Never been to Arthur Avenue before, despite growing up in Manhattan and having lived in the Bronx and now Brooklyn. So my wife and I accepted our friend's invitation to dinner at Pasquale's Rigoletto with reasonably high expectations. Been hearing for years how high the quality of Italian food in Arthur Avenue restaurants.
We knew transporation was gonna be a problem, so we arranged black car service from midtown, where we both work and, afterward, home to Park Slope from Arthur Avenue. Expensive but well worth the convenience, especially given the driving rains.
It was our friend's wife's birthday (significant one, ending in zero), so he had invited about 100 people. Pasquale's Rigoletto (PR) has two rooms and our party took one entire room. It was a sit-down dinner, served catering style, with few choices of food or wine. The reds were OK and the whites were forgettable, but since we didn't see the wine list can't really make a judgment call.
The food was hit and miss, some good (one early pasta dish — rigatoni — in particular), and some ho-hum, as you might expect in a large bustling setting. Nothing really outstanding and nothing really off-putting. It may be that if you order off the menu you could get something really good.
But the real disappointment was the three hours of noise that they called a show. When one act ended another one began — no timeouts, no breaks, no pity for our poor ears. It was impossible to chat or talk unless shouting into your neighbor's ear counts as chatting. The quality of the "entertainment" was, um, REALLY bad. Hmmm, lemme say that again: REALLY REALLY bad. Old-timers singing out of tune (again, as loudly as they could, into mikes that were amplified at least as much as an air-raid siren), with shticks that were out of date in 1975. One guy did an impersonation (and a bad one, at that) of Jimmy Durante. I'm old enough to remember Jimmy Durante, but most of the people there weren't.
Another guy sang military songs (The Marine's Hymn, Anchors Away, The Caissons go rolling along [what the hell IS a caisson, anyway?], etc.) Two women sang songs from the Fifties and tried to get people to sing along.
Outside of a couple of pasta dishes there wasn't anything particularly Italian. Certainly not the "entertainment".
I think our friend thought it would be campy, and maybe to some it was, but to me, and to the friends who sat around me, it was terrible. We had made our car reservations to leave for around 10 PM and by 8 PM we were thinking, '...uh oh..."
I don't know how the people in the other parts of the restaurant stood it. There were speakers all around and no one was exempted from the noise. You had to step outside to get a break, which I did a couple of times, just to let my ears stop ringing.
I don't know if our evening at PR was typical of the Arthur Avenue experience, but if it is, I can't believe there's an audience out there for this stuff.
So that was our single Arthur Avenue experience...
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