“ Address: Breda, Netherlands „
It was by accident that I ended up at Donatello's. A restaurant a few doors up had told us that the kitchen was closed for the night. Of course it was; it was already 8.15 pm on a Sunday, what a ridiculous idea that the chef wanted to earn a little more business at such a late hour in Breda. I had been to Donatello's before, and I have to confess that my abiding memory was of being given a sachet of dried, grated parmesan cheese (aka sawdust) to accompany a pasta dish. I can't even remember what dish I had. So, in the interest of both fairness and consumer research, here I was again, this time armed with a pen and an open mind.
Donatello's is a small chain of restaurants, located in Arnhem, Breda, Nijmegen and Leiden, all fairly big cities in the Netherlands (or to put it another way, I've heard of them). The one in Breda is a big restaurant, with room for I reckon about 50-60 diners. Many wooden tables for 4 were joined with several bigger tables. I saw a couple of groups of 10 on the bigger tables families and a large group of friends. This is the first place I've been to where all the wooden chairs were the same.
The floor was tiled, light blue square tiles with red bits at the corners. It was quite nice actually, makes a change from the prevalent trend here of wooden flooring. A large part of the restaurant is partitioned by what looks like huge pillars. I did think this laughable on my last visit but I was in a more charitable mood this time, so let's say it's a feature that adds unique character to this restaurant. To the left of the restaurant, towards the middle of the room, is the bar, which has optics hanging from a stand fastened to the ceiling.
A coat rack is located near the door. A shelf above it held a couple of vases with flowers in them. I am guessing they were fake. On the walls were many pictures of Roman scenes; a minotaur (hang on isn't that Greek?), important looking Roman chaps, and the such like. Lights on the walls well held in fake torches, which could look silly but I believe they've pulled it off. Despite these lights though, and the candles glowing red from their holders on the tables, it was quite dark in the restaurant, which seems to be a common fault here.
The restaurant was just over half full when we arrived, and I found the atmosphere to be convivial; enough people to create an ambience, but not too loud. This is a known hangout for the financially challenged diner, and there was the corresponding mix here of couples, large families and friends, all looking for good value for money. I could hardly make out the music, but I am told it was lots of easy listening classics such as Level 42 and Simply Red.
The menu offers the usual Italian choices of pasta and pizza, as well as fish and meat dishes such as beef with pepper sauce and scampi with vegetables. The prices are pretty cheap, about 6 Euros for pizzas and up to 10 Euros for the meat and fish dishes.
No doubt about it, this place offers excellent service. There were about 6 attractive waitresses and 1 waiter (lucky git).We were greeted with a nice smile on arrival and got several more through the evening. The friendly waitress taking our orders was very smiley and a little bit giggly too, which I thought was nice. At least we were amusing them by being foreign, in a nice way. We were presented with an English menu without prompting, good work there, simple but well thought out. More than once were we asked if the food was OK.
They were also very efficient; when bringing things to our table, they were always mindful to take old glasses or plates away. A member of staff would do a tour around every 5 or so minutes to see if anyone needed anything and anytime that we caught their eye, they would take the hint and come over. This simple skill appears to be beyond many of their peers, so full marks to them for this. There really does seem to be a genuine customer service ethic in place.
If I had any issues at all it was with our seating. We were smilingly presented with a free choice of tables, but were failed to be notified which ones were smoking or non smoking. This happens a lot around here so I guess I should know better by now. I really need to remember to ask. And I really have to note if the table has an ashtray or not when I sit down. As it was we ended up next to a table of Dutch ladies, one of whom seemed to have a fag permanently dangling from her left hand, and some of the smoke wafted towards us. However, as the air conditioning was good, this wasn't too much of a nuisance.
Our orders were taken quick quickly and the food arrived within 15 minutes, which was pretty good considering that the restaurant was a little busy.
The orange juice I ordered turned up in a small bottle. The "Royal Club" was OK, standard fare really. My friend I was dining with, Barcelona Boy, asked for tap water and was told there wasn't any, and so had to order mineral water. Given the low margins they are probably running on with the food, I think this is fair enough.
As I wasn't really hungry, I ordered a starter Chicken Caeser Salad. This was thin strips of chicken breast with cucumber, lettuce, tomato, rocket, a black and green olive, little croutons and a sauce, with little slivers of parmesan and lots of the sawdust parmesan. At 6 Euros, you couldn't fault at all its value for money, with lots of chicken and a fair size to the dish. The chicken was tasty, the vegetables and salad crispy, not at all soggy. The sauce with the parmesans was surprisingly good and the tastes blended well together. It won't win any awards but for what it was, it was very good. On top of that, care was taken in the presentation and it looked very nice. It was certainly enough for a small main course.
Barcelona Boy ordered a "trio de carne" pizza which contained, on a thin crust with tomato paste, red, green and yellow peppers, mushrooms, minced beef, pepperoni, very hot chilli peppers, cheese and ham. I am informed that the pepperoni was nice as it wasn't too salty. The pizza base was nice, being crispy on the edges and softer towards the middle. The vegetables were perhaps lacking a little in taste but had a good texture The tomato paste was nice, and not at all acidic. Overall, it was apparently a very good pizza, and certainly was very sizable and presented very well.
I had a herbal tea to finish. I was presented with a little wooden box of teas, which had a small selection of Pickwick teas; English Breakfast. Forest Fruits, Cinnamon, Tropical Fruit, and Green tea with ginseng. A tea glass filled with water came with the box, so I just picked and dunked the one I wanted. I plumped for the Tropical Fruits and found it refreshing.
Barcelona Boy has an espresso, served in a little cup and saucer. His spoon was amusingly bent. Both drinks came with sugar sachets and a tasty little round, hollow amaretto biscuit.
When the bill arrived it came with 2 little foil wrapped chocolate eggs, and very nice they were, too.
FUN WITH BABEL FISH
Crikey this one makes sense and is pretty consistent with my experience. From their website:
"Donatello's opened its first Italian restaurant 1987 in arnhem. The concept and the objective were be then already not only "nicest but also the cheapest" Italian restaurant in the Netherlands. All pizzas and pasta's cost then 7.50 guilders. By the terrible success of this formula we opened the second restaurant in nijmegen in 1989. Up to we have remained our formula faithful today, and cost to all traditional pizza and pastagerechten now today 5.95 euro. Donatello's have 4 settlings in the Netherlands at this moment. Bekijk on the subpaginas the different locations with photograph and route description. Donatello's have been opened 7 days per week from 17.00 till 22.00."
I have got over my parmesan snobbery and have been won over. I used to eat the stuff out of a shaker as a kid and love it, so what the hell. I would recommend this place to anyone on a budget. The food isn't anything special, but it's reasonable, great value for money and well presented. What really makes this place though is the service, which is excellent. When considering that this is the cheap place in town, the attitude and application of the staff put to shame many of their overpriced, pretentious and lazy neighbours. They appear to have remained impressive true to the philosophy espoused on their website regarding price and service. The food is half the price of other Italian restaurants on the main square in Breda, but certainly comparable in quality. In summary, I say bravo Donatello's; catering for the lower end of the market with distinction. Long may they continue to do so.
Grote Markt 50A
4811 XS Breda
Tel : (+31) (0) 76 5310730
Website (in Dutch) : http://www.donatello.nl/