Graffiti's still impresses 

It's a Italian standby in Little Rock.

At its best, good Italian food is simple, with well-cooked pasta serving as a foundation upon which sauce, spice, and protein can work their magic. For the home cook, this isn't hard to achieve given the small portions used, but when pasta is scaled up to the restaurant level, those simple dishes too often become studies in gummy, overcooked noodles and sauces past their prime. While our recent meal at Graffiti's on Cantrell didn't avoid all the pitfalls that come with serving Italian on a large scale, we left our visit pleased in the understanding that they'd gotten closer to our ideal Italian meal than any place has in some time.

We started with some seasoned ciabatta (half order $3.35, full order $6.50), and while the garlic and herb topping was flavorful, the bread was a little more dry than we felt an oily bread like ciabatta should warrant. There's a fine line between good toasted bread and dry toast, and this was unfortunately the latter. As an optional item that cost money, it left much to be desired. Our spirits were immediately raised by the arrival of our second starter, the stuffed mushrooms ($6.45) — four mushroom caps piled high with Italian sausage, red sauce, and toasted mozzarella. These mushrooms were gooey without being slimy, and the balance of textures made for bite after compelling bite.

The first main dish that drew our eye was the Fettuccine with Seafood ($21.95), which was marked as a "Graffiti's specialty." The resulting bowl of pasta was excellent, with firm fettuccine topped by an ocean's worth of tender scallops, sweet shrimp, and flaky white fish. The scallops in particular were a nice surprise, since getting the bivalves cooked well in our land-locked locale is not the norm; these were perfect. The sauce was a thick, creamy affair that clung to the noodles and seafood nicely, but suffered from some slight separation that had us wondering how long the dish might have been hanging around in the window before our server got to it. Overall, though, this was a dish worth the high price tag, and one we certainly hope to try again.

Sticking with our pasta theme, we also ordered the Linguine with Escargot (half order $7.40, full order $15) and Spaghetti with Meatballs (half order $6.95, full order $12.95). In both cases, our pasta was firm and just past the point of al dente (which is where we prefer to eat it). The linguine was served with a creamy white wine sauce dotted with snails, and while the sauce was magnificent, the snails themselves were plagued by a slightly bitter aftertaste, something that points to their being cooked without a proper fasting period to clean them of all their waste. It's a real shame, because in terms of texture and preparation, these were among the best snails we've ever tried.

Our classic spaghetti with meatballs suffered from none of the problems we found with the other two pasta dishes. The sauce was a perfect red sauce, dark and rich with just the right amount of bracing herbs to give it some character. The meatballs themselves were heavenly, with a moist-yet-firm texture and spicy-sweet flavor that had us wishing for more than just the four we ordered. A good meatball shouldn't just be a chunk of ground meat; it should have character, and these little nuggets of caraway-scented sausage were exactly what we wanted to taste.

Our overall experience at Graffiti's was as mixed as our meal. On the one hand, the restaurant dedicates a single person to providing refills, something we wish more places would do, seeing as there's nothing worse than choking down a meal with an empty glass staring you in the face. But our main server seemed somewhat overwhelmed by his section, disappearing for a large part of our meal and skipping us on several rounds (something we observed him doing to other tables, too). The inefficient service perhaps led to some of the sauce separation, which when coupled with the escargot preparation issues made less-than-perfect meal. Still, with the good parts of the experience outweighing the bad, we wouldn't hesitate to head back over to Graffiti's when a pasta craving comes upon us.

Related Locations

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

Most Shared

  • Michelle Duggar and the Family Council try to torpedo Fayetteville non-discrimination ordinance with lies

    The Arkansas Family Council has enlisted Michelle Duggar to oppose a Fayetteville non-discrimination ordinance with a fear-mongering robocall.
  • Train derailment in Hoxie kills 2; homes evacuated

    Two people were killed with two trains collided near Hwy. 67 early this morning, and State Police are evacuating residents of the southern end of the city while the trains burn. U.S. 67 south of Hoxie and U.S. 63 are closed. The trains were carrying hazardous chemicals.
  • Minimum wage group turns in nearly 70,000 additional signatures

    Give Arkansas a Raise Now, the group seeking to qualify a ballot measure to raise the state minimum wage from $6.25 to $8.50 an hour by 2017, turned in an additional 69,070 signatures to the Arkansas Secretary of State's office today.
  • American Bridge releases report on Koch brothers' environmental impacts and layoffs

    American Bridge, the liberal PAC formed by David Brock, the former Clinton foe now dedicated to round-the-clock Hillary Clinton defender, is out today with a new report on environmental impacts and layoffs from Koch Industries. The report focuses on the business activities of the Koch brothers — more famous for hundreds of millions in political spending aimed at slashing government services, regulation and taxes — in twelve states, including Arkansas. From the report: "The Kochs' extreme, self-serving agenda is bad for working families. And that reality is starkly embodied not only by their political persuasions, but by their business endeavors."
  • And then I ... read about a tour of sculpture installations by Barbara Satterfield

    Ceramicist Barbara Satterfield, one of the Arkansas Times' "Visionaries" in 2013, has announced the creation of a touring, interactive sculpture exhibit that will be installed in public places in Helena, Heber Springs, Dardanelle and Warren before the final exhibition at the Cox Creative Center.

Latest in Dining Review

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

© 2014 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation