Johnny Carino’s popped up in Westland, MI a few years ago. After 2 visits I have had two somewhat different experiences and feel the need to share. Perhaps they will see this review and fix the slight issues I had. I’ve seen it referred to as Carino’s sometimes so look for that as well when you are searching for it in your neighborhood.
I passed JC’s on the way home one day and thought it looked like a nice Italian restaurant. A few weeks after it popped up, the newspaper had a very negative review of it. It ripped it apart. The place had only been open for about 2 weeks and this critic was complaining about the decor and the service, but not really about the food. I don’t listen to critics, so I decided to check it out. The first occasion my husband (then boyfriend) and I went on a whim. The second occasion was for our anniversary. It left such a good impression on us the first time that we decided to check it out for our special day. I was slightly disappointed the second time (Read on) but I’ve since been multiple times and I have to say it’s still worth going.
Choices, Choices, Choices
On my first visit I saw I had a lot of choices. Italian restaurants usually are good for vegetarian’s because of all the cheese and pasta mixes. I swear that I got Manicotti (which was awesome) but on my second visit it appeared the menu had changed! I couldn’t find the Manicotti, nor much else for me. All in all I saw 3 things that I could choose between:
Baked Cheese Tortellini – but this was in meat sauce. If I wanted it, I’d have to make a special request and I’m just not that type of person. Maybe next time.
Cheese Ravioli – This is what I got in Marinara sauce. It was really good and I even had my leftovers for lunch. You can get it in any sauce.
Salmon – I wanted to try this but I always really want Pasta, so I passed.
There were a few other choices, but not as many as I would expect from an Italian restaurant.
My husband and family had a whole lot more options than I did on all occasions. I’m sure I could have “edited” any of these menu items for vegetarians, but I just don’t like to “edit” things.
Shrimp Scampi was his favorite choice. He liked the shrimp and pasta, but thought the wine butter sauce wasn’t very saucy. It probably could have used more flavor. Last time he got a pasta in meat sauce, but I can’t recall which one. The meat sauce he loved and he raved about that dish. Other choices include lots of pasta/chicken options, Lasagna, Chicken Parmigiana, Pasta with Meatballs, Sirloin, and Veal. It’s your typical Italian menu.
Don’t forget about the appetizers! On visit 1 we had the Bruschetta bread which is grilled bread with fresh tomatoes and olive oil and basil. This is just amazing bread! On visit 2 we had the Fresh Fried Mozzarella which I liked, but didn’t enjoy much because of everything coming out so quickly (see next section). Most the time, we pass on appetizers because we can’t eat that much.
Finally, the fresh baked buttery bread that comes with your meal and is unlimited is great. They poor some olive oil and spices on a plate for a dip and it is the best. If you can, try and get a loaf right before your meal comes so you can sneak it home with you.
Just like Olive Garden, you can get a meal of just “unlimited” soup, salad and bread. So you don’t have to go to Olive Garden for that.
Is this a race?
On visit 1, we had a very casual dining experience. We had gone around lunch and had plenty of time to sit and chat. Being in the back corner, we were relaxed and the waitress kept our food coming at a leisurely pace. We ate so much that day! Two loafs of bread, the Bruschetta, plus our meals and then another loaf of bread! We felt so relaxed that we took our time and enjoyed every bite.
On visit 2 I didn’t have quite the same casual experience. We were seated right away and within a few minutes the waitress came over to see if we wanted an appetizer. Of course we didn’t know yet. She left, came back so fast with our drinks and asked again. We made an on the spot decision to get the fried mozzarella. I was getting hungry, and we didn’t get our first loaf of bread right away. The bread came out and minutes later the mozzarella came out. I hardly had time to enjoy the bread before the next item came out. She also took our orders at this time.
I like to eat in order so I finished off the bread, then started on the Mozzarella when suddenly a salad came out! I had a feeling dinner wasn’t too far away so I scarfed down the mozzarella and started on the salad. I’d say 5 minutes later our food was out and I had hardly touched my salad. I was determined to eat more salad to be healthy, but I was already getting stuffed. I put aside the salad and ate about 1 ravioli noodle before I decided I was stuffed. I took most of my meal home because she fed us so fast that my belly got blah.
It felt like we were being hurried. I didn’t like that… then we were finally done, me with a belly-ache, when she never came back with the bill. We spent more time waiting for the bill then eating. This was disappointing. I don’t usually mind waiting for the bill, but everything was so fast and then suddenly the pace slowed.
So here is my advice. Take your time ordering! Don’t order your meal until you’ve already eating your appetizer, or at least started your appetizer. That way you will have a chance to sit and breath between courses. On visit 1 we were there for about 1.5 hours. On visit 2 we were in and out in less than an hour. I like to relax and stretch it out a little more – if you tell your waitress what you want, she will bring it to you quicker than you can eat it! On all future visits, we sat and chatted a little bit before ordering. As far as the waitress knows, we weren’t ready yet, but really we were trying to keep a steady pace.
The restaurant is bright an opened in the middle with a lot of tables surrounded by some booths. There are additional booths on the end in a little bit darker part of the restaurant. On visit 1, we sat in the darker spot, in the booths near the wall. It was relaxing and we felt like we were alone enjoying a meal at home.
On the second visit, we sat in the middle of all the tables. We were mixed in with kids and families. Now I know someone’s gotta sit there, but I would have preferred a booth, and I saw some that were available. Now every time we go, we request booths. They have them big enough for 6 people.
There is an open kitchen so you can see the cooks as they prepare the food and place it on the table for the waitresses, but this doesn’t make the restaurant loud at all. It’s kind of cool.
Lunch time seems to be a great time to go, even on a Saturday. It was much more relaxed at that time. Weeknights for dinner may be jammed packed! This will make your waitress want to rush you through, so slow her down by taking your time ordering.
This place does work for groups, but we plan our meals earlier than the regular dinner time to avoid the crowd. The service is also slower if you go earlier, which is a good thing in this case.
This restaurant does have good food, and overall the service is alright. Most people wouldn’t complain about a waitress being fast, but that one was a bit too fast. If you follow my ordering suggestion to slow her down, and try to get a booth, you should enjoy it! Or if you’d rather take it home, get it to go! Either way, the food is very enjoyable so ENJOY!