There are many positive things to say about Rubiano’s. It’s located in a neighborhood that has long been desperate for good restaurants – but which seems unable to keep them for long. It’s very child friendly, one our visit there there were a couple of tables with toddlers and a guy with a friendly dog waiting outside. The food and atmosphere are decent. The prices are not outrageous. And it has developed, very quickly, a large base of fans.
However, from the beginning I had heard rumblings about slow service and mediocre food, so I gave it several months to settle down before trying it. When I finally did, last Friday night, my experience was pretty mediocre. There is no compelling reason for going back.
We arrived at the restaurant after 7:30 PM. I had anticipated that we might have to wait to get seated, but fortunately there were spaces at the bar as well as a table for two where we could add an extra chair. The restaurant soon got even more crowded, plus there were people waiting on the sidewalk. The waitresses seemed to be rushing to attend to everyone.
The menu is pretty compact, which makes sense for such a small restaurant. It offers a few deep-fried starters ($6-10), a couple of salads ($5-8), simple pastas ($8-10) with your choice of marinara, alfredo or pesto sauce, stromboli sandwiches ($9) and, the piece of resistance, pizzas and calzones. These start at $11 and $14 respectively for a small cheese, with extra toppings $1.80 to $2.40 each. The prices are not low, but they’re in line with other local restaurants.
My daughter decided on the cheese tortellini with marinara sauce from the kid’s menu ($7), which included a drink and a scoop of ice cream. Mike went for the meat’s lover small pizza ($19) and I ordered the meatball stromboli ($9). What we got, however, was different.
It took me a while to conclude that there were no meatballs in my stromboli. I had been surprised to not find them in the first few bites, but I figured they might have ended up at the ends. No such luck. The stromboli I got had cheese and tomatoes/tomato sauce, and some long, thin strips of something which I assume were artichokes. There were no meatballs and no olives (as advertised for the artichoke heart stromboli) though there was some basil. It tasted fine, though it was a bit too doughy for the amount of filling and the different ingredients weren’t completely harmonized. The basil was a tad too bitter, and yet it’s what gave the dish its fresh flavor. I decided not to send it back because I figured that it would take another fifteen minutes to get the right stromboli, and I was pretty hungry. Even without the meatballs this was a pretty messy dish, you need a fork and knife to eat it discretely.
The stromboli came with a side salad of mixed greens, tomatoes, green peppers and croutons with your choice of dressing. I was pretty good.
My daughter’s troubles with her food actually started earlier. She had ordered a raspberry iced tea, but what she got was a plain, unsweetened ice tea. It turns out that they don’t actually carry the raspberry tea advertised on the menu. The waitress happily substituted it for a diet-pepsi. She did get her order of tortellini right, though instead of bringing her a kid’s size portion as she had ordered and billing accordingly, she brought a regular portion. Thus a $7 meal, which included a drink and dessert, became an $12 one. She didn’t charge us for the ice-cream, however. Not a big deal, but yet another mistake that shouldn’t have happened.
Mika liked the tortellini, she thought the marinara sauce was fine though she left most of it on the plate. The adult-size serving was fine for an adult-size appetite, but not particularly generous. She didn’t have leftovers to bring home.
Mika and I were almost done eating our meals by the time Mike got his pizza. The meats had a very nice smokey flavor, though the saltiness in them pretty much overwhelmed the rest of the pizza. This, of course, is a problem for meat-heavy pizzas, which is why I personally don’t order them. He liked it well enough. I thought the dough was pretty nice, a bit tough and a bit chewy but with a good flavor. I prefer thick-crust pizzas, however. I couldn’t taste much of the cheese and sauce because of the flavor of the meats. The pizza didn’t keep that well, however. By the next day the smokiness on the meats had become much weaker and, eaten cold, it wasn’t particularly compelling.
Service was rushed but friendly. There were obviously two pretty major mistakes. The fault on the stromboli lies with the kitchen, it appeared correctly on the bill. The other mistake was the waitress’, but I can’t really blame her because the place was very loud and she seemed so rushed. We paid the bill – after all, she had consumed the food and we were ready to go-, but I would be careful of examining it and the order carefully if we returned.
As a final note, before writing this review I included a brief summary of the experience on my San Leandro Talk Facebook page. One of the cooks from Rubiano’s chimed in to say that I should have either spoken up then – though he did recognize it would have taken at least 10-15 minutes for me to get the right stromboli if I had done so – and should “shut up” now. He also made some comment about how I am not a San Leandro native. That type of anti-customer attitude makes me doubly-reluctant to return to the restaurant.
600 Dutton Ave, Unit C
San Leandro, CA
M-Su 11 AM – 10 PM