Step through the doors of Girasole on Pine Street and you find yourself living out the old trope "a man walks into a bar". The square colossus of a bar takes up almost the whole front of the restaurant and makes it a little difficult to know where you're supposed to go, especially when the maître d's area is unstaffed. Eventually someone arrived and we were seated.
Our initial service issues were a hint of things to come. Despite assurances from our first waiter that he would be taking care of us, service proved to be more of a group effort. And when everyone's your waiter, no one's your waiter. Even with at least half a dozen servers in the not-that-large dining room, there was a long delay before our orders were taken, we had to place out wine orders twice, and even ask for bread plates. To their credit, our herd of servers was friendly, and they were responsive to our request to speed things along given our time constraints.
Normally I don't harp so much on interior layout and service, but they were the first things to come to mind about our experience, because the food really failed to distinguish itself enough to overcome these drawbacks. We all had the three-course, $35 prix fixe menu. I started with the beef carpaccio, which was fine (though difficult to screw up). Lauren had a layered, lasagna-ish contraption of eggplant, zucchini and tomato, which was fine until she reached the middle, where it was refrigerator-cold. A trip back into the microwave resolved this, but not a good start to the meal.
For an entree, I had the "bucatini Girasole", which was tossed in a sauce of onions, pancetta, tomato and pecorino. Nothing too fancy, but well-executed. Lauren had the grilled "Tasmanian" salmon with leeks and a balsamic reduction. The salmon was seared to the point of deep-brown crispiness on one side and otherwise a little overcooked and gummy, and the plate was devoid of any kind of accompaniment aside from the leeks.
Dessert was a pleasantly light cheesecake (served in a chintzily small slice) that was served with a rather odd sauce. Our best guess is that it was some kind of strawberry and orange flower water concoction, but it had a strange note to it that was a bit off-putting.
Perhaps some of what we encountered were the pitfalls of a fixed-price pre-theater menu, but at the same time nothing in our experience enticed us to come back to try something from the rather pricey a-la carte menu. Even with the fixed-price "bargain" in place, throw in a glass of wine and tip and you're still talking over $100 per couple. In a town teeming with more or less interchangeable Italian restaurants with similar menus, there's just no reason to go to a place where the service is confused, the food is little more than adequate, and you can't even figure out how to get into the damn place in the first place.