Vin Santo Ristorante, Mittagong

We have some friends in Sydney with a country retreat in Mittagong, about 90 minutes south-west of Sydney.  For three years they have been telling us we’re welcome to use it anytime and now that we’re finally here, I don’t know why it’s taken us so long to take them up on their kind offer.

We’ve been cooking on the bar-be-cue most nights but last night we ventured into the town of Mittagong for a break in the routine.  With a population of just 7,000 we knew we wouldn’t be spoiled for choice but thought we would be able to find a family-friendly pizza place for a casual dinner.

The welcoming facade

The welcoming facade

On the main road we found Vin Santo Restorante.  It has a cute facade and the two flags are a welcoming touch however the inside is a bare cavernous space that really needs some banquettes or similar structures to create a more intimate dining experience.

The gas fire

The gas fire

We walked in on the dot of 6pm and having arrived so early we were the first of that night’s arrivals.  Being a casual looking place with its grey carpet, chequered white and green tablecloths, artificial candles, Christmas decorations (Christmas in July?) and 1970’s bar area, we were expecting the restaurant to be inexpensive and BYO however we found it over-priced and fully licensed.

Artificial candles

Artificial candles

The young and enthusiastic waiter greeted us at the door with, ‘How are ewes goin’?’ and we replied we were all good and I spotted a heater at the front of the restaurant and asked if we could sit at the table closest to the heater (seeing as it was 6C (42F) outside) but for some reason he said we couldn’t sit there but could have the next closest table.

I think these are Christmas decorations

I think these are Christmas decorations

As soon as we sat down the waiter asked, ‘Would ewes like some menus?’ and I really think that is a question that doesn’t need to be asked.  He asked us if we’d like something to drink but then hadn’t given us the drinks’ menu so disappeared again and came back and then hovered while we made our decision.  Wine by the glass was reasonably priced at $7.00 and it was good to see they stock wines produced in the local area.

Decorations

An Italian scene with olive trees

Then the waiter brought over a bottle of tap water with some ice in it and said, ‘I’ve just filled this bottle and only just put the ice in it so if you want to drink cold water just leave it for a few minutes so it has a chance to cool down’.  He then stood there ready to take our orders and I felt like the night was progressing on fast-forward.

Chequered tablecloths

Chequered tablecloths

We started looking over the menu and the menus are of the size that are too big to lay on the table and when you hold them up, so large that they totally obscure the person sitting opposite you.  Quite unnecessary.  There didn’t seem to be an entree section so we decided to go straight for a main course.  I just couldn’t see anything tempting on the double sided menu at all.  It reminded me of the bastardised Italian fare we used to be served when eating out in the 70’s – spaghetti bolognese, tortellini boscaiola, penne napolitano, lasagne and of course, fettuccine marinara.  Terribly lacking in imagination.

Carl's pre-dinner drink

Carl’s pre-dinner drink

The other mains were equally as uninspiring with a pork cutlet, chicken breast or steak (at $38.00) being pretty much the only options.  The special of the day was chicken parmigiana served with hot chips and salad but I wouldn’t consider that ‘special’ more just ordinary pub food.

The pizzas seemed more interesting.  Alfie ordered a meat lovers from the children’s menu.  Carl ordered the ‘special’ that was chorizo with rocket and a capsicum sauce.  There wasn’t a gluten-free option on the menu but I asked if they made GF pizzas and was told they were available however they come in a smaller size.  This would suggest to me that the GF bases are out-sourced rather than being freshly made on the premises.  I ordered the prosciutto, pesto and artichoke pizza with caramelised onion and fresh tomato with the smaller GF base.

Alfie's Meat-lovers Pizza

Alfie’s Meat-lovers Pizza

We also ordered a ‘garlic loaf’ that we imagined would be substantial considering they were charging $8.00 for it.  The waiter asked, ‘Would you like that as an entree?’  He seemed determined to ask questions with obvious answers.  When Carl ordered the pizza he told us that before service the staff sits down as a family and has a meal together and that night they’d had the pizza Carl had ordered and he just wanted to tell Carl how good it was and how much they had all enjoyed it.  Righto.

It wasn’t long before the garlic loaf arrived and it wasn’t the size we were expecting.  Just five small slices of bread (three if you don’t count the crusts) costing more than a dollar each and while the bread was hot to touch on the outside, it was stone cold on the inside and the butter hadn’t even had a chance to melt.

'Garlic Loaf' where the butter wasn't given the chance to melt

‘Garlic Loaf’ where the butter wasn’t given the chance to melt

Then the pizzas arrived and I noticed they were round pizzas cut into tiny little squares – vive la difference.  Alfie’s eyes lit up as he spied his pizza stacked generously high with toppings.  Carl loved his pizza and ate every bit of it.  The waiter asked him how he liked it and Carl said, ‘I think that’s the best pizza I’ve ever had’, (but just remember Carl has not once ever had a bad meal).  And then the waiter told us again how all the staff had enjoyed the same pizza for dinner pre-service and that it was the chef’s own special creation and as Carl had given it such high praise would he mind if he passed on his compliments to the chef.  Honestly!

Carl's choizo and rocket pizza

Carl’s choizo and rocket pizza

And then there was my pizza.  Hmmm.  No generous piling high of toppings.  The GF base was excellent and I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between that and non-GF.  It was thin and crispy which is just how I like my pizza bases.  I was hoping the pesto would be freshly dolloped onto the pizza as it came out of the oven so that it would bring a vibrant greenness to the pizza and then maybe finished off with a drizzle of olive oil and showering of fresh basil leaves but alas, the pesto was thinly smeared onto the base so it turned that brown colour and the smearing was so thin I couldn’t taste the pesto at all.  As for the artichokes well where were they?  The fresh tomatoes were so finely diced they also become insignificant and not worth a mention in the menus description.  I could definitely taste the proscuitto and it was so salty I had three glasses of water to get through it.

GF proscuitto, pesto and artichoke pizza

GF proscuitto, pesto and artichoke pizza

Alfie had an ice cream that came out in a stainless steel bowl that immediately takes you back to 1975.  I thought it was included as part of a kid’s dinner package but it was separately charged.  I also ordered him a kids drink but it came out adult sized and was charged accordingly.

Alfie's ice cream with a his own kit kat added in.

Alfie’s ice cream with a his own kit kat added in.

We didn’t stay for anything extra.  Somehow three pizzas, one ice cream, a garlic loaf and three drinks cost nearly $100.00.

I did notice quite a few locals coming in and buying takeaway pizzas.  Perhaps what Vin Santo does best is make pizzas but at over $25.00 per pizza they’re not cheap.  The waiter was genuinely eager to please however could probably try to be more discreet and less obvious with his every approach to our table needing to be acknowledged.

I found the prices at Vin Santo to be almost at a fine dining level and when the setting, service and menu fall short of the prices charged, the only result can be a disappointing dining experience.

Verdict:  Best avoided.

Vin Santo Ristorante.  105 Old Hume Highway, Mittagong NSW 2575.  Ph:  (02) 4872 4300

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Comments

  1. WOW – and they don’t accept Seniors Cards?

  2. Robert Simeon says:

    No! I would call you 2 nil LOL

  3. That sounds CRAZY expensive for pizza!! Even for really good pizza! Never again, I’d say.

  4. What a well done review Charlie, and certainly makes me either not want to go there or at the very least lower my expectations for sure. It does dound expensive for a pizza place. We have a few places like that in the city and we avoid them. Too bad your friends didn’t give you a heads up or a reco list of the good spots.
    You should put your review on Yelp to help others, I usually just take the personal stuff like names out. http://www.yelp.ca/biz/vin-santo-ristorante-mittagong

  5. Oh wow let me be captain obvious here and say that this was definitely not the best dining experience, sorry you had to go through that!

    Cheers
    CCU

  6. Oh no! There are such lovely restaurants down that way too… in Berrima and Bowral especially. Maybe that’s why Vin Santo were charging so exorbitantly – riding on the coat-tails of the reputation of the region.

  7. That does sound rather expensive for pizza for three people! 😮 The garlic loaf looks a bit like the old Pizza Hut ones!

  8. The pizzas actually look really good. I like the idea of a chorizo rocket combo but better done in my kitchen than spend that much!

  9. I guess the only way to find out is to try it. But $25 for a pizza even in a big city is pretty expensive. We ordered pizza delivery in Japan once and for 2 large pizza it was 150,000 yen yikes expensive.

  10. Sorry getting too late and I made a typo and added too many zeros, that should have been 15,000 yen or about 150 Auzzie dollars.

  11. Definitely a very pricey meal for 3 people of pizza. I wonder if for someone who doesn’t cook, especially not Italian food or is not able to make good pizza at home, the experience is a more positive one. We have a local Italian area which I’ve visited very rarely but on my last outing with my SIL and nephew we had a nice enough meal which was basically home cooking and cost the equivalent of a fancier meal at a more elegant location. Luckily my SIL had a coupon which reduced the cost to something that was almost reasonable.

    I hope that the server retains his enthusiasm as he gains a bit more experience over the years.

  12. I had to laugh/gasp over the Garlic Loaf, but Christmas decorations are the norm here in Mexico even in July and we don’t have the excuse of being in your hemisphere, where at least it is cold!

  13. Too bad it wasn’t a better experience! Seems like we’re always getting gouged when we’re on holiday. The pizza does look good, though.

  14. This was kind of hilarious. Oh, country Australia. I shan’t be showing any American friends this review; they’d have a heart attack over the prices.

  15. It’s amazing what some of these restaurants come up with for the price. Loved reading about your experience.
    Carl sounds like my husband……very easy to please in the food department. To me that is a godsend at least.
    Carolyn

  16. Wow! That’s very expensive for a pizza meal and a mediocre experience. So, I guess you won’t be going back? (Just stating the obvious :))

    Nazneen

  17. Not looking to good from here at all Charlie! This week as a birthday treat we got 2 deep dish pizzas, 1 gluten free half/half toppings pizza, 1 eight slice garlic bread (hot) and 2 big bottles of coke for $38 from good old Dominos. Definitely not fine dining, but much better priced indeed. I wonder if they’ll deliver to Mittagong? 🙂 xox

  18. Those prices are enough to provoke a heart attack, but having just gone through outback regions of Australia, I can believe them! Food outside of the main cities is an odd thing sometimes. It sounds like Alfie and Carl enjoyed themselves at least…I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you got some dining more to your (normal, adult!) tastes some other time on this trip 🙂

  19. Wow that’s expensive for what you had! The garlic bread is pretty dismal looking too. If I ever find myself there I’ll steer clear!

  20. This reminds me of the appalling fish and chips we got when my sister was here. We took them home – we didn’t even get a table and it was just shy of $100 for 2 people as the other two didn’t like fish. I nearly fell over when they told me how much it cost. Takeaway fish and chips at $50 per person? that was just stupid 🙂

    I’m glad you took your friends up on the offer though. Getting away is important.

  21. G’day and always interesting places people review….
    Thanks… Saved us time in stopping here when next we are in region too…as yes high prices…not good value, especially the garlic bread too!
    Cheers! Joanne

  22. Oh Charlie you have to be so careful outside the back fence of Sydney. I find a suburban Italian restaurant particularly suspect. I hope you had a good rest, and the house wasn’t trashed when you got back

  23. The pizza looked good, but yikes is that expensive! Didn’t sound like a fun experience at all. Too bad – I hate it when I go to a restaurant and it so misses the mark.

  24. Wow, pretty expensive for a pizza dinner…
    Hope you are enjoying the rest of your weekend 😀

  25. I hate when a restaurant meal turns out to be a bummer. Though the pizza looked really good!

  26. Now that I’ve read of your bad experience, allow me to share mine. While dining recently at a busy Italian restaurant in Decorah, Iowa, my husband and I were sprayed with soda by an employee making a mixed drink behind the bar. We were seated at the bar because the place was busy and apparently we could not sit at the one vacant table in the corner. Before this unexpected sticky shower, I had just moved my 35 mm DSLR camera from the bar counter and placed it on my lap. Good thing, or I would have been madder than I already was at being sprayed. The woman apologized with a simple “Sorry.” No free drink or meal or discount. You better believe we did not leave a tip. Really a poor way to treat first-time customers whom you’ve just sprayed with a sticky beverage.

  27. Isn’t it sad that there are actually places still around like this – stuck back in the 70’s but with a 2013 price tag!~

  28. Gosh that is super expensive for a below average meal. Great review though and good on you for posting it – sometimes it’s too easy only to write about the good stuff.

  29. That is a bit pricey! We had a similar experience just a couple of weeks ago. We were going to the theater and our dinner plans changed when we arrived and the location was closed for remodeling. We tried another place and ended up spending too much for too little. I will say that the pizza looked good!

  30. If I were in my hometown and was presented with that menu, I’d just leave, walk down the street, and find another place to eat. My town isn’t a small town, however. That puts things in a different perspective, especially when you’re visiting. 100 dollars, though, for the meal you were served seems a bit much, no matter how you look at it. I hope you went out again and had better luck. Kudos to Alfie. By bringing his own Kit Kats, he was going to enjoy dessert no matter what! 🙂

  31. That is some crazy expensive pizza!! Can’t believe that!

  32. Omg wow… Well, at least you’re really thorough and honest about your review. They’re the best kind to read. I think pizza is one of those things that I struggle to have to pay a lot of money for. Esp when it’s such a common food and there’s always a bazillion of great alternatives for it that sells quality pizza at a reasonable price. I REALLY want to put kit kat in my ice cream too, drowned in 100s and 1000s

  33. All of the food & pizzas look really tasty but it seems to be very pricey though!
    Thank you for this review though! 🙂

  34. That was one fun review! That is one pricey place. I love it because you say it just like it is. XOXO

  35. Pity about the food; it must be so disappointing to get served stuff that isn’t very well done.

  36. Ohh, how depressing [and expensive]. I’m still perplexed by the fact you couldn’t have the table you requested. I’ve had that butter-hasn’t-melted experience before – v unpleasant.

  37. It’s a bit pricey but it looks really good.

  38. Charlie, I can confirm at least one of the decorations is a Christmas ornament. I have the same silver snowflake/star thing — a gift from my mother 😉 — in the back of the closet. As for your dining adventure… well, let’s just say you’ve confirmed it’s an experience never to be repeated. Hope you enjoyed the rest of your getaway!

  39. —FAB photos.

    I know what I WANT: The proscuitto, pesto and artichoke pizza! YESss

  40. Honest review 🙂
    Nice photos specially the last one 🙂 That little dude is one crazy sweet-toother like me 🙂

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