Thursday, December 29, 2005

Chuck’s Italian American Restaurant
3610 Sixth Avenue
Des Moines, IA
Phone: 515-244-4104
Hours: 4:30 – midnight, Monday through Thursday
4:30 till 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday

Chuck’s Italian American Restaurant is one that enjoys icon status in Des Moines but we’re not quite sure why. The arrangement of the restaurant is like a rat maze which some probably feel is part of its funky charm. There are some areas of the place where there is an odor in the air that is akin to a musty basement.

The pizza kitchen is in a window area off the alleged non-smoking section. Wait staff places orders for pizza there and pick it up to be served – more about that later. Perhaps it is due to the Topsy-like environment at the restaurant but the smell of cigarette smoke is pervasive, including the non-smoking area.

The evening we ate at Chuck’s, the dinner hour was just beginning and the one server in our area seemed flustered and overwhelmed that three tables were seated almost simultaneously. We were given menus to review but requests for iced tea went unanswered until a third request was made. The menu is huge – everything you might want from steaks and chicken to pasta and pizza.

“A” ordered Chuck’s famous pan fried chicken and, while the chicken is nicely prepared, the inclusion of the back of the chicken remains somewhat of a mystery. If it is just so it looks like more than you get somewhere else, for the measly bit of meat on the piece they would be better off to throw it into the stock pot and use it to make soup. “D” ordered a sausage and pepper dish from the appetizer men which arrived swimming in oil. Dinner salads are laughable. Iceberg lettuce is served on what passes for a bread plate in most restaurants. The salad tastes as though it has been sitting too long in a refrigerator that has something bad in it. French fries that came with the chicken were unremarkable and unmemorable.

About the pizza – the crust is very thin – so thin you could probably read a book through it. The application of tomato sauce is miserly with cheese and other additions falling in to the adequate but not generous arena. What we noticed throughout the evening was the number of pizza’s that came out of the oven with badly scorched crust. We saw several tables that had ordered pizza ate most of it but left the badly scorched pieces on the plate, declining a take home box for the burnt remains.

The other issue with the pizza window is its proximity to other diners. During our visit, several of the wait staff languished in the area while waiting for pizza’s to come out of the oven. Servers visited with the pizza cook about everything from their marital problems to who wasn’t pulling their fair share on that particular shift. Perhaps some would say it adds to the quirky “flavor” of Chuck’s but we found it an intrusive and unwelcome element of our dining experience.
To sum up our review of Chuck’s based on our own experience compared with the recommendations of others, it is a restaurant that is like lamb meat; you either love it or you hate it with nothing in between. Unfortunately, we would have to say our visit fell into the “hated it” arena. This establishment may well be one that has rested on its laurels for too long. Serious consideration should be given to what can be done to bring it back to what people expect from a place run by a family with such a distinguished name in the Des Moines restaurant world as Bisignano.

Rating; 1
Value: Low
Quality: Poor
Service: Bad
Recommended: No
Best Alternative: just about any other Italian Restaurant in Des Moines

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