Given the sheer volume of activity on the Promenade and the the fact that on any given night, weekdays included, the street is teeming with people, one would think that the three blocks of 3rd Street between Broadway and Wilshire Blvd would be have an overwhelming number of restaurants to feed the throngs.
Given the normal statistics of normal life, with an overwhelming number of restaurants, one would think that there would be at least a handful of decent places to eat.
"One would think."
The Promenade is not normal. As you may (or may not) know, I have basically been hitting all kinds of misses with every meal here on the Promenade with the exception of an occasional Panini Verdure from Cafe Bellagio, which I can't really enjoy because I'm eating it over my lap during during my weekly staff meeting at work. I couldn't seem to figure out why every option turned out to be bad until I realized that there just really aren't that many options for real food to begin with, let alone good options.
Johnnie's New York Pizzeria on the southernmost end of The Promenade, I thought, was a good option. I have eaten a few times at the other locations - Westside and Century City - and didn't think they were bad experiences. The New York Chopped Salad -- salami, pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, olives and other vegetables -- is just good enough to go back when we can't think of anything else to eat, but not good enough that we would get a craving for it. I mean if I had a real craving for a chopped salad, I'd just make it home.
There must be something about the Promenade that renders any establishment into mediocrity, no matter what its reputation is elsewhere because our lunch at Johnnie's was slightly below average. As much as I hate to admit it, I do look forward to the basket of tiny, twisted rolls that must be wholly dipped in melted butter and tossed in garlic and salt. It's a never-ending supply, a remnant of my Olive Garden days, which might be part of the reason why I like them so much. Wait, I've never had "Olive Garden days." However, Promenade Johnnie's rolls tasted like they were baked in a too-hot oven, unbecomgly dark on the outside and suspiciously dough-y on the inside. The accompanying marinara sauce was watered down and bland; something more akin to a half-complete ketchup rather than a marinara sauce.
I'm pretty sure that had I ordered the Chopped Salad as I am wont to do when dining at Johnnie's, I would have been less disappointed with the meal, but I ordered a Caesar Salad. Though I was impressed that the salad had real anchovies on it, the dressing tasted faintly of "bottled." I snapped up all the anchovies, picked off the croutons and put them on the edge of my plate (I won't mention that I had specifically asked for no croutons --oops! I mentioned it), and did my best to hunt and peck for pieces of Romaine that had the least amount of taint-age by Caesar dressing.
The Penne Pasta with Bolognese Sauce was actually the most disappointing dish on the table. The sauce was the same watery, flavor-less marinara that had accompanied the doughballs, only with ground beef thrown in, and though we had asked for penne pasta, it seems the cooks in the kitchen hadn't competely rinsed out the colander from the previous order. There were a few strands of spaghetti mixed in with the penne which was, of course, overcooked. I had one bite, and that was all.
I'm running out of options on The Promenade.
One would think.
Johnnie's New York Pizzeria
1444 3rd Street Promenade
Santa Monica, CA 90401
** a year ago today, my five food challenges were: korean, local, grow, eat out, and home cooking **