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Oct 23, 2006 02:28 PM

Very bad experience at Pomodoro in the North End

My wife and her parents and I were looking forward to our visit to Pomodoro Saturday evening, since the place had been so highly recommended.

We arrived on time for our 6:30 reservation. I went in to give the host our name. He told me they were running late and that it would be twenty-five minutes. I thought, no big deal; these things happen. I used to be in the restaurant biz and I know how it is. The guy asked for my cell phone number and said he would call when our table was ready. I watched him write it down so I know he had it correct.

We had a pleasant half an hour, strolling around the neighborhood and ducking into Café Graffiti for a drink to pass the time.

After thirty minutes with no word, my mother-in-law went to check. She came back shortly and told us that the dude told her that he had called and gotten no answer. I checked my phone—no indication of a missed call.

The guy told my mother-in-law that it would be five or ten minutes, so we paid the check at Café Graffiti and walked the short distance back to Pomodoro. As I was opening door, the guy yelled at me not to go in, that our table wasn’t ready. He was standing on the sidewalk, explaining to other diners about how their table wasn’t ready either.

He was rude. We stood around another five minutes, noticing through the windows that all the seats were filled and that no one looked like they were about to leave. We soon discovered that he had just seated the party whose reservations were for 6:00—ours had been for 6:30—and it was then about 7:15. We tried to talk to him again, to see if we could get a sense of when we actually might have a table, but he cut us off with a lecture—I am not making this up—about how “patience is a virtue.” Well, so is seating customers reasonably close to their reservation time.

We huddled and decided that we should go somewhere else, that even if we got seated we were not going to enjoy dinner with this jerk.

Our problem was, of course, that at 7:30 on a Saturday evening in the North End, the waits for the good places are quite long. Two of us set off to see what we could find. A few blocks to the north, the host at Ristorante Lucia told us that he could seat us in ten to fifteen minutes. We said great, put our name down, and we hoofed it back to get the womenfolk. As we were leaving, the Pomodoro guy came over to us. I told him that we were going somewhere else. He said, “Okay, good.” I’m not kidding.

At no point did he apologize or make any effort to make us feel better. When I was a restaurateur, I always tried to make the customer happy when there was a screwup—and there were screwups. It’s inevitable. But if you’re a smart manager, or even just a decent person, you tell the guest that you’re sorry. Maybe you offer them a glass of wine or something on the house. You certainly don’t give them a lecture about the virtues of patience. Sheesh. What a cretin.

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  1. Youu have to wonder what some people are thinking, when they say things like that. I would have gone nuts.. you're a saint.

      1. re: Alcachofa

        The food at Lucia, overall, was not what you'd call bad but not really very good either. My wife's entree was the exception. I don't remember the name, but it was penne with broccoli and a nice spicy sausage. It was tasty.

        The rest of the food was rather dreary. Since the place was an unknown quantity, I played it safe and ordered linguine with marinara sauce (I would not do that in a place that I knew was going to have good, interesting food) and a side of Italian sausages. Oddly, the sausage I got was not the same as my wife's--it was bland as could be. The ling was cooked right, but the sauce--I've had the same quality out of a jar.

        My father-in-law, feeling more adventurous, ordered fried calamari. It seemed to us not house-made, though we could be wrong about that; the breading looked too uniform, kind of industrial. It had the texture of fried rubber bands.

        The rest of the food was acceptable, but nothing worth going out of your way for. The bread did not seem fresh. The beer was good. Our server was very nice, though harried by the Saturday night madness.

        Under the circumstances, we were happy to be inside with hot, edible food in front of us, but we probably won't go back to Lucia.

        We did salvage the evening somewhat with a stop at the Gelateria on Hanover after dinner. Had a good piece of ricotta pie, apparently from Modern, judging by the boxes near the top of the stairs.

        1. re: seefood

          Haven't eaten dinner at Lucia in a while, but I kinda enjoyed the maccheroni alla chitarra a while ago. They seem to claim Abruzzese leanings, and there seems to be a very small number of Abruzzese dishes on their current website menu. Had desserts there recently and found them very good, especially the Torta Di Nocciola, a hazelnut cake.

      2. I thought Pomodoro didn't take reservations, that it was strictly first-come, first-served. I like the food there, but I don't think it's good enough to merit that kind of aggravation. The "patience" lecture bespeaks a real contempt for customers. I hope you repeat that story to a hundred friends.

        Another reason to shun the North End on weekends, and to only patronize places that not only take reservations, but honor them. Most North End places seem to mimic Jeremy Jacobs' philosophy with the Bruins: why spend the money to put a good product on the ice when the suckers keep coming back to fill the seats anyway?

        1 Reply
        1. re: MC Slim JB

          Pomodoro has always taken reservations, but they have never been entirely punctual about seating you. Usually we went to Caffe Graffiti and they happily came to get us when they were ready. For those waiting outside, they often handed out free calamari apps. Its been a while and Siobhan (the owner) was serving as hostess at the time. Its possible that my Irish luck has resulted in better service as there are frequent posts of poor service relating to the Brookline branch and this sounds like a wasted Saturday night. They do have a salt cod pasta that I love, but there are lots of other places in the North End that I would visit first.

        2. Terrible experience.

          The parents and I hit Santarpio's early Saturday evening (6ish) and there was no wait. Had sausage, lamb and a pizza which my momma said was the best pizza she's had in 30 years (harkening back to Paul's Pizza in Bridgeport, CT circa 1950s), and believe me, momma is one picky pizza patron!

          Tried to dash into to the North End to double-park at Modern and couldn't even get close. Line for Giacomo's was down to the end of the block!? Went to Christina's instead.

          I solemnly swear never to go to the North End on a Saturday night again (unless on foot for a festival).

          1 Reply
          1. re: Bob Dobalina

            We walked past Giacomo's on our way up the Lucia's. The line was so long, and the place is not large--it looked like there were two seatings lined up--IOW, the people at the end of the line were going to have to wait until the people at the front got seated, ate, and left before they would even get in the door!

            I agree about the North End on Saturday night. Crazy. We've enjoyed it on other days; so many good things to eat. But I think from now on, not on Saturday evening.

          2. My experiences at Pomodoro have been great - calling us sweethearts, making special vegetarian meals, etc. however, they were early on the wkd or mid-day...the N.End in general is not worth it on a wkd night or Valentine's day...I also didn't think they took reservations b/c it's so small.

            Sorry you had such a horrible time, I hate putting guests through that.