Helen Schwab

@7th tries to be too many things

Short rib, recommended highly, proved rubbery.
Short rib, recommended highly, proved rubbery. HELEN SCHWAB

Beware the “eclectic” menu, which can mean an adventurous lineup unbounded by strict culinary tradition, or a list that’s trying so hard to be all things to all people it ends up not being much to any.

Which is the category into which @7th falls.

Formerly Villa Francesca, it’s now as unclear in focus as its name. It aims at pieces: Industrial-esque clubby watering hole? Upscale Italian? Pizzeria? Sports bar with burgers – and fish ’n chips? Check, check, check-check: All amid a black-white-gray decor studded with red pendant shades and elaborate chandeliers.

The identity crisis would be apparent even if everything were well executed, but unfortunately, little we tried was.

Best of all was a Italian-esque flatbread, distinguished from the place’s pizza, said our server, by being rectangular instead of round. (Pizza isn’t on the dinner menu, but our server said they continue to offer it for people who’d gotten used to getting it there.)

This had a perfectly fine crust and well-proportioned if not stellar toppings, and there’s a range of those, from pesto and tomato to chunks of breaded chicken to prosciutto with portobello mushrooms. In the $10 range, these, with a glass of wine, would work for a light dinner pre- or post-uptown activities.

Disappointments came in Mediterranean flavors (thick, cold hummus served with runny spinach-artichoke dip/sauce and a lackluster romesco), as well as French (“tuna Nicoise”: seared, tasteless tuna over tomato, olives and roasted red peppers with thick shavings of Parmesan on top), British (greasy-battered fish with thin and limp fries, not the “thick, hand-cut steak fries” promised by the menu) and American (“Meat and Potatoes” produced an ill-trimmed short rib over garlicky mashed potatoes that were adequate).

Italian, which one might call about half the menu, fared not much better, with overcooked spaghetti and a bland Bolognese sauce, and cloyingly sweet cannoli.

Servers are warm and engaging, and pay close attention. A bit of on-site parking and a small patio, both rare in the area, are nice draws. But @7th has serious rethinking to do.

Review

@7th

1/2

Unfocused, scattered offerings, but genial service.

Food: 1/2

Service:

Atmosphere: 1/2

321 N. Caldwell St.; 704-376-7747; www.at7th.com.

HITS: Friendly, engaging service.

MISSES: Predominantly poor kitchen execution.

PRICES: Sandwiches $9-$11; entrees $15-$23.

HOURS: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, to 11 p.m. Thursday, to midnight Friday-Saturday; noon-9 p.m. Sunday.

INSPECTION SCORE: 97 March 3.

= excellent; = good;= fair;= poor

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