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Jul 30, 2006 01:43 PM

Via Emilia - Good food, chaotic service.

Our first impression was that Via Emilia's snack-bar looks and ambiance was not in-line with their moderate-to-above-moderate prices,

Then came the parade of bad, and sometimes laughably bad, service.

I am aware that they've just recently obtained their liquor licence, but when they hand you a wine list headlined with "...serve only wines from Emiglia-Romagna...", one would assume that they would be knowledgeable about their wines from that region. Well our waiter didn't have a clue, and neither did the other person whom he called over and whom we figured as the head waiter given that during our dinner we noticed that he seemed to be attempting to do the directing and commandeering of the staff. Plus, for still wines priced between $28 and $55, one would at least expect them to make sure that the vintages would be listed with the names of all the wines.

Rather than recount our experience on their service, a perfect example were the diners next to us, an elderly couple who waited forever for their waiter to take their order, who had to ask a passing bus boy for bread 25 minutes after they sat down, and whose shared dishes of mussels appetizers, pasta dish and lamb shank entre dish all came within 15 seconds after one another (which was as early as 15 seconds after their bread arrived). The poor onfused couple's small table was literally cramped with various dishes of steaming food, that they didn't know what to start with.

The redeeming factor was that the dishes that we had were good to very good! The tortellini pasta with truffle oil was nicely done and tasted great with a nice sprinkling of fresh parma cheese. My wife's monkfish dish on a bed of a ragout of vegetables, a special for the day, was quite good. The pork chop dish - a thick, juicy, nicely-done with the slightest of pink color in the center, and perfectly-seasoned was very good. We didn't stay around for dessert.

Don't get me wrong about my rant on the service. I described it as confusing and chaotic, but it does appear that they are trying hard. Unfortunately, they seem to have scrimped on the training and hiring of good staff and put most of their investment in the kitchen and the large space that they occupy. Nevertheless, given the good dishes, we will look forward to makijng our way back and, hopefully by then, their service issues would have been straightened out.

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  1. Thanks for the heads up on the service. I will give it another week or two before I venture a first visit.

    1. Just checked here to see if it was still BYOB, which I guess it no longer is. Bummer that your waiter didn't know anything about the wine -- we have previously had great waiters who lead us happily through the Lambruscos, which are a ton of fun and a great red to drink in the summer.

      Is the new space any bigger than the old space or should we expect to wait as long as usual to eat here on a weekend? I'll take my chances with the service since I've always really enjoyed the food.

      1. I went last night and the space is much larger than the spot on Park Avenue South. The decor is beautiful and there are four larger booths that are around the corner from the main dining room that could probably be used for a large party of 20 or so.

        The service was excellent and we received good advice on choosing a Lambrusco. We had no problems waiting for food or having water glasses or bread baskets refilled.

        As always, the food is great and an exceptional value. We had a craving for the amazing lasagna and it didn't disappoint. We also had the tagliatelli ragu and the calamari appetizer. Both were tasty. All in all, a great experience for the price!

        1. The service at Via Emilia's can use much improvement. The last time I went there, the waitress completely forgot my order of tartufo! But she was so sweet and apologetic about it, it was hard to get huffy.
          Thank goodness their food redeems the so-so waitstaff.

          1. I agree with all of you who have had disappointing service at Via Emilia. I was there on Tuesday night and the service was off. Our waiter kept leaving in the middle of every discussion we had with him (i.e. told us the specials and then disappeared, asked about some wines and then disappeared). In fact I think this occurred at least 3 times during the meal. The other thing I found odd was that there was no manager/host on the premises. It seemed like a free for all with no leadership of any kind. The waiter was also clueless on wine reccommendations and didn't offer to send someone over with more knowledge. Instead, he read very brief/generic tasting notes from a note card that he borrowed from another server. The food was also just ok. I don't think it was up to par with the older, smaller location. Overall they have a significant amount of work to do to improve the experience. The waitstaff will ruin this place if they don't improve it soon....