Welcome to Burt's Food Blog

Hello I'm Burt Fleisher, a Chicago area restaurant lover who travels the USA extensively, and is always seeking out interesting and unique food wherever I may be. This Blog has become my photo-journal, chronicling most of my restaurant and dining experiences with a bit of humor added in to keep it light.

I want to thank you for stopping by and reading, I hope you enjoy my musings and that you'll subscribe to Burt's Food Blog or Like Me on Facebook.

Eat well and take care!


Monday, November 28, 2011

Fiasco At Fiamico’s

I’ll start with the niceties; The restaurant is really very attractive and warm. It looks and feels cozy, and the seating is comfortable, and the d├ęcor is very nice. From the fireplace in the center of the restaurant, to the wood burning brick pizza oven and the bar, it all looks great with nice classy touches and shows what must have taken a good show of money to make it all work.

Unfortunately for them, I'm the guy who would have been more ecstatic about eating on wobbly used plastic TV trays while sitting on stacks of milk crates if the food and service had been stellar, because great ambiance only goes so far.

To put it bluntly; I was massively disappointed by my meal and service at Fiamico. And the long 6-9 month wait and buildup for this hopeful gem to finally open it’s doors in a sea of restaurant despair that is downtown Waukegan, only made the whole experience seem even more deflating.

The dinner fiasco began with a basket of sliced crusty Italian & focaccia breads placed at our table without butter, oil or cheese, so I asked our WINOT (Waiter In Need Of Training) for some. After 10-15 minutes passed by with no sign of the WINOT. I flagged down a passing waiter to help find the WINOT and have him stop by. The WINOT showed up empty handed, and wanted to know what we “wanted”. And after being reminded, WINOT brought out oil & cheese but of course forgot the butter.

By the way, the oil was herbed and tasted low grade, the cheese smelled and tasted like that pizza Parmesan-Romano mix from a can, and not a quality fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano like most quality establishments at this price point would normally provide.

I ordered the meatball appetizer and had asked if an Italian sausage link could be added alongside the meatballs for me to try out. What came out from the kitchen was this bizarre 3” high pile of ground up sausage meat in the shape of a cone (wish I had a picture of it!). Without a doubt, this is one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen served. I sent it back, and reminded the WINOT that the request had been for a sausage link, but not to worry about it now, and just cancel the order.

Somehow that last part of what I said got lost, because near the end of the meal, the kitchen sent out a whole intact sausage link anyway. Then later when the check came, WINOT pointed out that someone named Gino was nice enough to mark the link “n/c”. What I wish is that Gino would have got up and stopped by my table, and if he’s reading this, I’ll bet he’s wishing that he had too.

While I could go on about how the rest of the meal went on like this, there were just too many mis-queues to even bother recounting.

I guess what bothered me most, is that the meal from start to finish was so poorly executed by the kitchen. From the minestrone soup that did not taste cooked all the way through to tender, to the canned tasting marinara sauce used on both the meatballs and pizza. The main attraction wood fired pizza itself was a disappointment as well, with an underdone crust, resulting in a limp/soggy pizza center and that terrible sauce.

I left feeling like I wasn’t important enough to warrant the undivided attention of a WINOT, in what was basically an empty restaurant. And that no one who represented the ownership or family of the restaurant ever came by any of the tables to see how things were going, bothering to build new relationships or welcoming in new customers. Or to even find out what had gone wrong after food was sent back and then care enough to get customer feedback on how to improve.

Fiamico, whether they know it or not, are in the awkward position of trying to backfill a pretty big gaping hole left by the successive failures of downtown Waukegan’s last three Italian eateries, which were all pretty good, Bacci’s was even a real standout. But that was then, and this is now Fiamico’s time. And they have a great opportunity and a rare captive audience to try to win over for Italian food in this area, but they better get their heads in the game or I’m afraid they won’t last.

226 N Sheridan Rd.
Waukegan IL 60085
(847) 672-4117

Taste: 3 (of 10)
Experience: 3 (of 10)
Value: 4 (of 10)
Score: 3.5 (of 10)

Fiamico Ristorante on Urbanspoon


  1. I tried it and absolutely agree. The food was not authentic not even edible. I do not recommend it for anyone.

  2. I have no idea what Fiamico you went to but the photos you posted look fa-nominal! I have eaten there several times and have had nothing but excellent food and great service. I couldn't disagree more with the sauce in a can comment...have you ever had San Marzano tomatoes? They are only grown in a specific region of Italy - the attention to detail and delicious food is a breath of fresh air for Waukegan. Thanks and Welcome Fiamico!

    1. Dear anonymous you must either work there or be related to the owners because when i ate at Fiamicos i had a horrible dinning experience..the food was sub par and not tasty at all..but then again perhaps there was to much hype about it being delicious authentic Italian food so i had set myself up to be blown away when i did not like it at all..so far everyone i know who has tried it agrees with this blog.

  3. Dear Anonymous, I can only say to you that I review and most importantly recount my exact experiences when I go to any restaurant. The post above was a brief, but exact re-accounting of the night I went.

    I am not challenging if you may have had stellar visits or not. All I know is that I certainly didn't experience anything resembling quality service.

    And as to the canned sauce; San Marzano tomatoes grown in Italy are still canned or jarred in Italy before being shipped to Waukegan, are they not?

    I only wish the owners would have had the brass to walk the floor and shown enough care to find out what was going on with the few customers in the place that night. A visit and explanation of the horrible service and kitchen mistakes would have gone a long way.

  4. Burt,
    I appreciate the review - being a Waukegan resident, I am planning to visit this restaurant. This has to be one of the toughest areas (and time of year) to open an Italian, or anything that is slightly upscale.

    I hope that the service has improved since your visit. Base on your visit, it seems that a few minor changes could really make the difference. I will let you know how my Fiamico experience turns out. JSR

  5. Burt,

    You went very early on in their experience; I hope you'll try it again. We've been there three times and are going again for the fourth time tonight on Valentine's Day. The service was spotty the first night but they've gotten consistently better.

    1. Dear Anonymous- Glad to hear you had better luck and that they are improving. I will give them a few more months to continue improving and maybe give them another shot. And if all is well, you'll be the first to know!

      Thanks for reading!

    2. Burt, we just left there...worst food we ever had and the hostess was rude, and unprofessional...the special was porterhouse steak...not cooked correctly, tough...very tough and bland...garlic mashed? no flavor, no garlic and the hostess really did not care...lucky we got 3 small pieces of, ummm bread? I have been in the industry for over 43 years and this is by far one of the most falsely publicized restaurant I have ever seen.
      mary potter smith

  6. Burt,
    Thanks for your review. A Waukeganite (with many a visit to Bacci's, including several private parties for me there) looking for all-around, consistent, reliable quality. I'm not "fancy" but appreciate (OK, expect) to be noticed, treated warmly and attentively. In the three times that I have visited this restaurant, each time has had some element ( more than one, more than once) of "this must be opening night, and the wait staff has never worked before, in ANY occupation."
    In fact, I was a little embarrassed because many of the staff apparently speaks little or no English, and this was a problem when ordering drinks, and more. Specifically, if anyone orders ANY item modified or additionally, the request seems to create an insurmountable problem for the wait staff, and the kitchen. The waiter I had kept replying to my order, requests, etc."No problem"..I hate that! What if it WERE a problem.....I met the manager and mentioned suggestions on how the wait staff could be more cordial and erudite. In my successive
    visits, apparently there is an entirely new (still fairly untrained)
    wait staff, with no pass-down, and they still have issues handling simple tasks. I have watched carefully, and is seems....that there is some underlying sense of terror, such worring about tasks, that the customer ends up being the last priority. This is sad indeed, because of all the potential of the place. Food...another story. But I move on. A real frustration in layout is that many customers face, and are literally only feet away from, the giant, glaring "Golden Arches", and street activity. And, literally "glaring" street and other ligts. The fairly inexpensive investments of cafe curtains, shades, louvered shutters..could immensely enhance the decor at night. Well, enough bashing. I hope management is circumspect, reads sincere feedback, and makes changes...there is opportunity here, but much needs to be done to draw the respect and the repeat business. Parking..Great! What a convenience. Easy to find. Let's get this place together so we can
    enhance the ambience with which Downtown Waukegan has been struggling for so long. And...vive ArtWauk !!!!!

    1. I never comment on blogs but I felt that for this restaurant I had to. I have been there a couple of times and I have to agree on terrible service and below average food. I think the restaurant is beautiful I love the ambience. The sad part is that once you start ordering it goes down from there. I took my mom for her birthday and we ended up leaving half way through the dinner because our waiter was rude and did some unsanitary things right in front of us. It wasn't only the waiter but it was the chef. I saw him eating, touching his head, and then continued making my pizza. That was all we needed to see to make us leave. The worst part was having a little girl running around the restaurant and grabbing things from our table. I also noticed that the people that knew the owners would go in and out of the kitchen. Not only would they act like they were at home but our waiter would treat them better then us and would take them anything before us. This was my experience the first night and the second time was not any better. My advice is for them to fix it quick because if I'm going to pay money for terrible food I might as well cross the street into McDonald's and I promise you there would be way better service and even food. I'm sorry but I cannot recommend this place to anyone and for people to say the service got better I think that's a cover up. I just went few weeks ago and this restaurant has been open for a while now so what's the excuse now?