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Saturday visit to Vini & Olii

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  • Joyce Goldstein Mar 5, 2001 08:05 PM
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Perhaps the Saturday night after Eric Asimov's review is not the best time to visit a new restaurant...but our dinner out at Vini & Olii in Ft. Greene this past Saturday was something of a mixed bag. Part enjoyment part deep disappointment.

The setting is lovely. The old drugstore fittings all intact, the dim lights, the owners collections of Italiana set off in the shelving. But it was a cold night and the breeze really swept through the restaurant each time the door opened which was a frequent occurrence.

We waited almost 45 minutes after our 7:00 reservation time came and went. 15 minutes spent waiting for a table (boy people must really come early for dinner!) and 30 minutes waiting for one that wasn't directly in the path of the front door. That table for 4 was really ill-fated. No one wanted it since the overflow of waiting diners were hovering within inches. Not a comfortable spot in any season.

We spent the waiting time comfortably tho at the bar sipping tea (me, trying to keep warm and still fighting a bad cold) and the other 3 in our party starting off with a bottle of the wine.

We waded through the menu which seems overpopulated with salads and appetizers, and "for the table offerings" of various kinds. Some were quite wonderful. The olives for instance...the charcuterie plate...the crostini, especially the liver....and the salads. The seafood charcuterie however was far from good. The octopus was almost invisible and there were 2 small slices of tuna sausage which was so-so. If the plate hadn't had a big helping of parsley at the center I think it would have been largely empty!

In thinking about it further, that was generally a problem with the entire meal. Portions were quite small. That included the pasta portions which at least were fairly priced and quite interesting. One of our party had the ribollita, one the penne w/walnut sauce, I had the fazzelottini, and someone had the gnocci. All were wonderful. But portions were quite small. The mixed salad had a bare handful of leaves and some chunked tomatoes in a good oil and vinegar. But all the dishes suffered from a lack of substance...portion substance that is.

Service was another issue. The waiter was utterly charming and made the evening fun. But our pastas were served before our salads...and this was not intentional...he offered to keep the dishes warm in the kitchen but somehow that would not have done anything but given us warmed-up dishes. Then after our belated salads appeared and were eaten there was a 40 minute wait till anyone came about dessert. Desserts were good but those who had espresso complained that it was quite bitter and tasted burnt.
Again there was an extremely long wait for the check. It appears that Catherine, one of the owners, writes up ALL the checks for the restaurant. She works the bar doing the coffee etc. and writing the bills. The waiters bring their notes to her to be filed along the bills. An unwieldy process at best.

I also have a comment about the wine. We order the house red. A reasonable Italian cabernet varietal. However, it was priced at $29 a bottle. Not exorbitant but when a Gavi di Gavi fetches $32 a nameless brand should somehow be a bit more reasonable it seems to me.

So, to sum up we each had a pasta, a salad, several bottles of wine, 3 or 4 "for the table" and one main course, 2 desserts 3 coffees. The bill for four with tip was $ 262. Given the substance of the meal, or lack of it, it seemed a bit steep.

Don't get me wrong...the food is good...I just feel a little ripped off. I could have gone to Convivium or any number of places and been stuffed with leftovers and better at that for less than that price....and not frozen my tush off to boot.

I'd say they need some work!

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