Zero-Star Review: San Antonio’s sentimental Italian restaurant favorite Paesanos running on nostalgia and not much else in Lincoln Heights

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This is an abbreviated version of the full Taste Test review, with a star rating based on multiple visits. See the complete version on our subscriber site

Sentimentality can turn a restaurant into a monument, the way it has with Paesanos since 1969. But sentimentality is not enough, and no matter how much I like the often-imitated Shrimp Paesano, I can’t recommend Paesanos Lincoln Heights to anyone who values good Italian food over base sentimentality.

Ask a lifetime San Antonian about Paesanos, and chances are good they’ve done a birthday, a wedding reception or a business deal there. Or all three. But this isn’t a review of milestones. It’s a review of an Italian restaurant, one that could and should do a better job feeding the people who love it.

Paesanos seems perfectly content to sell unchallenging chain-style food to people who want their Olive Garden, but they want it in a setting that looks and feels more posh. It’s a well-dressed comfort zone.

On a weekday night was a tour bus full of seniors leaving the restaurant. None of them looked disappointed. Maybe they had the pork osso buco. Or maybe they had the thing everybody gets here: Shrimp Paesano, pan-fried with a lemon-butter-garlic sauce that managed to be lush, silky and light all at the same time.

And good for them. People like what they like. But I did not like the pizza with crust like a self-rising frozen pie. I didn’t like the mushy and underseasoned veal osso buco or the steak Florentine with grainy port wine mushroom sauce that tasted like something from a meal kit.

Whether it’s familiarity or comfort or sentimentality that keeps people coming to Paesanos after five decades, I won’t give in to the tyranny of nostalgia and join the hallelujah chorus. But go ahead and sing. I won’t judge.

To read the full review, please visit our subscriber site,

Mike Sutter is a food and drink reporter and restaurant critic in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site,, and on our subscriber site, | | Twitter: @fedmanwalking

Paesanos Lincoln Heights

(no stars)

555 E. Basse Road, 210-828-5191, more locations at

Quick bite: Italian restaurant with a loyal following and 50 years in business

Hit: Shrimp Paesano, pork osso buco

Miss: Everything else on the menu

Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m Sunday

Price range: Appetizers, $11.95-$13.95; soups and salads, $3.95-$10.95; pasta, $12.95-$20.95; pizzas, $14.95; entrees, $19.95-$34.95; desserts, $5.95-$7.95

Alcohol: Wine, cocktails and beer

**** Superior. Can compete nationally.

*** Excellent. One of the best restaurants in the city.

** Very good. A standout restaurant of its kind.

* Good. A restaurant that we recommend.

(no stars) We cannot recommend this restaurant at this time.

Express-News dining critics pay for all meals.