Dinner gone wrong at Briciola

OPINION

The case of the phantom tortelloni and more mishaps

May 29, 2012|By Matt Pais | RedEye

Editor's note: This is not a review.

Growing pains often come with the territory at new restaurants. Lying, rudeness and management throwing servers under the bus? That doesn't fly at a place that's 10 days or 10 years old. With that, the mystery of the elusive tortelloni at recently opened Ukrainian Village BYOB Briciola.

Well, first some thin silver linings:

-The outdoor patio at this Italian restaurant (formerly home to Jam) is pretty and comfortable. That is, if you're not sitting in a chair awkwardly positioned on uneven ground. If you like eating a meal on a tilt, you will love this.

-Some of our friends' dishes received favorable reviews, once the food came out an hour or so after it was ordered with no genuine concern about the wait from the staff.

Now, the story:

My wife and I ordered the ricotta-filled tortelloni with brown butter-sage sauce and hazelnuts that sounded so good in Erin Brereton's article about new BYOB restaurants that appeared in RedEye on May 25. After a ridiculously long wait for our food--during which our waiter appeared after about a half-hour, said it would be just a few more minutes, then roughly 25 minutes later said it would be just a few more minutes after we tracked him down--the server brings us a completely different dish. Paraphrasing: "The kitchen ran out of tortelloni, so the chef made this. It's on the house, so ... "

Really. Not a heads-up before our table's meals come out to say, "We're very sorry, but we're out of tortelloni. Would you like the same dish with a different noodle, or perhaps something else on the menu?" It wasn't a presentation of the same dish with different noodles, which would have been fine. It was a completely different pasta dish (rigatoni with cream sauce, olives and some kind of meat). We're not vegetarians, but what if we were?

Actually, wait, I'm mistaken. The server presented the dish as if it were just the same dish we ordered with different noodles. It was only after he left that we realized the dish was not even close to what we ordered. So we called him back, indicated that it was totally wrong, and he informed us that, sorry, it will be at least 15 to 20 minutes if we want to wait for something even resembling what we ordered initially. Fine, we said. Maybe 10 minutes later, the owner brings out a dish that he says is what we originally ordered. Did they magically unearth extra tortelloni from an undiscovered corner of the kitchen? We thanked him and tasted the dish. I didn't know it was possible for cheese to taste like meat, but the appearance, consistency and flavor of the wildly over-seasoned ricotta made it an awfully good sausage impersonator, so much that we couldn't even tell it was cheese.

We questioned if this was really the right dish, and the owner insisted that it was. When we explained that our server previously deceived us and hoped the owner could understand where we were coming from, he claimed that our order actually came into the kitchen incorrectly, and that's why we were initially brought the wrong dish. So obviously at least one person in this situation was lying: Either the owner to cover up the chef making an alternative dish instead of digging up some more tortelloni, or, more likely, the server lying that the kitchen was out of our pasta when he actually put in the wrong order and tried to serve us something else. Even if that's what happened, the owner made himself, the server and the restaurant look bad by throwing the server under the bus.

The owner basically asked, "What do you want me to do about it?" He eventually informed us that the entire table of seven's meals would be free--in the least gracious way possible. If he had said something like, "I'm so sorry for tonight's mishaps. Your food is on the house, and we would love to see you again and atone for this experience. We appreciate your business and hope to see you soon," we would have appreciated the gesture and perhaps returned. Instead, he told us that the meal was free so disingenuously that he may as well have added, "Now buzz off, jerks."

On a side note, in the midst of all of this nonsense our server dropped a knife near my friend's foot. Rather than apologizing, he muttered, "I bet you thought that was hilarious." Actually, the entire night did turn into a bit of a farce. The server, as you probably predicted by now, never returned to the table to say sorry for the confusion and invite us back. We won't be seeing him or Briciola again.

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