Well, we spent an inordinate amount of time in the Bronx this weekend. Saturday morning I had a small networking job to do, and when we finished up rachel and I went to Arthur Ave.
As I mentioned in a previous post we made the obligatory visit to the Arthur Ave Market, and loaded up on provisions at Mike's Deli (www.arthuravenue.com). Excellent salamis and cheeses, and found some great Prosciutto Affumicado (AKA "Speck") there. On Mike's recommendation, we went to a place called Robertos (186th street and Crescent) instead of our usual visit to Dominicks or Pasquale's Rigoletto. I am -so- glad we went there, the food there was absolutely fantastic. We got there a little after 5PM, by 6PM this little trattoria-style restaurant was completely packed and lines were forming down the street to get into the place.
The restaurant features freshly made pasta, and all kinds of great seafood dishes and killer appetizers. If I had to guess the stuff was more Tuscan than the typical fare in the area. To start I had "Northern Italian Sausage with Broccoli Rabe", which came out nicely plated with thinly sliced sausage kind of a like a salami, but it was brown and tasted more like regular italian sausage. The broccoli rabe was amazing, excellent garlic taste that was not overpowering but made its point. the chef managed to get almost all of the bitterness out of it (apparently, by blanching it for a little while and then sauteing it kills the bad taste) and it was accompanied by cannelini beans and drizzled with a nice first pressing extra virgin olive oil, which made a nice combo with the sausage. Rachel had these large grilled fresh sardines over a green salad -- according to Ray these were the best sardines she ever had in her life, so I'll take her word for it, since I think sardines are nasty (although when minced are an important element to Ceasar salad, I admit).
Main dishes -- I had seafood pasta en cartocchio, which essentially was jumbo shrimp, clams, mussels and fresh pasta cooked inside an aluminum-foil sarcophogus and then it is opened up into a large oval "trough" like plate/bowl kind of thing. It was prepared very simply with fresh tomato, basil, garlic, and white wine and olive oil, but in this case less was more. I couldnt of asked for anything better. Rachel had grilled wild boar chops, which looked more like lamb chops when they came out, also exquisite and very tender. It came with a wild rice and porcini risotto that was creamy and oh so rich. To die for, really.
With the meal we finished off an entire bottle of Canevel Brut, a really superior sparkling Prosecco de Valdobidiende (11.5 percent alc., $29). I liked it a lot better than some of the other proseccos and spumante we drink at home, such as Nino Franco, it didnt have that semi-nasty aftertaste that you get from certain sparkling wines. Gotta find out where I can get some more.
Now we get tot the bad part of the story.
On Sunday we ended up on Arthur avenue again, as we were with some friends in Westchester and made our way back to Jersey via the Bronx. Someone in the party mentioned "Dominicks" so we obliged, since my friend Jon had never been there before
Over the last 10 years or so I've probably been to Dom's over 2 dozen times, enough that they do recognize me there. This time, I got a completely different waiter than I usually do (if you do eat there, try to get the older bald guy, he's nice) and we didnt start eating until after 8PM, we had about a half hour wait upstairs at the bar. The slection that evening was limited, but the table of four ended up with pretty niced sized portions Eggplant Parmigiana, Stuffed Peppers (think of giant meatballs or meatloaf shoved inside red frying peppers), Veal Pizzaiola and Chicken Francese. Two bowls of rigatoni marinara shared communally, Antipasto salad , 2 Pitchers of soda, 1 beer and a large pellegrino.
Now, the food was good, and we were busting full as usual, but as to what transpired as we were ready to leave we are not sure. The totall bill was $91, an outrageous sum considering what we had to eat and the bills other parties of similar size were getting, which were in the $70 range or so. Now, we had sent back a pitcher of coke because we had thought it was Diet Coke, and they replaced it, and I made a joking comment to the waiter that the stuffed peppers were sitting "like rocks" in my stomach, but I dont think we deserved to be stiffed like this -- especially since I had been there a lot before. Now, we were also the last people out of the restaurant, and we were preceded by a table of the owner'selatives who he charged $25 bucks for the same stuff, so maybe he was trying to make his costs up. Who knows.
For those out of towners who are not familiar with Dom's ,its kind of an unusual place, in that all the tables are communal seating, theres no set menu, and thus no price list either. You give the idea of what you want to eat (or rather, the server tells you that youre gonna have an antipasto salad and then you get to choose from whats fresh that day, but usually they have the basics and fresh seafood, veal, chicken and beef and can prepare it basically any way) , you eat, and then you get your bill. NO QUESTIONS ASKED. No itemization on the bill. Simply the words from the server "Eh, for you, 91 bucks". Take it or leave it. If you complain, I've been told that you're never let back into the restaurant again or things happen to people. Its that kinda place.
Has anyone ever been raped like this at Dominicks? Especially long time-patrons?