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Scurti's serves lasagna Northern style, pictured above, and Southern style, which includes Alfredo sauce.

Scurti's serves lasagna Northern style, pictured above, and Southern style, which includes Alfredo sauce.

Photo/Allison Young

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Our RN&R food reviews usually involve a single experience, for better or worse. Today I offer a tale of two visits because, frankly, it wouldn’t be fair to base my opinion of Scurti’s Billiards, Bar & Grill on what in my opinion was one employee’s inexperience or incompetence. Spoiler Alert: The employee moved on after our first meal, and our second try was worthwhile.

Scurti’s is blue-collar and smoker-friendly, with diamond-plate steel decor, televisions tuned to sports, and three pool tables free for use. Wednesday is open tournament night: For $5 you get a drink, a corn dog basket, and three chances at a slice of the pot. I’d call that a hell of a deal if I could better tolerate the smoke.

My wife and I zeroed in on housemade pasta. She chose lasagna Southern style (layered pasta, Alfredo sauce, portobello mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, and ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, $11.95), and I went with cheese ravioli in meat sauce ($11.95) and added a couple of Italian meatballs in marinara ($2). Both entrees came with a house salad and garlic bread. Feeling extra peckish, I ordered a half rack of baby back ribs with coleslaw and fries for us to share ($8.95). Salads appeared right away (iceberg lettuce, carrots, purple cabbage, croutons) with bleu cheese and Italian dressings that were unfortunately on the bitter side. Sadly, the salad was not the coldest thing served.

After nearly 40 minutes of waiting—and the only diners present—we were delivered three plates of cold food. My wife sent the lasagna back, waited 15 minutes, then received lasagna a bit warmer than room temp on the edges, ice cold in the center. From the warm bits we tasted, it seemed it could have been really good if properly plated. The garlic bread was fine, though lukewarm at best.

My meatballs were served somewhat warmer with a glop of undercooked ravioli dumped on the plate. Possessing less presentation than a school lunch, I couldn’t finish this gummy disaster. The fries on the rib plate were the only hot item, battered and tasty, joined by a very good slaw with a bit of zest and much more going on than just cabbage. The rib meat appeared to have been warmed to room temperature, then rendered nearly inedible by a slathering of stone-cold sauce straight from the fridge. I chose to take the ribs home for next day’s lunch; they were pretty tasty after a run through the microwave.

As we asked the bartender for a to-go box, the “chef” had the temerity to approach and ask, “How was everything?” It was cold, buddy. Really, really cold. “Oh yeah, I don’t know what’s up with this oven.” Seriously? If you knew you had a heat problem, why would you knowingly serve cold food to a paying customer? The bartender apologized, discounted our check by at least 30 percent and told us she’d let the owners know. We promised to give it another go the following week.

Thankfully, our repeat visit was night-and-day different. We ordered nearly the same items save for a switch-up to the lasagna Northern style (layered pasta, ground beef, marinara sauce, black olives, mushrooms, and cheddar, jack and mozzarella cheeses) and beef ravioli in cheese marinara sauce, again with meatballs. This time the head chef was in the kitchen and that man knows how to serve a plate of food. Everything but the salad was served up nice and hot with appetizing presentation and very robust flavors. We left happy and full, and I’m mildly ashamed to admit the ribs didn’t make it home this time to be reheated as lunch. Despite the cigarette haze, we’ll be back for the food, although we may take it to go.