Torroco! Italian Grill


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by foodhoodrat


How dare you? Get off you high horse and have some compassion. Torroco is not some huge corporate business that has failed the public, they are a family that put their time, hard work, money and passion for food into creating this restaurant.
I commend Andrew and Lisa for all that they have done, and remind them that bigger and brighter doors will soon be opened for them. Best of luck.

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by A and D


When you take the money and artificially defend mediocre performance, you are open to public criticism. This is how the public assures it spends its money wisely and receives good value. Some care about that relationship and responsibility between customer and owner; some do not.

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by SSG simply don't get it. No matter what you thought of the restaurant, don't kick people when they're down out of your own fear of trying. (And I'm sure you'll respond that you're some uber-entrepreneur, and if so, please enlighten us to your business endeavors - or just send a picture of your cubicle in the meandering halls of XYZ Corp.) How do I know you're not a gut-driven, passionate entrepreneur...because someone with those qualities would have never posted about how amazing their 20/20 hindsight is. I know Andrew, and he's no less person today as he was a week fact, he's one of the most stand up people I know.

He took a risk, as any new business venture does, and he got nailed with a lot of things not turning out perfect. But, how many times you fall is meaningless, it's how many times someone gets up. I'll put my money down that Sage will be here for a long time to come, and Andrew will have another venture someday in the future. And whether he succeeds or not in that venture, I give him more credit than the naysayer, scared people such as yourself that in the corner, working for "the man" in your J-O-B scared to death of risking anything. It's easy to critique when you don't get it.

For Andrew, and all entrepreneurs in the restaurant business or other industries: There will be many of us that fall down during these economic times, but watch out when we bounce back up - stronger, smarter, more efficient - and having actually LIVED life, not existed in it.

I say congratulations to'd be kicking yourself if you hadn't given it a shot. See you all at Sage.

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by A and D


Now that this unfortunate restaurant is apparently out of business, we would refer Chef Andrew Meek to our first review of Torocco!.

Regardless of how many friends you recruit to write reviews filled with praise for your restaurant and indignation for the thoughts of others, you simply cannot fool many of the people most of the time.

Torocco! was a poor execution -- in food, in service, in overall quality and value, in attention by its owner, and -- ultimately -- by the paying public.

The sad thing is that Sage is likely to close, as well, leaving Meek and Co only a memory for his all his talent.

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by A.

We visited Torroco on Dec. 12, 2008 -- we had been interested in dining there since they opened, but thought we'd give them a chance to work out the "kinks" previous reviewers mentioned. We were sorely disappointed.

We are huge fans of Sage and hoped this would be of similar caliber, or at least high-quality food. Out of the 4 people dining, only 1 had a decently-flavored meal: the cider-braised osso bucco was excellent. The others (lasagna; rigatoni; lobster bisque) were bland and uninspired. I would call it mediocre food, at best. The salads were over-dressed; the bread was dry; even the wine was bland. I just can't figure out how this happened. For an "upscale Italian" restaurant -- with prices to match -- we would have been better off going to Biaggi's.

We would love to support Chef Meek and locally-owned restaurants, but this foray into Italian makes us now wonder if the Sage reputation has been diluted.

P.S. The environment of the restaurant is very strange: nice dining room, white tablecloths, etc. but a sports station on the TV. Huh?

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by chris07gtcs

I read the reviews. You people are right. This place is good. It took to long to get my water refilled. However, if I could live on tiramisu, and perhaps the best balsamic vinaigrette I have ever tasted, I could dine here three times a day. Yeah, Thats it.

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by Aeacos

Went there on Dec 5th. Food was good but servcie was only ho hum. Waiter grabbed menu to flip it over to show us drinks and there was a long time between when we ordered our drinks till him cam eback for the food. There was a large private party in the backroom that night as well though. Give it shot.

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by What a few months can do!

I have been to torroco 3 times in a the past 3 months and the last time i went was just a few days ago and every visit keeps getting better and better. A few new fall items and a price change has given me reasons to come back more often. This new cider braised pork dish with a fresh butternut squash puree is the best dish south of Hwy 80. Service has excelled since opening week and there are plenty of reasons to go back with their daily specials. I am sick of legends bad service and the new Ruby Tuesdays that is an overpriced fast food restaurant, thanks Torroco! for adding such a wonderful dining experience to Urbandale.

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by JenCarstens

Ok...I'm eating my words. It's getting better. Who am I not to give a place another chance. Like so many places it may have been opened too early...before they really had a grasp of what they were trying to do...

The ambience seems warmer, even though I don't know what they did different...and service has picked up tremendously. Bartender was great server as well. Food was up a couple notches. They're back into my "try again" more good trip like the last one, and I'll recommend it to family and friends...

Thanks for listening, or just figuring it out Torroco crew...


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by Davis

With rave reviews, a first time visit fell short. The lasagna (recommended by staff) was bland. The walleye was moist and tasteful but accompanied by a red sauce, which seemed to be a strange combo and actually over powered the fish.

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by April

Very classy place and great food. Service was excellent and its great to see such a wonderful place in urbandale.

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by hojo

I went for lunch - and I entered skeptical. I had been previously before and didn't like the dining area and thought it was a little overpriced. But, my opinion has definitely changed after dining there for lunch. The tables were now covered in linens (although covered in paper as well, which I'm not a fan of), and the lunch menu was pretty inexpensive. I ordered the Walleye Pike sandwich, and it was outstanding. We had arancita as an appetizer, also outstanding (and I don't like mushrooms). The one drawback was that I ordered a side chopped salad, and the greens were soggy and apparently old. The dressing was nice, but a chopped salad infers a salad of crisp, fresh greens (alas, a salad should infer "fresh"), and that isn't what I received. I did notice a rigatoni salad as a side dish that I will be sure to try next time

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by Admiringfood

It's fun to see people try and sound like they know what they are talking about when they clearly dont. If you get Niman Ranch, you know its niman ranch; and a porterhouse chop!, where else is that and how to know what comes with it is not that hard. When its memorable, you can remember it. Torroco has been blessed with not hiring any pot head off the street like bravo! and legends have done. Very curtieous and attentive servers are always on the floor and rarely out of view of their diners. The food is wonderful, i also had the meatball dish and answer me this, is spaghetti sauce made out of noodles??? Dont' be so naive, the meatballs are actually cooked in the sauce to soak in the flavor, those are not frozen; and only an idot would think they would be. They knocked out 4 big walls and added a shaded patio, so yeah they didn't do anything different from jesses. Some people are too quick to say negative things cause they want to sound like a real critique, but they are just the opposite. Torroco has done a wonderful job from staff to food to atmosphere. The best restaurant for johnston,urbandale,grimes locals to eat, and worth the drive for people out of the area looking for a great night out.

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by DK

I had a great time at Torroco. The service was very good, and the food was even better. It appears to me that Andrew has worked out any start up challenges. I can't wait to go back.

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by Jen

Well, I went back. And it's not any better. 3rd strike...sorry but I'm out. I've spent over $400 at this place in the past four weeks, and it just isn't cutting it.

I won't bore you with details, just read the other 2* review was well stated. There is no passion here. I don't care if you wish to emulate large chains...most of those started with passion, and some still carry it on.

Service was weaker this time than the first. The salad was actually better. But again, over-cooked, wrongly-named pasta...I simply can't deal with that. Had another over-kill dessert, yuck.

This place needs an identity. High prices, and no love don't go very far. Find the passion, re-invent the dishes and just warm the place up a bit. I love great food, and I think a place like Bravo! is usually pretty good. If a restaurant like Tarocco is trying to capture that crowd, they either need better food, better prices or better fails on all three.

Also, I hate to say it, but as an amateur restaurant reviewer, I know an out of place review when I see one. How many people remember their entree down to the point of calling it: "Niman Ranch porterhouse Iowa Chop over local spring garlic risotto"...maybe they have a few dollars invested or own the pork supplier!

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by Scott

I have eaten at Torroco four times since its opening a few months ago. The service, ambience, and food have always been top-notch. Today I was lucky enough to have lunch at Torroco. Today’s experience was no exception, and our server was particularly accommodating this afternoon.

My wife and I have made a point to try as much on the menu as possible. Every meal has been consistently wonderful and I am really looking forward to going back to try as much as I can. The bruscetta (which I’ve always had) is a great start to any meal. I have really enjoyed several of the seafood dishes and my wife is a big fan of the rigatoni and carbonara dishes.

The décor is beautiful and a completely different atmosphere than Jesse’s Embers. While my schedule and the weather haven’t cooperated, I am really looking forward to meeting friends after work for drinks and dinner on the new patio this summer.

As an Urbandale resident, Torroco has filled a big void for not only the Urbandale area but for all of Des Moines.

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by Blanch

I have had the pleasure of entertaining clients and prospects at Torroco on several occasions. Each and every visit was a success. The aura at this establishment just beems with energy. Several clients mentioned there intentions to entertain at Torroco as well. My company is anxious to host our annual appreciation evening in the private room. What a great set up for entertaining a large crowd. As for the food and service - unique, professional, courteous and exquisite. I highly recommend Torroco!

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by mothersall

My husband and I dined at Torroco this past week and found the tastes and environment to be outstanding. We started with the signature Torroco martini made with real blood orange juice and the bartender knew what he was doing and was really personable. We could have stayed drinking those (yum yum and yum again) and visiting with Harold all evening, it was so much fun! But we were eager to try the menu. I wanted seafood so ordered the seabass drizzled with truffel oil over a garbanzo bean puree. The flavors were out of this world. My husband is a fan of local pork and so he jumped at the chance to have the Niman Ranch porterhouse Iowa Chop over local spring garlic risotto. The meat was of the highest quality and prepared to perfection and the risotto had an excellent texture and flavor. Our server was on it and she paid attention to the details. We appreciated how well she could explain the menu. Since we don't go out that much (young kids at home) those extra touches will keep us coming back. Plus we can't wait to try Chicken Saltimbocca made with artisinal Italian cheeses and homemade sauce. The table next to us had the Carbonara which was beautiful and we will be back to try the homemade pancetta (in the carbonara) because you can't get that everywhere. My husband and I recommend this place to both serious foodies and people who just want to go out and have a good time with family or friends for great food (and drinks). What a great addition to the Des Moines area restaurant scene in a convenient location. Great job Andrew and Team Torroco! See you soon!

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by kcobb

Torroco! A true asset to the long list of dining experience that you can get in the Des Moines area. For those of us who live in the Urbandale/Johnston/Grimes area it is truly a wonderful, well-thought out Italian Grill experience that has been long overdue. When I enter Torroco! I immediately get the intense feeling of a professional as well as personal dining experience that you can only find from a family or individually owned restaurant. I have been there several times, and you get the feeling that the staff has absorbed the "feel" that Torroco! personifies. Andrew Meek, Lisa Meek and their managers have personally went of their way to make sure that you are satisfied with your dining experience and not just your meal. It is obvious to me, that they are most concerned that your experience be of the utmost and that you will want to bring your friends, family and business associates back to experience the same. I love it that I can go and enjoy a menu that is not a carbon copy of so many menus, it's unique, delicious and very well thought out. I too, know that the menu has now been expanded and I can't wait to see what else has been added. Just more reasons to go back! Congrats to the Meek's and to Chef Andrew, himself, as we are very lucky to have a wonderfully talented chef in our area to enjoy the fruits of his expertise.

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by Tom

Torroco - Finally a restaurant that brings the lighter cozy side of Italy to the suburbs! The staff was all well aquainted with the menu items and appointment of wines along with a suggestion of that perfect after dinner sweet. The atmosphere left us satisfied and relaxed, as well as enthused about our next visit. With new menu items and a rapidly growing wine list - if you haven't tried it, you're missing it!

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by S. Rothmeyer

We have had wonderful experiences at Torroco. Some of our favorites have been the Rigatoni and the Pasta with proscuitto and peas for Dinner. For Lunch the Bean Soup and Meatball Panini were excellent. For Dessert we had the Cinnamon Cannolis which were fabulous. The Martinis are made from fresh fruit juices and were the perfect blend. We were also so glad to see a Patio that you can actually relax on a summer evening without baking in the sun! It is so refreshing to finally have a fine dining establishment in this neighborhood. Not another sports bar or chain restaurant. It is defintely a go to place for date night or out with friends!!

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by A and D


Andrew Meek has left the comfort zone of the chef/owner of one restaurant with control and has moved to the position of being a multiple restaurant owner without control of the new endeavor. And that is a very different position. Torroco! is an underwhelming disappointment and, once again, Wagman of the Des Moines Register has given Des Moines diners a sample of tone deaf food reviewing that fails to serve the diners' interests. The superlative, "One sweet new eatery" is so wrong as to be laughable.

We tried Torroco! on a Thursday evening. The decor is little changed from its prior incarnation as Jesse's Embers North; a bit dim, spartan and relying on the dark wood motif that has come and gone. The requisite butcher paper covers the white cloth; at least, there were no crayons. Undistinguished art, furnishings; a nice bar.

The wine list is undeveloped and undistinguished. The Chardonnay, steely and a bit harsh; the Pinot Noir chemical-like and very obviously oxidized after sitting open too many days. A wide miss on wines. An anemic selection showing little imagination.

Salads brought a limp Caesar with more chemical hints in the dressing; featured mostly iceberg lettuce and not crispy or chilled. Two whole croutons were allotted to the array. The Torroco! Chopped Salad was all iceberg and it was limp, even soggy, unchilled and totally unimaginative for ingredients and herbs. The vinaigrette featured the blood-orange and was watery and bland, having no brightness, flavors, or punch. The gorgonzola crumbles were oddly rubbery and insipid. Both salads were so unadorned and lifeless that the only possible motivation for their creation was portion and cost control. Another wide miss on salads, especially at $7.50 a copy.

Bread service brought a basket of three rolls for two diners. Either the last roll was split, or one was obliged to ask for another, in true Oliver Twist tradition. Another cost-saver. No butter; just the olive oil on a plate routine. At least, salt and pepper shakers are offered (and needed). No fresh black pepper grinding here.

Entrees were a surprise. The Spaghetti and Meatballs at $15 arrived as Linguine and Meatballs. If the menu says "spaghetti" one expects spaghetti. The meatballs were light, but the texture had those cost-cutting hints of having been frozen . . . perhaps a pre-prepared, Sysco cost-cutter? The sauce was pungent, but cloyingly sweet; not a tomato sauce an Italian would return for. The second entree was the Linguine and Seafood, a top of the menu selection at $21.00. It promised oysters, shrimp and crab in a wonderful sauce over linguine. The oysters arrived as a single, whole clam (and one that had not seen seawater for quite some time; indeed, smelling a bit off). The shrimp were small, obviously pre-frozen, without even the hint of care or skill in preparation. Consistency was rubber and flavor and seasoning were non-existent. The crab was artfully hidden in the thick and gummy sauce that draped the linguine. A very wide miss as an entree.

We observed a tiramisu being carried to a nearby table and we passed on dessert.

Service was okay, but not excellent, or anything approaching professional. It's a group of young, inexperienced kids playing at being in the restaurant business. Lots of people 'directing' and 'managing' but somehow not getting anything accomplished. A wide miss on service. Not a lot of smiles, either.

Andrew . . . Andrew . . . How easy it would have been to open Torroco! first and then gone upmarket to Sage. But to do it in reverse is unfortunate. Torroco! is so down-market and done with so little passion, that now one must seriously ask whether Sage can survive management's inevitable distraction with mediocrity. It appears that Torroco! is being run for maximum profitability which is fine, except that it is being done at the diners' expense and without first building a loyal following based on great food and great service. That is an unsustainable business model and it won't work.

What is missing here is exactly that: passion. The food is, at best, a shadow of Olive Garden. In fact, Bravo! and Macaroni Grill are far better value and experience choices for solid cooking, bright flavors, good wines and excellent service. If Torroco! is intent on being a memorable Italian restaurant, then it must learn how to prepare good Italian dishes and how to give the customer a satisfying dining experience. If Torroco! is just hoping to absorb some of the overflow from Olive Garden, then it may be successful. But, it isn't going to work as it is now.

Yes, there will be those who like Torocco!. But, there are those who like Olive Garden and Felix and Oscar's, too. For our $80.00, however, we expect more.

The Fare: Two salads, two entrees, two glasses of wine each and a fair gratuity = $79.00. Not a good value.

The Rating: Decor = 2.0; Service = 2.5; Quality of Food = 2.0; Wine List = 2.0; Value = 2.0; Overall 2.0.
Recommended: No. Better experience and value at Bravo! or Macaroni Grill.

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by Jon Olson

One of the coziest and most relaxing dining environments in the des moines area hands done. The service was jonny-on-the-spot and the waiter had the answer to all my questions. I could have gone for a bigger wine list and few more options from the grill, but the waiter informed me that an updated menu is coming shortly and i will for surely be back. I would recommend the chilean sea bass which was cooked perfectly or the tute de mare, my wife said it was esquisite.

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