Ristorante Marino: some waiter-training needed
I've only been to Marino's three times, but all three times, including this most recent visit, I've thought the food was very good. Totally conservative in style, but well executed in that style. This time I had a nice, uncomplicated Romano salad and some yummy butternut squash ravioli. Carrot cake had way too much frosting for the amount of cake, but the cake part was good. And I could probably have happily just eaten the focaccia and olive breads they kept bringing us. I like the space, too, myself, although I'm sure it's a matter of architectural taste whether the lattice-arches-under-HVAC-ducts approach makes it feel like an Olive Garden.
I'll forget the food before very long, but this trip was vividly memorable for a truly world-class display of service ineptitude. I don't just mean it was slow. It was very slow, though. There were two large parties that arrived a few minutes after we did, but both were expected and the restaurant was nowhere near full even with them, so that's no excuse. But slowness happens. So be it.
And, of course, a new waiter does have to have a first day. I don't know for a fact that this was our waiter's first day, but judging from his behavior it appeared to be. Actually, it seemed like it might be not only his first day at that restaurant, but maybe the first time he'd waited at all, and maybe the first time he'd even <i>been</i> in a restaurant where the menus weren't posted above the cash registers. When he went to take our orders he pulled out a notepad and poised his pen over it in a kind of fist-ish grip as if he expected to be graded on his ability to take dictation and expected to fail. Every single item any of our party ordered, he had to peer over our shoulder, have us point at it on the menu, and wait while he copied out, I think verbatim, the line of English description under the Italian name.
But, you know, at least that means he'd get the orders right. And yes, when he eventually brought the salads (after a loooooong wait), they were right. He didn't remember who ordered what, but whatever. We ate our salads. We finished them. We ate some more bread. We talked. We waited some more. Finally he came to take our salad plates away, and we perked up expecting the real food.
Then, and only then, did he report that a dish ordered by two of our five people was, in fact, not available at all, and that despite him having accepted without comment a non-menu request for whole-wheat crust on a third person's pizza, they never had such a thing. The time to tell diners about menu deletions (to state what ought to be obvious) is when you give them the menus. The time to check on the feasibility of a special request (to continue stating the rudimentary) is right after it is requested. And the way to avoid infuriating people who have waited a really long time for their food is to try really hard to avoid revealing, right at the moment when they think it is going to appear, that you not only hadn't started making it yet, but you hadn't even started thinking about whether it would be possible to make it.
At least it didn't get any worse after this. The replacement orders came after what would have been an ordinary interval if it had been the first period of waiting. The food was good, as I said. A "manager", summoned to bask in the livid indignation of our most indignant diner, comped us desserts to go, which also took an inexplicably long time to arrive for things that simply had to be sliced off of larger hunks, but not so long that we felt like we had to send scouts out to sneak in supplementary snacks from elsewhere. We got out, we went home.
The waiter will probably get better. But if he doesn't, there's a Valvoline Instant Oil Change next door and a Dunkin' Donuts across the street, and his proper vocation will probably find him eventually.
I was at Marino a year or so ago and was given wine in a cracked and dirty glass. The wait staff poured the wine into a new glass and left. I refused to drink the wine and complained. The wine was not comped. If it hadn't been a business meeting, I would have walked out. Absolutely abysmal.
Were you by any chance there on Sunday? If so, I was in one of the large parties and would report similarly on food and service. The dinner was basic Italian executed well. I could have happily eaten the antipasto platter for dinner and it was certainly big enough to do so -- the prosciutto was good, the salami so-so, great cheese, grilled vegetables and melon and a pot of olives and a pot of mushrooms. All washed down with the fine bread. Dinner was chicken with prosciutto and sage prepared very well -- the sage was fresh and the chicken was tender.
Our service was not abysmal, but it was poor. I know we were a big party, but shouldn't it be possible to bring out all the appetizers, and all the entrees, at roughly the same time? Like within a couple of minutes, instead of fifteen? And the server handed my neighbor her specially ordered entree lovingly saying, "chicken, low oil, just for you." The server had correctly remembered the person's order, but handed her someone else's veal. We were able to switch around, but I'm not convinced there was less oil on the chicken since it looked just like mine (we'd ordered the same thing).
Not my party, not my place to complain, but I wouldn't go back there with a big group again.