Johnny Garlic’s

Amen to Guy Fieri. He’s a guy you just can’t help but love. The Food Network superstar is full of soul, vitality and enthusiasm. I’m not totally sure I can say the same thing for the new/resurrected Johnny Garlic’s.

Here’s the backstory: After shuttering Russell Ramsay’s Chop House, which failed to have the draw of nightspot Tex Wasabi’s, the space was briefly closed. In January, a flurry of television ads featuring Fieri and his mom hailed the return of Johnny Garlic’s to its original spot on Farmer’s Lane as a ‘You asked for it, you got it’ kind of thing.

A nice spin, if nothing else.

On Feb. 1, the doors reopened with many of Garlic’s tried-and-true favorites–Caesar salad, Cajun Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo and garlic fries. Added into the mix, a few Chop House favorites–big steaks, French onion soup and the sweet beet salad. I’m actually thinking this could be a cool thing. A nice, new(ish) local spot to take the kids.

But Fieri’s trademark energy seems lacking in the retro-fitted space.

It’s the little thingsclumpy pasta, crumpled paper table coverings, a sort of empty feeling all around. The salad was wilted, and had exactly two croutons on top. The soup of the day, clam chowder, felt hopelessly boring. Not even the toothy smiles and speedy service could cut through the gloom.

Hard to imagine a firebrand like Guy tolerating such mediocrity–especially with a big re-opening like this. Where’s the Fieri who invented rock n’ roll sushi?

Or, has Fieri left the building?

If you go: Best bets are the Cajun chicken Fettuccine Alfredo, an all-time Johnny Garlic’s top-seller. Garlic chips with garlic sour cream are a fun appetizer (if you’re not planning on doing a lot of kissing later) and the complementary focaccia-style bread is nice (just please, bring the balsamic without us having to plead for it.) Lunch specials include one of several specialty entrees (like the Cajun chicken) with their signature Caesar for under $10.

Johnny Garlic’s, 1460 Farmers Lane, Santa Rosa, 707.571.1800. Open daily for lunch and dinner.