Restaurant Review Roulette: Mambo Italiano

For the last two weeks, I actually had some clue of how many stars Greg Cox might give the restaurants he was reviewing.  I knew that 618 Bistro was abominable, and his “award” of 1 star to the place may expedite its demise.  Or cause them to turn it around.  I also had heard a lot of great things about Guglhupf, so 4 stars was not a big surprise.

This week’s entry?  A place in Apex known as Mambo Italiano.  An Italian, family style restaurant in Apex.  A place that strives to be just like you’d find in Little Italy in New York.  My god, have these people actually eaten in Little Italy?  That’s their objective, their dream, their aspiration?  Meh.

Anyhow, I’ve never been to Mambo Italiano.  Hell, I only go to Apex to see my friend, knife expert Chad Ward (he’s in “near Apex,” at that). So for me to give odds this week will be a complete crapshoot.  The online “reviews” are your typical jumble of nonsense, so I’m going to guess.  But then, isn’t that what Restaurant Review Roulette is all about?

So, here are the odds:

4.5 to 5 stars — 10,000 to 1

4 stars — 100 to 1

3.5 stars — 25 to 1

3 stars — 3 to 1

2.5 stars — 1 to 1

2 stars — 4 to 1

1 to 1.5 stars — 20 to 1

Realize that last week’s one star offering was extremely rare — more so than an award of 5 stars.  That’s because Cox traditionally wouldn’t even write about a bad place.  But with the cutbacks at the N&O, I suspect Cox no longer has a fat expense account, and he essentially is forced to write about any place he visits.  Even if it’s painfully bad.  I’m betting that Mambo Italiano isn’t that bad.

My uneducated, completely ignorant guess: 2.5 stars.


March 5, 2010 Edit: Greg Cox awarded Mambo Italian 3 stars.  You readers pretty much nailed it.  It just might be worth a trip to Apex to give this place a try.


10 Responses to Restaurant Review Roulette: Mambo Italiano

  1. VaNC says:

    I vote 3.

  2. burgeoningfoodie says:

    2.5-3 seems to be the avg of most places. I’ll go 2 stars.

    On a separate note, I believe as a food editor it would be his duty to write about the bad as equally as the good. Nothing happens without some outside criticism on a large scale. Plus it would help to know where NOT to spend our money.

  3. drew says:

    A generous 3. Italian food is easy to like, and Greg’s a sucker for mediocre food. Plus, he’s probably going to cut Apex a break.

  4. The Gourmez says:

    I’ve got to agree with burgeoning foodie. A lot of people refrain from giving negative critiques of places. I really don’t understand why, unless it’s some sort of “everyone’s a winner” mentality. I don’t give that many myself, but I think that’s because I am spending my own money, so I’m not going to spend it somewhere that I’m just wasting my money.

    I can’t vote on Mambo Italiano. Never been there.

  5. Victus Populi says:

    I totally agree with all of y’all! I looked at the N&O today and noticed that almost all the restaurants received at least 3.5 stars or higher. That is a little too generous. I’m not saying that restaurant critics should trash every place, but I agree that if you are a critic you should offer a bit of criticism.

  6. Tom from Raleigh says:

    For me, a negative review in a newspaper is a waste of space. I won’t spend my time reading a bad review generally. I’ll just avoid the place. There are so few exceptional places that I’d rather hear about them whether they are cheap eats or high-end dining.

  7. AMC says:

    I have to say as someone with quite a bit of restaurant experience I have to disagree with you on this one. First a review is an opinion. For Greg Cox it is a more educated opinion for the rest of everyone else not so educated. There is a difference between not liking the food and having bad food. Just because you don’t like it does not mean its not good and other people may like it. If a restaurant is really bad it will go out of business soon enough on its own without any help. Greg Cox does need to keep the negative reviews to a minimum, remember this is something someone has put a tremendous amount of time and money into and counts on to put a roof over their head. But at least he does eat at a place three times before writing it up, for someone to judge a place on one visit good or bad is a little ridiculous. Maybe the kitchen got very lucky and served you something perfect. Or maybe a couple of kitchen guys got sick and are out or maybe 100 people showed up with no reservation or maybe you were just in a bad mood all day and nothing was going to make you happy or maybe your go to restaurant is the local all-u-can eat and you don’t understand all the hype when you visit a 5 star place. Most people are also slow with the compliments and quick with the criticism as well. Point is all kind of things can, will and do happen that affect each diner’s experience so take every review, wether from greg or online, wether positive or negative with a grain of salt.

  8. blewgo says:

    Well said AMC.

  9. Chad says:

    I wish Greg hadn’t been so generous. Due to a lot of kid activity we needed to eat out last night. Mambo is pretty close to us but we’d been avoiding it, thinking that it was just another mediocre red sauce joint to replace the less than mediocre Cinellis that was in that space before. But based on Greg Cox’s review we thought we’d give it a shot. We were right. He was wrong. It is, in fact, mediocre at best. Service was friendly but amateurish. The salad comes *before* the entree, not at the same time. Bread comes early, not in the middle. Please let people know that the house wine isn’t just “rustic” but tastes like syrup. The linguine with white clam sauce wasn’t bad. The pasta was cooked properly and the chopped clam dressing had some flavor. However, like every other entree we had, it was underseasoned. The grilled salmon was underseasoned and overcooked, thin and dry. And with no bed of pasta or vegetables to give it some backup support, the flaws were all the more apparent. Stuffed rigatoni with meat sauce at least had some flavor, but it was almost all garlic. I like garlic. I like it a lot. But I also like to taste tomato, and perhaps even meat in my meat sauce. The ricotta-stuffed rigatoni were undercooked and underseasoned. But you know what, it wasn’t an awful meal, just a disappointing one, and I wouldn’t be complaining if it hadn’t been $87 after tip. That’s ridiculous for the level of the food we were served, especially when Daniel’s, an Apex staple, serves significantly better food for the same price. I generally don’t nitpick about prices, but the price to quality ratio at Mambo Italiano is so out of whack that I think Greg Cox owes me a makeup meal.

  10. burgeoningfoodie says:

    While I wasn’t saying there needs to be more negative or less generous offerings, I was merely stating what my observation is of the majority of the ratings given out. I also was stating that bad places need to be reviewed just as often as good places or if a good place has gone down hill or vice versa it should be known (maybe in just a small blurb) as such. Movie reviewers don’t review just the avg – good movies and Food editors/reviewers in larger cities just don’t review just the 3-4 star restaurants. I realize there are more places than any one person can review at one time, but if the place is a bomb (or has great food but lousy service or vice versa), I think it should be noted and reviewed along with all the others. I understand that places that don’t merit customers will put themselves out of business if they don’t turn themselves around and nowadays there are plenty of food boards which will let those interested know whether to go to a certain place or not. If the people are doing this for a livelihood and to represent their product, then they should be able to take criticism and make the product worth investing in or righting the ship(a la Butternut Squash in Chapel Hill). I’m glad Mr. Cox goes to a place 3 or 4 times and orders different things and hopefully has different experiences with the staff. As AMC stated, each day is different. Okay I’m done rambling.

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