I've always enjoyed Incanto during the half dozen or so times I've gone before. But I was there recently with some out-of-town friends and I was very disappointed in both the food and service.
The house-cured sardine appetizers had an unpleasant mushy texture, strong fishiness, and were covered in far too much spicy chile flakes (I like spicy, but I was left to wonder if the heavy dose was meant to cover up the other shortcomings). The white bean and kale soup was made with a very strong chicken broth that masked the flavors of the vegetables. I guess it was a great chicken soup had it been billed as such, but I would have preferred the beans and vegetables be more central to the dish.
The milk-braised pork shoulder wasn't nearly as delicious as the braised pork dishes I've had there before. The side of cheese-laden polenta was rather firm and cold by the time it came to the table. The only dishes that seemed to be geniunely enjoyed during the night were the beet cavatelli with ricotta salata and poppy seeds, and the whole wheat canneloni. Strangely enough, since Incanto has always seemed most skilled with meat, these were the two vegetarian dishes.
My biggest disappointment was with dessert. The bay leaf panna cotta, the actual panna cotta itself, was as amazingly delicious as ever. But the "winter fruit compote" that it came with was simply segments of grapefruit and other citrus and their raw juices. The panna cotta was sitting in the middle of a bowl, swimming in juices and surrounded by citrus. So I spent the last part of the night trying to carefully eat small bites of the panna cotta without getting any of the bitter and sour juice on them. It was a sloppy disaster. A chocolate mille foglie suffered from overbaked pastry. We picked at it but about half went uneated.
The service bordered on disasterous. We waited for a half hour before being able to order. About midway through that wait the waiter appeared and said he would answer any questions we would have, then without giving us a chance to speak said he needed to attend to another table and that he would return shortly. We ordered some glasses of white wines to go with our starters and I said I wanted to order a bottle of Barolo to have with the mains. The waiter said okay, left to punch our food order into the computer, and never mentioned the Barolo again. It wasn't until another person (the wine manager, I think) came over to take the wine list away was I able to order the bottle. Half of our party got our appetizers and had time to finish them before the other half's even arrived. Long waits passed between each course.
The thing about Incanto is, more than any other restaurant I have been to, they make it obvious who are the special preferred customers and who are the ordinary ones. Every restaurant should pay extra attention to their regulars, but it should not be at the expense of other guests. On previous visits I noticed but was not bothered by this because the service I receive was adequete. But on this occasion it was frustrating to watch the staff fawn over the nearby tables while we were mostly ignored. The other night was probably my last visit.
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