Last weekend, a few of us went to Drago for dinner. We had heard from another Italian friend that it had some of the best pasta in town. That part was true. The rigatoni with bolognese sauce and the spaghetti with bottarga - we all agreed were superb.
The good: the amuse bouche bruschetta tasted exactly how you wish yours always would taste at the peak of summer - fresh, slightly sweet, slightly tart. The sauces on the rabbit and the quail dishes - you could tell the reductions, someone had spent some time and effort on them. They were almost like syrup (not sweet, just texture), deep in color and flavor. The panna cotta was perfect in texture - light, creamy, mildly sweet. So often, panna cotta is watery or rubbery, but at Drago, it was perfect.
The bad: the service.
Reservations: we had called for reservations at 7:30 earlier that day. The hostess said fine, but we'd have to be seated in a quieter "side room" as opposed to the main room. That suited us perfectly. When we arrived, the hostess said our reservation was at 8:30 and our table wasn't ready. Mistakes happen, and that's fine, but she insisted she was the only person who answered the phone and had no recollection of the 7:30 side room reservation, that it was our mistake. I had heard the call made, so knew it was not on our side, but figured, ah well, busy, whatever. The manager treated us to a round of Prosecco, so that eased the wait. We had a chance to catch up.
The wait for food. So we're seated a bit after 8:30 in the main room. We order our food and the waiter jets off. Which is funny because we were about to order wine, and normally that's the first thing they try to get you to order. We manage to get in the wine order after asking a busboy to call the waiter back. We get the amuse, and then we wait. And wait. At 9:45, our first course arrives. One of us comments to the waiter, we waited 1 1/4 hour for our first course. Our waiter's response was, Nooooo, you didn't. And then, referring to our botched reservation, he says, anyway, that's not my fault, that's another area. We said, we're talking about the long wait for the food. After another denial, the waiter blamed the busboys. By the time we got our dessert, the dining room was empty. The manager poured us a round of complimentary dessert wines.
One of our group joked, well perhaps this is the European way, the drawn out dinner. And another of our group, a European, said, poor service is not the European way.
Again, the food was good, but with the prices, we expected somewhat better service. An off night? A bad start? Probably. But considering I had recommended the place, I felt guilty about the choice.
The two rounds of complimentary wines helped - at least they made an effort, so it's not like they did nothing.
I debated whether to mention this at all on chowhound. The reason I did is not because of the reservation snafu or even the long wait. That happens. It is because the first response in both the front of the house and the floor was not an apology, but an insistence that the customer was not telling the truth.
To all restauranteurs: please don't imply that your customers are liars. Good food won't cover the bad taste that will leave behind.