Formaggio Taverna and Patio on Urbanspoon

Big hotels have the obligatory restaurant. In some cases the hotel restaurant can be outstanding and can even create quite a reputation for itself in the local community. In major cities there can often be restaurants that are not affiliated with the hotel but rent space from them.

That being said, locals don't generally go to a hotel restaurant except maybe for a Sunday brunch. We know our own good restaurants in town, why go to a hotel?

Formaggio is an Italian restaurant that is inside the Marriott at Hwy. 50 and Sunrise. Their head chef recently came from Il Fornaio. The promotions gal, Megan, is diligently doing her job of trying to drum up business for them. I give her a lot of credit. She's contacted Yelp members and different dining groups around town. She contacted me because I lead the Dining Out Meetup and invited me to try her restaurant. I took Deon along with me.

The restaurant is medium in size and nicely decorated. At one end there is a pizza oven and prep bar area. More on that later. They are along the back patio, although I didn't get the impression that they serve out there as a normal practice.

Service was good. Of course, they knew who I was and why I was the there. But since it isn't too busy, I would expect them to be pretty attentive normally.

I started with the above shown mussels. I was surprised at the quantity and also a little disappointed because I expected more of a brothy sauce. But they were delicious even with the tomato sauce. Deon had the Caesar salad, which came as unchopped heart of romaine with parmesan shavings and a homemade dressing. You can always taste a mixed Caesar dressing versus a bottled concoction.

Deon chose the seared tuna steak. It was served medium rare, although I thought it came out more medium. Considering how Deon likes raw tuna, I expected him to be disappointed at how much it was cooked, but he was OK with it.

I chose the Veal Saltimbocca - veal with proscuitto and a sage sauce with mashed potatoes and vegetables. As you can see, my only comment was there was too much sauce. Is there something under all that? Yes, three nice slices of veal. The potatoes were fresh and lumpy and the baby vegetables were perfectly cooked and it all had a nice flavoring of sage.

I chose the Dolce di Latte Panna Cotta - Italian caramel custard with fresh cream and Amoretti shortbread. Where's my shortbread? Guess they subbed strawberries. Anyway, I didn't care for this. It was like a flan, but the texture was off.

Deon scored with the Warm Lemon Budino - lemon cake and pudding with fresh huckleberry sauce. It was as yummy as it was attractive.

Overall impression is that Formaggio is nice and the food is good, though not great. Definitely above Olive Garden, but not as high as Il Fornaio. It would be good to go to once in a while if you live at that end of town and considering that that area has mostly fast food and big chain restaurants. But it wouldn't compete against the restaurant glutted downtown.

As for my plans for the group? Megan and I discussed some fun ideas. They are totally willing to do some imaginative or special events. We may do a cooking class or a pasta station dinner. We'll see.