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Porta Toscana and Cocotte- Or, Bad Service and Its Discontents

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Porta Toscana and Cocotte- Or, Bad Service and Its Discontents

babs | Oct 29, 2002 03:41 PM

I tried Porta Toscana last weekend and will not be returning any time soon. I ordered the spinach-ricotta crepes with tomato and bechamel sauce, and there was something very very wrong with them--spoiled cheese or milk, perhaps. We sent them back, and after a few minutes the waiter returned, apologizing profusely and conveying the chef's apologies. (You could almost picture the two of them opening up a carton, sniffing, and recoiling in horror.) He convinced me to order something else, even though I was kind of nauseated at that point. They had a special risotto, which he had mentioned was available as an appetizer, so I asked for the appetizer portion of that. He kept saying, "Don't worry, I won't charge you for it."

Some time later (when my three companions were almost done with their meals), he brought out an entree sized portion of risotto. When I noted that it looked larger than an appetizer, he said something to the effect that they felt bad, and that of course I wouldn't be charged. So imagine our surprise when the check came and we were charged for my rancid crepes! I guess the whole time he kept saying we wouldn't be charged for the risotto he meant they wouldn't charge me for TWO entrees when one of the ones they'd served me was inedible??? When we asked him why this was on the check, he said it was a better deal for us, since the crepes were cheaper than the risotto. When we pointed out that I hadn't even wanted the entree size risotto (I barely ate half of it), he took the check back to the owner and brought it back with 2 whole dollars taken off of it (the price of the appetizer risotto)!!!

None of us was crazy about the rest of the food, so no big loss. A few weeks ago, however, I had a similarly dispiriting experience at Cocotte, whose food I did really like. I had ordered the trout, which is served over a melange of tomatoes, portobello mushrooms, and prosciutto. I explained to the waitress that I don't eat red meat, and asked if the dish was available without the prosciutto. She said sure. When we were served our meals, my dish indeed had prosciutto in it, so I sent it back. She took a very long time to return: by the time she brought my dish, my three companions were almost done with their meals. What's worse, there were STILL pieces of prosciutto in it. Obviously someone in the kitchen had just tried to pick out the pieces by hand, and failed. So I just ate the fish and didn't eat any of the side dish. When the waitress came to clear our plates, I told her that there was still prosciutto in my dish and that I hadn't been able to eat the vegetables. She made some lame joke and wasn't particularly apologetic. We assumed, however, that the dish would be comped. It wasn't. We'd ordered three appetizers, four entrees, two bottles of wine, and one dessert. When we took the check over to the owner and explained what had happened, he comped us the one $6 dessert.

I don't get these restaurants--don't they want people to return? Is it really worth $10 to piss off four people and make them feel like their business isn't valued? In both cases, we had introduced ourselves to the owners before dinner and told them we lived in the neighborhood and were happy to see them open.

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