South Street * Days of Eats (AVA RESTAURANT REVIEW)
We had reservations for 9pm Friday night for the Eight Days of Eats. Me, my girlfriend, my friend and his Wife. I have never been to Ava and was looking forward to sampling the food I heard was so good. Well...of course we just happened to be there when there was a wedding rehearsal party of 25 or so people,we didn't get off to a good start service-wise when it took one hour to go from our salad selection to the next course which was our pasta. I truly hate to complain and I am not one to give bad reviews unless I am really displeased. However, Ava did not fit the bill tonight, literally. I actually got up at 10:25pm, after sitting for an hour with no service, except our order taken and our salad served and told our waiter that we would like to pay for the salad and bread we ate and end the meal on that. I wasn't rude and I expressed to him it just wasn't up to our liking and we would simply call it even with some compensation for the food they already did serve us. At this point we were sweating, annoyed, and hungry. Of course no later than one minute after he assured me our pasta would be right out, the pasta came out. My friend and myself ordered the tagliatelle with summer squash, roasted tomatoes in a sage lemon sauce. My girlfriend got the pesto pasta dish, while my friend's wife had the fusilli in red gravy. Pesto was good, tagliatelle was good, and the fusilli was very average. Back tracking a bit...we had 2 ceaser's and 2 lemon sage vinagerette salads. The ceasar's with polenta croutons was very good and the other two were very bland.
On to the entree (now one and and 45 mins. later with no water service or clearance of our pasta dishes). We ordered 3 chicken dishes and a veal dish. The chicken was good, salty and small but tasty, however, I was stunned when my friends' wife called out something which I couldn't believe at first. The sauce that accompanied the chicken tasted exactly like Lipton's french onion packets. I couldn't believe it until I tasted it, she was right. I hate to admit it because I made the reservations, I did the research, I invited them from Jersey for this meal gone horrible, and this wasn't helping the cause. The veal was good as were the potatoes it came with. I also ordered a side of parsnip pureee which was very good, the perfect amount of sweetness. Onto dessert. We got two cannolli crepes, they were horrible, and two pistachio gelatos which were good but very small, understandable.
All in all I am so embarassed and dissapointed in Ava it really is a shame. I hyped this place up through reviews I've read on here and other places but it just wasn't worth the bill, even on this $30 price fix menu. The service was horrible, not mean or anything like that, just wasn't there, at all, period! The place was so hot I was using my napkin as a sweat rag, as were a few other people in the restaurant. I want to stress I am not out to bash Ava as I understand many of these problems stemmed from the huge dinner party we were sharing the dining room with. However, it was just an all around doozie, not much else could have went wrong for us tonight. Ava was a restaurant I wanted to try for a while now and figured this would be a good opportunity to do so. I was wrong, I am not speaking for their regular service but I am speaking for their 8 Days of Eats promotion. My rec. is that you go somewhere else. I had a much better meal at Bistro Romano last restaurant week.
Sorry to hear the experience last night was so terrible! I came in with a party of four on the opening night of eight days of eats, and my dinner was the exact opposite of yours. Our waiter was excellent--punctual, attentive, and informative, while giving us space to enjoy the meals. In my opinion, Ava is an underated restaurant! The food is superb--I ordered the arugala salad, pesto pasta dish, and veal scallopini and was amazed by the taste. In comparison to Buca, Bistro Romano, and other philly Italian "hot spots", I could literally taste the attention that was given to each dish. Awesome! The trattoria style ambience does create a little noise, but the overall atmosphere is romantic, quaint, and lowkey. I live nearby, and I will definitely be frequenting this restaurant on a regular basis!
I posted the original review on the 8 Days of Eats for Ava and since then I had a chance to reflect on the meal and came to the conclusion that I wasn't as complimentary on the positive aspects of our experience as I was on the negatives. We really had some standout dishes which I simply referred to as "good". For instance, the veal scallopine dish was a melt in your mouth slice of goodness topped with spinach and a Fontina that inspired me to add some Fontina to my weekly order at Claudio's. Also, the tagliatelle with summer squash came equipped with a sage-lemon mixture of which not one drip was wasted as I soaked everything up with my bread.
So, I had the chance to reflect and when I got back this afternoon from being out of town my email box showed an email from the Owner of Ava and a sincere response to our experience and my documentation of it. The owner Michael Campagna sent me an email giving his personal apology and assured me everything at Ava is homemade (except the bread which I suspect may be from my favorite bakery in the whole wide world-Sarcone's)and is made in house and with pride at his restaurant. I'll tell you what folks, this in my opinion is an example of a stand up guy who truly cares about his customers. I suspected from the start that the biggest reason for our particular experience was the large wedding party which was seated at the same time we were. Michael informed me that this reservation was made in advance of some 6 months and he did not realize it would fall during the 8 Days of Eats or wouldn't have scheduled it as such a large group. I've since talked to another person who has dined at Ava during the promotion and they were "impressed". I was impressed by the response I got and for this reason I plan on going back again, sooner rather than later, and giving it a second shot which I believe will be what I was expecting the first time around.