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Apr 26, 2002 08:18 AM

Oleana - good food, bad service and overpriced wines

  • w

While I like the food at Oleana the bad service and wine prices will cause me to think hard about returning to this place (I have been there 5 times since they opened).

The woman doing the seating acts as if she is doing you a big favor to seat you and if a smile ever crossed her face I would be shocked. This is a restaurant not a military base after all!

We sat at a table in the bar area of the restaurant and was waited on by the most inept bartender/waiter I have ever seen. He knew very little about the food, even less about the wine. He couldn't fill the drink orders because he "forgot" and messed up our check in a way that was hard to fathom.

The wine prices are very high. A half bottle of 1998 Guigal Chateauneuf du Pape is $30 there. It can be purchased at Marty's for $13-$16. Full bottle prices are also very high for what they are, with very mediocre Rhones and the like for $50+.

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  1. You should be aware that the common formula for pricing wines is 4x the price of a full bottle. Keeping that in mind, $30 for a half-bottle which retails for $15 sounds about right.

    If you object to the high prices of wines at restaurants, I understand that many establishments will allow you to bring your own, in exchange for a small corking fee. You should call ahead to the restaurant to see if they will let you do so.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Seth Ditchik

      Seth, I have called several places in Mass. and they all say it is against state law to allow you to bring wine into their restaurant or they say they "have a wine license." I don't know if the legal part is true as it hardly matters as they effectively forbid the practice. I have paid a modest corkage in restaurants in NYC and California including the French Laundry and found no sense of attitude or resentment on the part of the waitstaff for doing so.

      In terms of the 4x business, many restaurants in the U.S. fail to understand that the demand for wine is elastic and instead of habituating Americans to regularly ordering a nice bottle of wine the jack up wine prices to make is more of a luxury.

      I am willing to bet that if they put their short sided greed away for awhile they would make more profit in the long run.

      1. re: Wine Guy

        Regrettably I must take issue with both "Wine Guy" and Seth. 4X nmark up is only used on the most base wines,i.e. house wines and banquet pours. Most good restos use a sliding scale with the goal of hitting a wines cost of around 30%. So if a Chateauneuf at Marty's costs $15.00 that means they are paying $10.00 as 50% above wholesale is the average mark-up in a retail shop. Using that same math that wine should be $30.00 on a winelist.
        As far as corkage goes, any resto in Mass that holds a liquor license of any type is forbidden from allowing any alcoholic beverage to be brought onto the premise. This is not a guess, I am a wholesale wine rep and previously was a wine buyer in the hotel biz. As far as Olena is concerned I feel they are good at what they do but far from great.

        1. re: Winemark

          Sorry, I stand corrected. Here's a quote from Wine Spectator:

          "State laws vary. In Massachusetts, for example, it's illegal to take alcohol to restaurants with liquor licenses. Only bottles purchased by a restaurant from licensed distributors may be consumed on the premises. Nonetheless, some restaurateurs quietly acknowledge that they'll skirt the law for outstanding customers or on special occasions."

    2. agree about the shoddy service. i've been to oleana three times since its opening, and every single time, i've found the waitstaff not helpful, inattentive -- surly even. for the most part, they all just seem badly trained. so far, they haven't managed to detract so much from the food, but it certainly keeps me from going back more often.

      1 Reply
      1. re: winnie

        I've always thought the service there is great. I have been there 3 times and was treated well each time.

      2. I went there only once, maybe about 6 months after they opened and we had wonderful service. I have been salivating to go back ever since. I did read somewhere a while ago that Chef Ana would be doing some travelling at the end of Apr so I wonder if things are slightly different when she's not in the house???