I just wanted to let everyone know about the wonderful experience I had with a private party at Convivium Osteria on 5th between St Marks and Bergen.
*Setting It Up*
I walked in a week in advance and spoke with one of the owners -- Michelle. She was very nice and informative. We never had anything in writing, which was probably a mistake on my part, but probably she should have offered as well to cover her own liability. It would have been nice to touch base once or twice during the week -- I forgot to call and give her a count until the night before, but she was cool with everything. Also, it was a surprise party and she had the staff do a good job of getting everyone downstairs out of sight and then recognizing me with the guest of honor when we came in and routing us down there in a nocholant manner (which was a little odd because the main room was mostly empty).
They have a *stunning* wine cellar that seats 20 (maybe 22 or 24 in a pinch). Truly one of the prettiest rooms I've seen in NYC.
People are spread across 4 tables -- 2 big ones and 2 little ones. At first I was worried that some people would feel left out but everyone mixed and mingled and swapped seats all night.
I won't go into detail on the food -- there's plenty posted about how great it is here already, but I will say that they generally handled serving 20 people simultaneously quite well. Food was fast to come out and all seemed well prepared. (Maybe the lamb wasn't as excellent as it has been in the past.)
It started with a wide assortment of appetizers that just came out and circulated. Well done! Then we had a choice of 3 or 4 of their entrees that I negotiated in advance. Really I suspect any one or two people could have ordered something "off-menu" as long as it was less expensive than the average price of what I selected. Dessert was a dense chocolate cake they (the owner actually) made special for us and it was delicious. Very simple, very chocolately, just right.
This is the first private party I've thrown like this so as far as price, I have no idea if it was a good deal or not. I do know that I was happy with what I got for the money I paid. *Stay tuned though -- I signed the bill late at night with some wine in me. The receipt I got has a few items I can't figure out so I have to go back and haggle a bit.)
Service was generally inobtrusive and very good. I think I recall some people complaining of slow service at this restaurant. Not last night. It would have been nice if they had someone posted in the room all night in case we needed something -- say, an extra wine glass, but someone always seemed to show up or pass by within 5 minutes. People were constantly moving around but they seemed to get the right food in front of the right person. The only odd moment was when one waiter refused to serve individuals dessert if they were standing. Weird.