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Jul 4, 2006 10:36 AM

Arthur Avenue Experience — Huge Disappointment

Never been to Arthur Avenue before, despite growing up in Manhattan and having lived in the Bronx and now Brooklyn. So my wife and I accepted our friend's invitation to dinner at Pasquale's Rigoletto with reasonably high expectations. Been hearing for years how high the quality of Italian food in Arthur Avenue restaurants.

We knew transporation was gonna be a problem, so we arranged black car service from midtown, where we both work and, afterward, home to Park Slope from Arthur Avenue. Expensive but well worth the convenience, especially given the driving rains.

It was our friend's wife's birthday (significant one, ending in zero), so he had invited about 100 people. Pasquale's Rigoletto (PR) has two rooms and our party took one entire room. It was a sit-down dinner, served catering style, with few choices of food or wine. The reds were OK and the whites were forgettable, but since we didn't see the wine list can't really make a judgment call.

The food was hit and miss, some good (one early pasta dish — rigatoni — in particular), and some ho-hum, as you might expect in a large bustling setting. Nothing really outstanding and nothing really off-putting. It may be that if you order off the menu you could get something really good.

But the real disappointment was the three hours of noise that they called a show. When one act ended another one began — no timeouts, no breaks, no pity for our poor ears. It was impossible to chat or talk unless shouting into your neighbor's ear counts as chatting. The quality of the "entertainment" was, um, REALLY bad. Hmmm, lemme say that again: REALLY REALLY bad. Old-timers singing out of tune (again, as loudly as they could, into mikes that were amplified at least as much as an air-raid siren), with shticks that were out of date in 1975. One guy did an impersonation (and a bad one, at that) of Jimmy Durante. I'm old enough to remember Jimmy Durante, but most of the people there weren't.

Another guy sang military songs (The Marine's Hymn, Anchors Away, The Caissons go rolling along [what the hell IS a caisson, anyway?], etc.) Two women sang songs from the Fifties and tried to get people to sing along.

Outside of a couple of pasta dishes there wasn't anything particularly Italian. Certainly not the "entertainment".

I think our friend thought it would be campy, and maybe to some it was, but to me, and to the friends who sat around me, it was terrible. We had made our car reservations to leave for around 10 PM and by 8 PM we were thinking, '...uh oh..."

I don't know how the people in the other parts of the restaurant stood it. There were speakers all around and no one was exempted from the noise. You had to step outside to get a break, which I did a couple of times, just to let my ears stop ringing.

I don't know if our evening at PR was typical of the Arthur Avenue experience, but if it is, I can't believe there's an audience out there for this stuff.

So that was our single Arthur Avenue experience...

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  1. you went to a bad restaurant in arthur ave...did you not research the boards here? no your evening is not typical of arthur ave, you went the tourista way...

    1. intrepid is absolutely right - your experience has absolutely nothing to do with Arthur Avenue, which is about it's markets, its shops, its charcaters, its restaurants, etc. - not about floor shows and catered affairs. Why denounce just Arthur Avenue for this one bad meal - surely you could wrap up all Italian restaurants under the same blanket, or perhaps all restaurants in NYC? Surely Le Bernardin puts on the same theatrics.

      (OK, I'm going a little overboard here, and I'll stop.)

      Next time you go to Arthur Avenue, and you most certainly should now, go on a Saturday afternoon. Shop the markets, hit one of the cafes, eat oysters on the street, and do some research on this board to find a great restuarant in the area, suce as Roberto's. Need a snack? The area has several Albanian haunts, serving up wonderful bureks. I have the feeling you'd get shot for even suggesting a round of showtunes in one of those joints.

      2 Replies
      1. re: lambretta76

        I've been planning to go to Arthur Ave for a while (and have assembled a list of recs) but haven't heard anything about oysters on the street. Is there a fish market that will open them for you, or is there a restaurant?

        1. re: Produce Addict

          Randazzo's and Cosenza's – dueling fish markets on either side of Arthur Avenue below 186th – have mini-raw bars out on the sidewalk with guys shucking oysters and clams, and plenty of lemons and condiments. Both are nice; I preferred Randazzo's.

        1. I've been living in the Bronx for the last 20 years or so, go to Arthur Ave regularly (primarily for food shopping), and have never eaten at Pasquale's Rigoletto or been recommended to it by anyone I know. Thanks for confirming my expectations (although they may definitely be better when you order from the menu, as you noted).

          Next time, as suggested by others, go for the shops and cafes (Egidio's or De Lillo's are best) - and/or eat at Roberto's (or Dominick's for a red sauce experience). I've also been recommended to Emilia's, but can't vouch for it personally. The Belmont area has its highlights and its traps, too. Looks like you stepped in one.

          1. I haven't been to Arthur Avenue many times, but the last time my friends and I spent too much time at the wine shop up the street from Pasquale's since they were giving free tastings and had some interesting liqueurs. By the time we got to Roberto's, the wait was longer than our stomachs would bear and the wine guy had suggested Pasquale's as an alternative. It was my friend's birthday and she liked the look of the place so we went in. There was no floor show and the dining experience was pleasant all around. The wine was fine, not amazing but fine (red). This was about eight months ago so I don't remember exactly what we ordered but everything was tasty, especially a pasta from the specials of the day. We also ordered a veal scallopine and a chicken dish. I know it's not one of the best places up there and not worth a trip or anyting, but it's much better than one place I tried there (I have blocked out the name).

            For me the problem with Arthur Ave is transportation. I have to take a car but during shopping hours it's basically impossible to park so I have given up once or twice and gone to a different section of town.

            6 Replies
            1. re: JH Jill

              Yes, I would like to put in a good word for Pasquale's as well. It is what it is, a old-fashioned family style red sauce restaurant, sort of like a low-end version of Piccola Venetzia. It's the kind of place where younger waiters can take your order and bus the tables, but only the old guys can touch the food. For a large group, it is the place of choice in Arthur Ave. It's pretty hard to go with more than 6 -- or at most 8-- at Roberto's.

              1. re: bobjbkln

                PV is NOT exactly a family style red sauce restaurant...

                1. re: Astoria Lurker

                  Each to his own view of the world. It is very red sauce to me.

                  1. re: bobjbkln

                    Here is the menu for PV:, its about 95% Northern Italian with a couple "red sauce" type dishes thrown in (Chicken Parmesan, Shrimp Scampi are really the only ones I could find). Red Sauce to me implies Italian-American, and especially Southern Italian where tomato is the dominant flavor. PV is very different from this.

                    1. re: bobjbkln

                      piccola venezia hardly has any red sauce on their dishes, its is not common to their region of to call it red sauce joint is "naive" it is an aold world tyope of place definetly..but red sauce it is is not a matter of "view" of the world..its a matter of getting correct or incorrect facts stated

                2. re: JH Jill

                  hmm, i haven't had serious problems with parking there but have had to park at meters or several blocks away a few times. from queens it's much easier -- it's 15 minutes from astoria as opposed to about an hour (M60 + metro north) and you can carry home what you wish.