Montecatini Ristorante, located across Civic Street from the Lesher Performing Arts Center, has been a favorite in Walnut Creek since 1989.

It is well reviewed in both the hometown Diablo magazine and on Trip Advisor. We have taken advantage of Groupons to dine there twice over the past few months.

The Groupon deal is exceptional– $69 for a bottle of premier wine (Rombauer Chardonnay, Frank Family Chardonnay and quality reds not to exceed $60) and two entrees. Essentially, you are eating for $9 plus tip which is why the Groupon deal (Tuesdays-Thursdays and Sundays) is so popular.

Executive Chef Ermes Paulin, who has owned the restaurant since 1989, based the menu on the Italian town of the same name. He offers a full bar, complete with two big screen televisions that had the Giants’ playoff game showing when we were there on a Wednesday. The wine list is excellent and, for Walnut Creek, not overly pricey. There are plenty of Napa and Sonoma favorites as well as a Justin Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles.

I ordered veal dishes both times—the Saltimbocca the first time (a favorite of mine) and the scaloppini Con Funghi most recently.

Scaloppini Con Funghi

Scaloppini Con Funghi

The Saltimbocca tops the veal slices with prosciutto, mozzarella in a sage brown sauce. It was accompanied by pasta (one nice touch is a small bowl of Parmesan placed on the table) and sautéed vegetables. I enjoyed it.

The Scaloppini with mushrooms, rosemary in demi-glaze brown sauce was cooked perfectly, but lacked any particular flavor—it was bland.

The same went for my bride’s Fettuccine Alla Viareggina, a house specialty with scallops, large prawns, bay shrimp, fresh mushrooms, tomato cream sauce. She, who routinely skips salt, added salt three times to her plate. The shellfish was cooked perfectly.

Fettuccine Alla Viareggina

Fettuccine Alla Viareggina

One constant: the creamy tomato sauce on the pasta coupled with the Parmesan was excellent.

Presumably, given our previous experience and the ratings, it was simply an off-night for the kitchen.

The menu features a wide variety of pasta choices as well as veal, chicken, beef and shellfish. It is an ambitious menu for the kitchen is relatively small—you can see it both from the street and the bar.

The restaurant is small and loud—tables close together and hard surfaces on the walls and ceilings. If you are looking for an important business meeting or date night with conversation, it’s not a good choice. That said, there were plenty of groups enjoying their meals and chats.

–Tim Hunt