Veteran’s Day left me with a $1,000 repair bill for the MINI’s passenger seat ass-sensor and a standalone Friday to end the workweek. On my way to work, there was an ad on the local radio station announcing that Audi’s Olde World Restaurant, located at the John Murtha Cambria County Airport, was open for business, with a Mediterranean menu and a wine list with 20 selections. Sounds like a date, I thought!
I figured I’d do a little research during the day and check out the menu and wine list. Maybe pull up some CellarTracker tasting notes for their wine selections. A quick Googling revealed… not much. No website for the newly-launched restaurant. Just a story from the local paper announcing the award of the restaurant concession, and about a thousand job sites republishing Audi’s job listing for cooks and delivery drivers.
Well, how about the airport web page? The front page proclaimed that Audi’s would be “coming soon.” It also announced “New!” flights, as of April 6, more than seven months ago.
Hey, Johnstown… it’s 2010. Maybe it’s time to realize that this Internet thing isn’t a passing fad. If you’re launching a new restaurant, your web page should not only exist, but build interest for your opening. If you’re running an airport, dust off the cobwebs once in a while and announce major changes in realtime.
The main event
The Spousal Unit and I arrived at 7:00 on Friday night, a week and a day after the restaurant opened for business. The décor of the restaurant is little changed since Sassy’s, with a cheery “blue sky” motif and classic aviation-themed Art Deco prints that will put you in a Lucky Lindy & Amelia frame of mind. Large model aircraft hang from the ceiling. The booths and tables are a little cheap-looking, but the overall appearance is true to the airport location, spacious, and clean. The space could accommodate a surprisingly large crowd.
We were seated at a booth, and after a brief confusion about who would be serving us, we were presented with laminated menus. A scan of the similar (or identical) takeout menu is presented below.
The menu is eclectic, with a combination of pizzas, “red sauce” Italian dishes, Greek dishes, tacos, hoagies, and local classics like pierogies and salads topped with steak and french fries.
We requested a wine list, which our server quickly brought to the table. It was a ragged sheet of letter-sized paper, with scotch tape at the edges, suggesting it had just been pulled down from the side of a refrigerator. The list consisted of a variety of mass-market wines, listed without prices. We settled on a bottle the 2009 Folie à Deux Ménage à Trois Red, which I’ve always found to be a safe choice on lists dominated by the large producers.
The Spousal Unit decided on a small appetizer of hummus, and the veal parmesan, while I settled on a calzone with sausage and onions. However, our server informed us that the veal was sold out, so she changed her order to chicken parmesan.
Our server seemed to be new to the trade, and received a bit of training from a supervisor on tableside wine service. Throughout the rest of the evening, he was quiet and unobtrusive, yet attentive to refilling our glasses and making sure we were taken care of. Occasional lapses, such as our missing silverware, should resolve themselves with a little experience.
The hummus arrived with Italian bread, rather than pitas as we expected. The bread, however, appeared to have been freshly baked on site, and was tender and warm. The texture of the hummus was coarse and grainy, and it was served too cold. However, the flavor was a high point of the meal, with a strong garlic presence that appealed to us aficionados of the stinking rose.
The Spousal Unit reported satisfaction with the chicken parmesan, which was served in an abundant portion with spaghetti. The sauce appeared to be homemade, as evidenced by a stray bay leaf on the plate. My generously-sized calzone was also good, with plenty of mozzarella, ricotta, sausage, and onion, although it was not quite as warm as it should be in the center.
We lingered over the wine, and when we were done with that, our server kept our water glasses full as we discussed the week past. The food was very reasonably priced, at $2.99 for the hummus, $8.99 for the chicken parm, and $6.49 for the calzone, with plenty of leftovers. The wine, however, was $32, which seems a steep tariff for a wine that currently sells for $9.99 in the state stores ($12.99 regularly). The Back Door Cafe sells the same producer’s Zinfandel, a superior wine to the Ménage a Trois, for $30.
Audi’s is a new restaurant with some rough edges; I would have liked to have seen more focus in the menu, preferably a bona-fide Greek restaurant to fill a glaring hole in the Johnstown restaurant scene. The atmosphere and food prices are agreeable, and the service just needs a little refinement. But so far there’s not a whole lot that’s special to differentiate the restaurant from other alternatives in the area. The Morgantown, WV, airport offers some surprisingly good Mediterranean dining at its Ali Baba restaurant, so it can be done. Best of luck to the new proprietors in Johnstown to find that spark.