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Roberto's - Great meal, but low-class, vulgar owner

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Skillet Licker Nov 12, 2006 12:46 AM

First time to Roberto's. The two of us arrived at 3:55 on Saturday (they open at 4:00) and there were already about 10 people seated.

We started with a special of sauteed shrimp and scallops in a butternut squash sauce. It sounded interesting and proved to be a fabulous one-of-a-kind treat.

One entree was veal picante, in a sort of spicy green and red pepper-studded white sauce that was far more satisfying than it may sound. The other entree was fettucine in a light cream sauce with fresh shaved truffle - a $55 special. They shaved the truffle tableside. It was quite good, though curiously lacking in truffle aroma and flavor. In addition, we shared an exceptional penne in tomato sauce - one of the most elementally flavorful versions I've ever had. A caraf of house Montepulciano satisfyingly accompanied the above.

We each had a pretty good tartuffo and espresso to round out the meal, which was surprisingly excellent. In fact, we were already planning our next visit when gastonomic horror struck.

It was now 6:00 and we were liesurely winding down our meal when a waiter plopped down the check. We paid it continued to chat for a bit. One waiter after another came over to ask if wanted anything else. We didn't. All we wanted was to relax a little before leaving. True, there were many people crowded into the bar area awaiting tables. But spending a little over two hours enjoying a meal is hardly unreasonable (even though we noticed that the average turn over was just over one hour), especially when spending $250.

Then the unthinkable happened. A man I took to be the owner came over and brusquely asked if we had a good dinner. We said we did, and he said grazie and walked away. He said it curtly and sharply and without the slightest hint of graciousness or hospitality. In fact, his tone, demeanor and attitude - especially when coupled with the prior harassment by the waiters - communicated a single unmistakeable message: "Get the f*ck out". Bear in mind, we had JUST finished dessert and coffee. We did leave. But we did so with decidedly ambivalent feelings about the restaurant (hence the title of my post).

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  1. Steve R RE: Skillet Licker Nov 12, 2006 12:59 PM

    I know you probably don't want to hear this but I think you were being unreasonable and they weren't. I'd probably feel differently if you seemed genuinely clueless about the situation and the business, but you seem quite aware and chose your course of action anyway. Just my opinion.

    1. l
      Larry Brooks RE: Skillet Licker Nov 12, 2006 01:15 PM

      " Get the F out? "
      Thats Italian for " Thanks for coming, we'll see you again".
      You must know understand the culture.

      1. l
        Lizard RE: Skillet Licker Nov 12, 2006 04:57 PM

        I'm with Chow Gal and Steve R. here. Probably don't have much to add except that I think that words like "unthinkable" and "harassment" are kind of hyperbolic. I mean, when someone introduces "And then the unthinkable happened..." I brace myself for a spitting story, or Mothra swooping down to clear y'all out-- not someone being too brusque for your sensibilities.

        1. g
          Get In My Belly RE: Skillet Licker Nov 12, 2006 05:02 PM

          all i know is that if i were one of those people crowded into the bar area patiently but anxiously waiting for a table, and i had to sit there watching a table relaxing, hanging out, and sipping their espresso for 45 minutes, i would be thinking something much different than "grazie" towards those people. just sayin'.

          1. Cheese Boy RE: Skillet Licker Nov 12, 2006 05:13 PM

            Here's a pic of the owner and executive chef: http://www.usmenuguide.com/RobertosCh... .
            If Roberto came over to your table, it was *definitely* an inconvenience for him, because he's always *very* busy working in his kitchen making sure everything is perfect. Nonstop. I realize you plunked down $250 on your meal, and if I understand correctly, there were only TWO of you dining. That is a hefty tab, but it doesn't give you license to occupy that table for over an hour, nevermind two hours. The amount of money you spend shouldn't be relative to how long you're free to remain seated there.

            In the future, to avoid any disappointments, try dining a bit later. If you want to be an "early bird", you will almost always experience that sense of being "rushed out" because there will almost always be people waiting in line to dine and likely getting impatient with people who want to LINGER. Dining later is one solution. Another might be to take your $250 elsewhere. His loss I suppose.

            1. Marge RE: Skillet Licker Nov 12, 2006 05:17 PM

              Gastronomic horror? Roberto's is not the type of restaurant where one can expect to languish for hours...it is a very popular, no reservations, casual, gastronomic adventure. As one who has waited at the crowded bar for a table, I must agree with other posters that after spending two hours at a table, the waiters' and owner's hints that it was time for you to leave were far from harassing and unthinkable.

              1. s
                Skillet Licker RE: Skillet Licker Nov 12, 2006 05:52 PM

                Ok, there seems to be a consensus here. I can admit if I'm wrong. Maybe I wasn't quite in tune with the dining custom at Roberto's. Nevertheless, we spent two hours there not because we were dining overly casually, oblivious to the ever-increasing hordes awaiting their seats, but because we ordered a lot of food and wine and that's just how long it took to finish. And although I bristled at the owner's bluntness, I guess there's really no good way to hospitably say "get out". I still think its a gem of restaurant.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Skillet Licker
                  b
                  BROOKLYNDINER RE: Skillet Licker Nov 12, 2006 06:00 PM

                  Very fascinating board! I wish this restaurant were in brooklyn--menu looked great and what a fairly priced extensive wine list-especially for Italian wines.

                  2 hours for dinner is probably average at a nicer restaurant (for 2 and longer for large parties). I just am getting the impression this is a nice restaurant-but much more casual. One can certainly enjoy one's coffee etc-but to linger after paying a check with a visible throng awaiting to be seated is a bit rude. Yes-it is your table-but reverse the situation and imagine you were one of the people waiting. You probably could have gone to the bar for an after dinner brandy if you still wished to linger.

                  And-yes the staff there seemed a bit imposing perhaps-but it sort of fits in with the charms of the place I imagine. But far from vulgar or anything=absolutely not.

                2. d
                  dmleo RE: Skillet Licker Nov 12, 2006 08:44 PM

                  I've been a regular at Roberto's for many years, and I must say, Roberto is neither vulgar nor rude to his customers. With all due respect, considering the relatively small size of the restaurant (even in its new space), its no reservation policy, and how busy it gets, especially on the weekends, it seems to me that you were the one being rude by not making your table available to waiting diners.

                  Just a couple of weeks ago I was having a meal at Da Andrea when my dinner companion and I decided to wrap things up without any cue from the wait staff because we saw the growing line outside the restaurant. I think it's just common courtesy, particularly in a small place.

                  1. Brian S RE: Skillet Licker Nov 12, 2006 09:01 PM

                    You might want to try posting about this on the "Not About Food" board. You will get responses from all over the country.

                    1. y
                      Yaxpac RE: Skillet Licker Nov 13, 2006 03:06 PM

                      still trying to figure out the vulgar part of it...I pictured Roberto running around the room screaming oscenities...haha

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