I had to stay close today, so I thought I'd stop in at Il Mulino for a comfortable lunch. They have a reasonable lunch menu which they serve until 5pm and it's usually pretty dead after 2pm. Today was no different.
Il Mulino Interior
Sometimes it's hard to tell on a phone if the picture is clear; sorry about that. I ordered an Iced Tea and tried to find something other than Eggplant or Salmon on the menu, but I couldn't. No veal or chicken dishes without breading; they don't have Chicken Francese at Lunch anymore. So I just went with the eggplant.
Il Mulino Iced Tea
My server asked if I wanted Rolls, and I said I did. She didn't ask if I wanted Garlic or Plain; I've had them both ways.
Music plays at a pretty good level: Al Jarreau, Freddy V and Ronnie Laws play while I wait. They have some big bottle of well-known wines displayed as decorations.
Il Mulino Decorations
The eggplant came out in 4 minutes. No rolls.
Il Mulino Eggplant Parmesan Lunch
It "looks" exactly the same as it has for 6 years since I first had it. The speed that it came out was a concern; you can't cook anything that fast. I cut it to take a look and tasted the pasta.
Il Mulino Eggplant Parmesan Lunch
The pasta was bland (SALT the water people) and the sauce was a funny kind of sweet; sugary sweet rather than garlic and onions sweet.
The eggplant was too heavily breaded; this reminded me of the first time I had it, when I was wholly unimpressed. When you bread eggplant too heavily, it tastes like you're eating bread. Even that can be ok if it's tasty bread; good breading freshly cooked in garlic and oil can be pretty good, but this was generally tasteless.
Il Mulino Eggplant Close
I got 2 refills on my iced tea, but never did get any rolls. I didn't want to ask for them again since I probably wouldn't do more than just take a taste.
This place is following a different path that most other restaurants in Fort Lauderdale. While their dinner prices are up $1 in the last 4 years, the Eggplant Parm is actually $1 less; it used to be $11.95 and now it's $10.95. Except you used to get soup and Garlic Rolls; and now you just get the rolls if your server bothers to get them for you.
The food I had today was not good. When I first came here I wondered why anyone liked it. Since then, I've had some good food. Today wasn't one of those days.
Il Mulino Fort Lauderdale
I didn't feel like drive too far today; I got a late start and didn't want to hit Friday holiday traffic late in the afternoon. For some reason I though of Il Mulino. One thing about this place is that they don't have anything like Chicken Scarpariello; an italian dish that fits my diet. I checked the menu and noticed that they had Salmon Piccata; that's what I was going to have.
The first thing to know is that this place is not related to Il Mulino in New York City, which is one of the best Italian restaurants anywhere. This is just the Fort Lauderdale version of an Italian restaurant with a common name.
The last time I came to this place at 3pm I was the only one in the place, but today there were a few tables. On Valentine's day; a few savvy dudes taking their girls to lunch to save a few bucks.
It's a pretty nice place; before there were a lot of physically nice restaurants this was one of the nicer ones; now this type of decor is a dime a dozen.
Il Mulino Fort Lauderdale Interior
Iced Tea came with plenty of lemon wedges; I'm off Splenda but they don't have it here so you'll have to bring your own.
You can get the drippy garlic rolls here (see previous review); I went plain this time just to see what they're like. I'm not eating bread, so I only took 1 bite. Decent rolls. Obviously the butter tubs indicate the quality here is not NY city like in any way.
Il Mulino Rolls
I got soup with my Eggplant Parm last time; the salmon doesn't include anything. I'm not really sure what the deal is with the soup; the menu has never said that anything comes with soup. All I know is that I got it last time.
The place is pretty low key. I'd call the service competent but dour. The servers don't seem to enjoy their job here.
When they brought out the salmon, I was impressed with the portion.
Il Mulino Salmon Piccata Lunch
This is more than twice the food than I got at the Lobster Bar Sea Grill for $6 less.
While I'm not crazy about capers; this is a nice way to prepare salmon. I also like being able to dip the broccoli and the potatoes in the butter sauce. This is a terrific dish from head to toe. I even snuck a few of the potatoes. For $12.95 it's also one of the best values in town. You'll pay $25 for this on Las Olas and you won't get the potatoes.
Il Mulino. It's not Il Mulino NYC, but it's a helluva good value.
It seems that there's an Il Mulino in every city; it translates to "the mill"; I guess there's a lot of mills in Italy? Anyone from NY knows about Il Mulino in Greenwich Village; it's one of the most noteworthy, and expensive, restaurants in the city.
This location is nothing like the one in New York. The first time I came here I was wholly unimpressed with the food. The Sun-Sentinel had just published the recipe for their eggplant parmesan, a personal favorite. I sat at the bar in an empty restaurant; the spaghetti was rubbery, the sauce bland and the eggplant overbreaded.
2 years later I thought it was time to give them another try. I've been to 400 restaurants or so since, and I have a much better idea now of the balance of quality in this town. It's not fair to compare restaurants down here to say, Il Mulino in New York.
This time I got a table. It's a pretty nice restaurant, with granite tables and comfortable booths. The place is pretty roomy so you're not 4 feet from some gabby group of 4. There's pleasant music playing. I asked for a Pellegrino, but my server said they had "something else". I ordered an Iced Tea.
First they brought out the garlic rolls, which are lathered with garlic. I'm not a huge fan of this type of roll, but they weren't as messy as some I've gotten. The rolls themselves where mostly air; not worthy of the calories.
Il Mulino Garlic Rolls
The soup came out instantaneously; it reminded me of the soup I'd gotten at Carlucci's
Il Mulino Pasta Fagioli
It had more stuff than the Carlucci version; it was certainly loaded with beans (this would almost bite me later, but I digress). Not great, not bad. When I was done with the soup I just pushed it to the end of the table and settled in with the NY Post Mobile while I waited for the next course. A runner brought the eggplant out shortly thereafter; but he had no interest in taking my empty plates.
Il Mulino Eggplant Parmesan
Now perhaps in 2 years my palate has settled, or maybe I've just come to terms with the fact that Fort Lauderdale isn't Manhattan, but this wasn't bad. The sauce was better, and there was more of it. There was more cheese also; the eggplant was a bit overbreaded; about the same as Carlucci's. But all in all pretty good. The spaghetti was just right also; I have to say that this was pretty good.
Going back and looking at the pictures from Carlucci's; this was very similar. Carlucci's gave me more of everything for less money, but it's not quite as nice a place. Il Mulino feels more like a restaurant.
The tab for all of this was $18 before tip; not cheap but a lot of food.
Il Mulino is a modern, attractive space with an extensive menu and a nice, black granite bar in the rear. There are comfortable booths as well as tables, with soft but modern music playing. The bar has a TV with news during the day and sports in the evening.
Your entree includes "garlic bread", which are actually rolls doused with chopped garlic. Its a bit much on the garlic, and you'e sure to go home with garlic on your hands. The rolls are ok, but I prefer the garlic baked into some butter personally.
I've heard about their eggplant parmesan, and as an eggplant parmesan aficionado, I thought I\'d give it a try. It comes with spaghetti and truth be told; its a massive portion. I\'d say a double portion of pasta and 4 large slices of eggplant.
As for the taste, I'd have to said its highly overrated. The eggplant is too heavily breaded, and there's not enough sauce or cheese. Another issue is the sauce itself, which is bland and completely uninteresting. And we all know what spaghetti with bland sauce is; a big waste of calories and time. I'm continually amazed how an Italian Restaurant with bad sauce can survive, but then again, this is South Florida.