Did you ever feel there was a joke you weren’t getting, something inside that you needed to know to understand what everyone was laughing at? Well we just had that experience at the clearly misnamed Bravo! Nader. There had to be something we were missing because this was one of the worst dining experiences (which says a great deal) we’ve had and it was at a restaurant that a) has a great rep and b) was packed out the door. We’re foodies and this is a place we’ve looked forward to for a while, we didn’t expect to leave vowing never to return.
Where to begin … ah yes the wine list. As we sat a gentleman with a nice Italian accent delivered a wine list. There was just plain juice on the left and special juice on the right (as they store the just plain juice on a ceiling height shelf that runs around the restaurant which was about 80 degrees tonight, I guess we could call it cooked wine and, hopefully, refrigerated wine). I wasn’t familiar with a lot of what he had so I told him I wanted something dark and earthy, not fruit forward. He said ‘ah, Brunello di Montalcino” and pointed to a $150 bottle. As our fellow diners had not arrived and as I didn’t want to start by adding $150 to the check without asking them I told him so and asked what on the left side might be a good selection. Sadly at that point the gentleman with a nice Italian accent went deaf. No response at all. I asked again and he said “Eh, they’re all the same”. Honest, that’s what he said. He clearly had no interest in assisting if I was buying just plain wine. Sadly, it got no better.
Our companions arrived about 5 minutes late for our reservation. They sat down, menus already at their places and about 2 minutes later we were told the specials, before anyone even had a moment to look at the menu. We listened and asked a few questions and the waiter left, but good news, we were not to be alone for long. Literally less than 5 minutes later he was back asking if we were ready to order. We barely had time to say hello and sip the Rutherford Cab we had ordered (not bad) and they were on us to order. They made it clear we were here to eat and not to dine. If you had theatre tickets, this is the place to eat, too bad Broadway is so far away.
With the specials in the rear view mirror we ordered, some things were off the menu, some from the list of specials. I got the meatball and spaghetti appetizer that the menu touts highly (I believe it says ‘fabulous’ next to the selection, not as a part of the name), my wife the baked clams. Both were just food on a plate. Neither had anything at all to recommend it. The entrees came (quickly) and I had the duck in a chocolate chestnut sauce (a special0 and my wife the bronzino (another special). Who would have dreamed how badly chocolate sauce would actually be with duck and now, having had it, I can only wonder what on earth the chef was thinking. Sure, it sounds interesting and trying it in the kitchen was a good idea but the dish was so cloyingly sweet, the chocolate flavor so overpowering to the duck that he managed to kill two great flavors with one dish that should best have been left in the test kitchen. To be fair a stuffed pork chop special ordered by one of our friends was moist and tasty. They cleared our dinner dishes as we put the last forkful of food into our mouths. None of us has ever felt so uncomfortably rushed at a good restaurant ever.
We were asked if we wanted coffee but were never given desert menus or told about deserts. The growing crowd waiting for tables in the very small room made it clear that this was a plan not an accident. We’d had 2 bottles of wine , apps and entrees and we felt like we were being swept out the door as an inconvenience not as patrons most restaurants welcome. We asked about dessert and were read the menu. We ordered cannolis and the check arrived without anyone asking. It sat for about three minutes before the gentleman with a nice Italian accent came over, opened the folio, demonstrated consternation that it had not yet been filled and closed it again making clear his displeasure. On the bright side by that point we wanted to be gone as much as they wanted us gone. I took a bite of the canolli and, almost as if to mock us, it a) was the worst cannoli I have ever eaten by a country mile and b) had some unique flavor note that had no place in a cannoli and could not be removed even by copious amount of after dinner mints. I began to waive the white flag of surrender.
The moral to the story is word of mouth can’t cook good food, you can try to turn a table too many times and you can create a dining experience so unpleasant that it will be remembered for quite some time, even after the mediocrity of the food has been forgotten. The ultimate test is always “Will we return”. The answer should be clear, not for a free meal with the President. Now it may well be that on a Wednesday night with fewer rezzies this would have been a different experience but there was just nothing here to make me want to come back to find out. There are way too many good, small, chef driven, restaurants on LI for another visit.