Food: () Traditional fare for diners who want a change from franchise Italian

Service: () Good at lunch, dinner service was poor

Atmosphere: () Artificial greenery and framed art adorn a spacious room

More Info

Location: 1857 NW Highway 97, Redmond (at Sleep Inn)

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Lunch served until 4 p.m.

Cuisine: Italian and American

Price range: Lunch $11 to $17; dinner starters and salads $5 to $15, pasta $12 to $20, entrees $15 to $27, pizzas and calzones $10-$29

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa

Kids’ menu: Four meals priced $5 to $7

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Vegetarian delight (veggies on angel hair pasta) $12; gluten-free pasta $3 extra

Alcoholic beverages: Full bar

Outdoor seating: Enclosed patio off bar

Reservations: Welcomed

Contact:, 541-504-4300

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It’s always disappointing when slipshod service gets in the way of an otherwise satisfactory meal. That was our recent dinner experience at Geno’s Italian Grill in Redmond.

I believe the service problems were an exception. On a subsequent luncheon visit, I was well attended by a lone professional. But the general disregard that my dining companion and I felt on that first evening continues to leave us with a “bad taste,” so to speak.

Geno and Debbie Burke’s restaurant was a fixture in downtown Madras for several years until it relocated on March 1 to the north end of Redmond, beside the Sleep Inn. The space has been home to several restaurants, none of them long-lived.

Geno’s has an opportunity to break the jinx, if it gets its service issues in order. While not elite Italian, like Trattoria Sbandati in Bend, the food at least the equal of Central Oregon’s better-known national-franchise Italian establishments. The ambiance, while hardly intimate, is very spacious, with separate rows of facing booths, and walls adorned with framed art and artificial greenery.

Hearty entrees

The evening of our displeasure began well. We were seated (after some initial confusion at the door) and offered wine or cocktails. Our orders were efficiently taken and delivered in a reasonable amount of time — first a salad and a starter, then our entrees.

The plates were fine if undistinguished. The house salad ($5) of fresh, crispy, lightly chopped romaine leaves was served with slices of cucumber and red onion, tomatoes, carrots and commercial croutons. The Italian dressing, sadly, did nothing to boost the flavor.

Four meatballs ($10) were baked in a rich house-made marinara sauce and topped with a generous melt of mozzarella. Dense and savory, I also found them just a little salty.

My veal Parmigiana entree ($18) was tender but heavily breaded, baked with marinara and doused in multiple cheeses. It came with an ample side portion of spaghetti and sauteed vegetables.

My friend’s chicken Marsala ($17) lacked subtlety. Served upon fettuccine noodles, it tasted like stroganoff, lacking the distinctive flavor of sweet wine and capers in which its mushrooms were sauteed. What’s more, the pasta had been overcooked.

Vanishing act

The worst part was the complete disappearance of our server. After she delivered our entrees, we did not see her for at least 30 minutes. She never checked back to ask if we were satisfied with our meals, and although we saw at least two other servers, neither of them cast a glance in our direction.

We had wanted to place a to-go order — calzone for a third party — to be ready along with our check when we departed. Having finished our dinners without seeing our server, we attracted the attention of a different individual to make our request.

That finally brought our server back. She apologized for her absence, telling us the restaurant was short-staffed. Even if that were the case, she could easily have asked one of the other servers to check on us. As she dropped off our check, she promised that the kitchen would have our calzone order ready to go in 5 minutes.

Well, it took at least 15 minutes. When she didn’t return to collect our payment, we headed up to the cashier at the front of the restaurant to pay. Our server’s reason for the additional delay? “The kitchen lied.”

Rather than spreading blame, another restaurant might have apologized profusely and offered to comp the calzone, or perhaps our glasses of wine, for the inconvenience. No so here.

Decent lunch

We were told the calzone, by the way, was pretty good. It was a hearty “combo” of meats (pepperoni, salami and Italian sausage), vegetables (olives, onions and mushrooms) and ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, baked in a thick pizza pocket folded upon itself.

And when I returned alone for lunch, I quite enjoyed my cup of chicken Tuscana soup ($5, or $8 for a bowl). The house-made potage was a creamy, zesty tomato bisque, prepared with chicken, spinach, onions and “secret spices.”

An order of baked ziti ($14) was less memorable, in part because the mild Italian sausage was not of particularly high quality. (Frankly, sausage rarely is.) It came in a typical blend of marinara sauce with penne pasta and ricotta cheese, topped with a thick layer of melted mozzarella.

To give credit where it’s due, my server was really excellent, deftly moving between four or five tables. When the Burkes relocated Geno’s from Madras to Redmond, she made the move with them.

Kudos to the owners: When you find reliable, professional service staff, hang on to them. They can be hard to come by.

— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached at .