisfaction is a huge factor in perceiving value.

    My point was, and is, that obtaining satisfaction during your experience could have been possible had you mentioned these things. It is a professional place of business– they should have been able to rectify these problems for you, adding more “value.” No restaurant is going to hit perfection 100% of the time. But many people feel that a big part of contributed value is the attitude that is received and projected in a place, even when things don’t go wrong. Think of the Harbor View: not the most inventive menu, nor the lowest prices, but the feeling that one has been cared for adds so much. That view of the shimmering water doesn’t hurt, either… but one of the first things I think of when I consider driving down there is that I know I’ll feel like I’ve been satisfied. That makes it valuable. You don’t seem to have given Gianni’s a chance to help you, and that is why I felt I had to respond. I feel as though I shouldn’t have needed to, especially in light of your body of work. But generally there is more and more blogging about the business and art of restaurants that doesn’t always reflect a real knowledge of the industry. Nor does the majority of it even try to be responsibly objective, as a professional critic would insist on – and this can be something that can potentially have serious deleterious effects on a business, and the lives of those who depend on its success. I’m sorry if I seem like I’m picking on you. I am a sensitive industry insider, and I admit I am becoming a grumbling old curmudgeon… but it seems like this review was a bit of a drive-by, and we in the industry are just getting beset on all sides by the tyranny, and inequities of evil bloggers. Everyone feels they have a dog in that fight, and the preponderance of opinions that are unqualified and often wrong are lowering the standards for true criticism while simultaneously doing damage to actual businesses. When everybody’s a critic, eventually no one will care– including restaurant operators.

    Oh man. I do go on. Sorry… I came THIS close to whipping out a bit of Godwin’s Law there.

    OK. Back to work…

  25. Preach on, brother prufrock, preach on.

  26. @ Eric and Prufrock

    This is a food website, not a landscaping website. I don’t care overmuch about the “shimmering water” and other factors that supposedly mitigate expensive mediocrity. I understand that people go to restaurants for many reasons, and value perception is influenced by many factors, but most people who put such stock in a nice view and the feeling of being a bigshot probably don’t read Heavy Table much.

    All of which is to say, overpriced food is overpriced.

  27. Had more thoughts, sorry to repost.

    “Cascade failure” is an airline term for the malfunctioning of multiple systems, causing an incident. Airplanes are designed with redundant systems so a single failure will not affect the flight, but in the unlikely instance that several go offline, a cascade failure occurs.

    In a restaurant, one or even two things going wrong is understandable. Most people don’t like to complain, and will tough it out in the hopes that the rest of the meal will be better. But, yes, a word with the management will get that glass of wine whisked away for something more agreeable. A second objection and the offending oysters will be removed from the bill. A third objection, even if necessary, would be pointless. It has become clear that mediocre food is just what a place is about.

    We have a different term for cascade failures when dining: crappy restaurant.

  28. @ pH:

    Wow… so you only allow one visit to a restaurant to determine “cascade failure,” huh? Fortunately for the industry (of which you are almost certainly not a member) most people are more understanding and allow for a less than 100% success rate per visit, and will give a shop another try.

    This place written about in this article has been there for a very long time, in restaurant years, and has very low staff turnover. Those two factors by themselves speak much more clearly about its success that what you are suggesting.

    Again, not my place of choice, but I do believe that they still deserve a fair shake, which I do not feel that they got here. Mr Norton, I apologise for being such a cantankerous lout on your page, but I believe that I am right, and that it is a point that I wish more soi-disant food critics would take up.

  29. I am, in fact, a hospitality employee. And I have nothing to say about Gianni’s – never been, don’t really care.

    To distill my point: sometimes you just know a place sucks.

  30. David Foureyes04/17/2011Reply

    prufrock/anyone: How many opportunities is a restaurant to be given before it is said to have failed in your opinion? I work in the service industry, and my expectation is that the average diner does exactly what James did here: Give a restaurant one opportunity to present a value proposition that engages them to return. Were a restaurant to fail in this initial impression, there is no second chance…and I submit that as a diner, even when I have given the establishment an opportunity to rectify shortfalls, frequently the damage has already been done. Unless compelled otherwise (my in-laws saw this place on a food network show is a frequent such event), I am unlikely to return.

    I also have nothing to say about Gianni’s in particular but I think that, perhaps, your premise is flawed. Though it may hold water in Wayzata because of the limited choices in that space, in the greater radius of the “Twin Cities”, there are just too many choices to spend one’s time giving places second chances at failure.

  31. John Garland04/17/2011Reply

    Brian Ames –

    “Why is there no where to eat west of the 494/694 loop out here?”

    Have you tried Bistro 11 in Loretto?

    http://heavytable.com/bistro-11-in-loretto/

  32. James and I had a brief conversation on this same topic last week. IMHO, James is not out to put notches in his belt. If the place did not meet his expectations, he will say so. (I have nothing to gain or lose by saying that.) My part of the discussion was that people tend not to consider the “chance” part of it. Reporting on one bad outing may not be fair in light of the resto’s general level of quality, but people read “it was deficient” and gloss over the reviewer’s experience and filters and the odds of a bad night at the restaurant.

    All that said, however, on sites like Chowhound and a couple of other local blogs, I’m seeing more and more comments indicating that even one not-great night from a usually-excellent restaurant is enough to lose that restaurant any future chances at that person’s business. And, possibly, the business of people who do not apply appropriate critical thinking while reading those negative comments.

    BTW, please add my name to the list of people who would like to see this feature more often.

  33. SarahinMinneapolis04/18/2011Reply

    Amen, David F. I’m all for the writing of a review after one dining experience. That’s how we, the consumers, experience a place. Me thinks that people who argue for more than one visit to a restaurant don’t understand the “Internets.”

    We’re all critics now and not captive to the very select few who get paid — and have their meals paid — by someone else.

  34. “We’re all critics now and not captive to the very select few who get paid — and have their meals paid — by someone else.”

    At least when Norton or Nelson or Jenkins writes a review, I know it comes from someone who has been exposed to a lot of food which, ideally, has been prepared properly (I like blue-box mac-and-cheese but I don’t kid myself for a minute that it’s as good as mac-and-cheese gets). These people also own their opinions enough to use their real names in their review, not ducking behind the single-name pseudonyms some of us use (me included).

    Without knowing anything more about the reviewer than that one post, it’s hard to know if they like that new Italian restaurant because the cooking is authentic (based on personal or family experiences) or because it tastes like the Franco-American their “best-cook” Mom used to make or because the room is run by their brother-in-law and the meal was free.

    And I’m really not keen on extrapolation based on a sample size of 1. My car was once hit by someone driving a Honda Accord. Should I conclude, based on that experience, that all Accord drivers are inept and dangerous? Does that sound fair?

    That’s one reason why I’ll use sites like Chowhound to point me to new places which may not yet be reviewed in the rags or maybe at restaurants which may be losing their luster — after seeing a few reports which confirm an individual’s story — but I’ll take those experiences with a huge grain of salt — and others should, too. I’ll never not go to a restaurant in which I’m interested just because someone posted somewhere that they had a really lousy meal one night. No one else should write off a restaurant based on one review which comes with no context, no stated qualifications, and no name.

  35. Never been there but it looks like a place Gordon Ramsay needs to help.

  36. “Never been there but it looks like a place Gordon Ramsay needs to help.”

    Res ipsa loquitur.

  37. PRU:

    “Wet aged” never heard of it. It wouldn’t be the opposite of dry aged. It would simply be old meat. Aging in cryo is like waiting to bury a corpse.

    “Re-cooked” when overcooked? That would be a “do over” and basically at this point it completely throws the meal into the realm of a time warp on account of the grill cooks incompetence (or server’s failure to communicate temp, or runners grabbing the wrong plate). If you have all the time in the world, and don’t mind making everyone else wait for an angry cook to make magic with the next portion, then by all means fire again. The next potential mistake is sitting in a refrigerated drawer (hopefully) and will take a good deal of time to season, grill, and properly rest. No thanks.

    ON TOPIC:

    Price divided by quality equals value. The following is a developmental concept I’ve had in my craw for years.

    Quality factors: all ingredients accounted for, cooked properly, seasoned properly, served at the proper temp, pristine ingredients, plated carefully, served on a properly chilled or warmed plate, timely arrival, served without auctioneering, “eats well” (logical proportions of all elements), water glasses consistently filled, wine/beer served in the correct glass, plateware/glassware/silverware clean and available, table clean, restroom clean, floor staff groomed without perfume or chewing gum

    Make a list and rate each factor 1 for fail, 2 for pass, total, and divide entree price by the cumulative score. A low point score makes the meal feel expensive. The more the meal satisfies, the greater the value, and the higher likelihood of satisfaction.

  38. Absolutely, right on! I’ve dined there many times over the years but the New York prices and attitude don’t deliver that Peter Lugar sense on value (there they only accept cash in payment).

  39. Had dinner with a friend tonight and the topic came up. He said “if you are serving food and taking people’s money for it, there should be no ‘B’ game.”. True.

  40. Karl:

    You missed my point, so I have to apologise for not being clearer. My biggest beef with this whole entry is not that Gianni’s may or may not be good or of value. (Obviously there are plenty of people who feel that it is; that is their right, and their experience, and the place has demonstrated some legs, and is currently profitable… which is much more than anyone can say for most of the diva chefs in the Twin Cities.)

    Whatever.

    My complaint is that “the Internets” have created an environment where anyone can say whatever they like about a business and there is no accountability or professional dedication to seek and purport truth or honesty. (I’m not necessarily accusing you, Mr Norton– just making a point in general.) Maybe some of these blogs are incorporated, and have codified a set of ethics and standards, but I doubt it, and I really doubt that anyone is ever called on statements, practices and reviews that would not get past a professional editor. Besides that, what I often find are people who purport themselves as knowledgeable in the trade making accusations that may not be accurate, and there is nothing the business can do other than try to post as a user. I’ve seen it in some of the biggest, most popular sites, and sometimes there are statements made that are absolutely libelous, and the moderator or host says that “it’s the internet,” and that they don’t moderate comments.

    That, to me, is a way bigger problem than not understanding an industry term or practice. Free speech needs to be responsible. And with that I have to shut up. I have taken up way too much space here with my own ranting.

  41. Pru:

    I agree with your points generally. I was taking exception to your points regarding the concept of refiring errant food and aged meat.

    To illustrate your point, there’s quite an amateur bludgeoning fest going on over on chowhound at the expense of Lenny Russo. Bad restaurants gather more flys, is a general principle. There are sacred (highly regarded) restaurants that occasionally get beat up by a miffed or “differently opinionated” interweb-er. There are terrible writers who know a lot, and great writers who know nothing.

    Thicker skin is a valuable concept, but fairness is often forgotten, and it can get very shrill. Stop reading this cr*p if it bugs you. I’ve left chat boards for years, only to come back again.

  42. SarahinMinneapolis04/21/2011Reply

    Karl,

    I started the “amateur bludgeoning fest” review of Heartland. I stand by every word. Strikes me that the inside baseball foodies get too caught up in their own world, and forget it’s people like me who are willing to pay good money for good meals support that world. When a meal — like the one we had at Heartland — is so far below what was billed by the foodie press, then, damn straight. The place deserves to have that publicly noted. Please note that I was specific in my criticism. That’s not a bludgeoning fest. That’s the marketplace.

    As for “amateur.” I’d be careful. To repeat: Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

  43. Sarah, I’m interested to detect a somewhat aggressive tone in your comments, both here and elsewhere, that suggest you may have an axe to grind. Loud suspicions about “inside baseball foodies”, a bristling at the term “amateur” because you consider yourself to be “the hand that feeds” (don’t see the connection, myself)… Not to mention the borderline hostile tone in the post where you hasten to declare Heartland’s impending failure: “Let me be the first to predict that Heartland doesn’t make it.”

    I think commentary like yours might be exactly the kind that Prufrock objects to, and in your case I think he might have a point.

    In my opinion, James Norton has done a good job of separating himself from the chattering classes at large on Chowhound, and I find the Gianni’s assessment less objectionable than anoynmous dissing on Chowhound.

    On the other hand, readers tend to take forum commentary with a large grain of salt and form their own opinions, so it is unlikely that your posts will affect Heartland much anyway.

  44. SarahinMinneapolis04/21/2011Reply

    Curioso,

    A quick response because I gotta run. Didn’t mean to be hostile on Chow. No sense in repeating all I’ve said.

    But for the record, I think The Heavy Table is the best food blog in the Twin Cities. I’ve never met Mr. Norton, but I’ve read enough of him now, had similar experiences to his in places we’ve both been, that I find him to be an exceptionally trustworthy food voice and a fun read.

    [And your last graf…who’s being hostile?! Anonymously?! :)]

  45. Before the internetters a person could make up their own mind, ask friends, or read the work of established mainstream food publication probably with someone more or less functioning as an editor. Now a days a miffed customer with some writing skills and no publicly disclosed credibility can write whatever they want with no editor. James would probably delete really vile stuff, but otherwise it’s a playground without many rules.

    I used the term “amateur” without malice, but might have touched a nerve. I don’t find any of what you said hard to believe.

  46. Something that is pretty hilarious (not really). I was employed there for a brief time awhile back and when i first started working there, they were serving select graded tenderloin. I could not believe they were selling beef tenderloin (i believe the 12 oz was around $40.00) as choice or above and in reality it was select. Now there is nothing wrong with select, just as long as you know that you are getting the same steak as say a best steak house. And the funnier part is that the people were more then happy to be shelling out that kind of cash for it. Luckily I got a job back from my previous employer.

  47. SarahinMinneapolis04/21/2011Reply

    Karl,

    At the risk of continuing this thread for too long.

    I have started and owned my own businesses.

    I know what it means to throw up a bad review.

    So, I don’t do that easily, or without serious reservation, except when a place deserves a good, hard reality slap.

    That was the case with the restaurant in question.

  48. Thanks. I haven’t figured out how this internet stuff really benefits the food community yet. A salad I tossed early in my career was directly reviewed by the top food writer in San Francisco. It wasn’t at all complimentary. It was a point of reckoning for me personally. It had the desired effect.

    In today’s interwebisphere I’m not sure Lenny is taking any notes on these comments, or even reading them.

    This thread is not officially too long. Peace and happy dining!

  49. @Sarah, expressing your qualifications on your Chow thread (I saw it there first) would put a lot more distance between a drive-by Internet rant and a genuine “I’m disappointed” post. That’s a point several of the posters on this thread (and the Chow thread) have tried to make.

    While I still think there should be room for a second chance (we are all human, after all), it would help to know that you posted knowing the effect it might have and it does help that you stuck around rather than disappeared into the ether.

  50. Value is a perspective thing but I have to say this review is horribly skewed and written by someone who is obviously cheap and trying to make a point rather than an accurate review. It is apparent from the very first value comparison when you suggest that a glass of any wine anywhere has a value of $3. Even if the wine was free you can barely sell it for $3 at standard restaurant markup . It is apparent you understand the concept of restaurant markup when you admit that $1 worth of summit is a good value at $5. You then go to say the Petite Filet was pleasantly mild and buttery, and had a good char to it but value you it at the price of a fillet at subpar chain restaurant. You also admit that the salad was a charming aspect of the meal which anyone would agree but then go to say it would be “free” and a value of zero but a reasonable value at $6. Where is the Manny’s reference here where the salads range from $9 -14 and arguably not as impressive and of similar quality? $6 id a ridiculous value for the salad, I don’t think I could make it at home for less than $5 even if I happened to have all the fresh ingredients on hand. Hell, these days I’ll spend $5 in gas just driving to the store to buy the ingredients.

  51. Drinks, appetizer, two salads, two steakhouse entrees, a side dish that feeds 6 and your total perceived value of meal was $68.00? I doubt you could have a steak dinner with all that at Applbee’s for $68, maybe a horse meat dinner at Denny’s… You should seriously rethink the overly dramatic way you write, doesn’t leave you with much credibility.

  52. I love RK’s take on this.
    Lets go to Applebee’s instead of Gianni’s using Mr Nortons “perceived value” line of thinking.

    Drinks-$3 probably gets you a bud light during happy hour instead of a Summit but I want a summit so $4. Again, $5 for a glass of wine during happy hour that I am sure is some good quality stuff compared to the Gianni’s option, but lets say $6 for some Sutter Home cab.

    Appetizer-For $9. Instead of the Oysters rock I will take the chili cheese nachos. I was tempted to go with the boneless wings or save a dollar and get the spinach dip that I heard is awesome.

    Salad-Only salad I can find on the menu under $7 is a side Caesar salad at $3.50. Maybe the half chicken Caesar at $8 is more in line since it has chicken with the lettuce. I’ll take 2. (Why cant the Gianni’s table salad have a higher perceived value than $6 with 10 available ingredients like shrimp and bacon?)

    Entrées-Bourbon street steak for $14 instead of the pork chop (and I saved a buck)and baby back ribs at $17 in place of the Filet at $25.

    Who needs potatoes when my Entrees came with them! I can even add something they call cheese for $1.19 so lets do it.

    Man I am so full now I can’t get the triple chocolate meltdown even though I can almost afford it. instead i’ll go to Ben and jerry’s in Wayzata for some $4 a scoop ice cream. Whats the perceived value of a scoop of ice cream anyway?

    After spending my romantic dinner next to a table of high school kids drinking malts and eating chicken fingers, I only spent $67.19 of my $68 and have money to spare. Looking forward to the beautiful stroll to the car. Hopefully I can find my car in the parking lot of Ridgedale.

    So this article is suggesting that considering the quality of the food and ingredients, the location and ambiance of the place and most nights, the quality of the service that your dinner for two at Gianni’s should cost the same as an experience at your local Applebees.
    I don’t follow that line of thinking.
    Bottom line is prufrock hit it on the head. Gianni’s has been around for a long time and thats something most places cant say. You do that by offering a product and or service that somebody is willing to keep coming back for. Thats what others should consider when reading your opinion.
    Considering the size of the portions, did you think about splitting an Entree and maybe skipping the app? Just a thought if your a price sensitive foodie

  53. The Infidel04/22/2011Reply

    anyone else find it odd that a reporter/reviewer was talked into the most expensive glass of wine on the menu knowing he was going to write this article and then mysteriously forgot what it is when he wants to compare it at $3 a glass which at $3 cant be anything more than boons farm strawberry hill. This review screams predetermined agenda, manipulation of facts and bias just to fit an idea of a story he wanted to write.

  54. Jacque Strap04/23/2011Reply

    Restaurants that last a long time do not necessarily achieve on the culinary level. Sometimes they survive on location and looks alone. Aspen Colorado is full of them.

    In a fully competitive market place, pretty restaurants aren’t enough, they also need to deliver substance. The definition of substance is shifting as Minneapolis struggles to be a food town. I think reviews like this attempt to throw some fresh logs into the lumber mill in terms of the dialog. Hopefully we get more than sawdust in the end.

  55. value is BS04/23/2011Reply

    what is the value of a $70k Lexus SUV versus a 35K Toyota. They come from the same plant and in many ways virtually identical. Functionally they don’t drive that much different. Most of it is just the plush, pride and some added features. Thing is if you don’t have the money or don’t value these things you shouldn’t visit the Lexus dealership because you will find it to be low value.

    This review doesn’t even attempt to include value of anything other than the food itself which is stupid because if that is what dinner is really about then I can buy a 6 pack of EPA and couple of steaks for $25 and grill at home. Eating out is just as much about the experience as it is the food. Personally I will pay more to not eat in a mall or have to drive downtown. There is nothing attractive to me about either of these options. I really enjoy the lake and a fantastic steak close to home. There is nothing quite like cruising the lake by day and boating to Gianni’s at the end to finish off the day in style.

    I’ll admit there have been a few times I have been disappointed with Gianni’s but they were all when I strayed from what they are at the core, a steakhouse. I have never been anything but elated with the steak, papallete potatoes and salad. Since that is what I am there for it is a win every time! While steak might be on a Greek restaurant’s menu I guess I wouldn’t expect that to be what they excel at either.

  56. I agree with the assessment. Gianni’s is overpriced for the quality of the food. We visited 4/28 for my son’s birthday.In addition, we did not receive our steaks at the medium rare requested-they were rare, and the server did not stop to ask about our dinner after dropping off the plates. By the time we got her attention (after she had zoomed by multiple times) we had started because the meal was getting cold.

    For a good steak dinner, I recommend Jensen’s in Eagan, if you want to avoid downtown. Murrays has always been good when I have visited. I haven’t been to Ruth’s Chris or Manny’s for years, as my orbit has moved to the suburbs.

    I think most patrons are forgiving of a miss here and there, but James assessment “…we felt as though we’d been politely mugged by steak-toting bandits” is spot on. The genteel atmosphere belies the wallet assault, which would be tolerable if the food was up to the degree to which they depleted your bank account.

  57. Burger Bob04/30/2011Reply

    Sounds like I’m in the minority here, but I dined at Gianni’s earlier this year and had an excellent experience.

    Our table had been reserved and we were seated promptly. Our server was excellent. We enjoyed the spun salads and my steak was cooked perfectly. The papallete potatoes were a new and tasty twist for me personally.

    Even the bottle of wine we had was a few bucks cheaper than I’ve seen it at other restaurants. I’m looking forward to a repeat experience.

    I should also note that the place was jam packed the evening I visited.

    BB

Trackbacks for this post

  1. […] Ringo’s bad year in restaurants, a formula for how to assess restaurant value (as inspired by our Gianni’s review), environmentalists launch a very mild wild rice hotdish protest over the proposed weakening of […]

  2. […] other quick note: If you’re looking for a great lunch in Wayzata, Gianni’s Steakhouse has just about the best tomato-basil soup you could ever hope to order. It’s certainly rare that […]

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