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Bad experience at Campanile "Grilled Cheese Night"

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I met up with a friend for dinner last night, and we decided to try Grilled Cheese Night at Campanile. Neither of us had ever been to the restaurant before, but we had heard a lot of good things and the sandwiches sounded like fun (I know this has been covered before on this board). We made a reservation for 9:00 and showed up to the restaurant at five to - place was packed, loud, and so hot we were literally sweating. Hostess told us it would be just a few minutes, so we went to have a drink at the bar. The bartender there did her best to upsell us, informing us that there were no half bottles below $40 (not true, incidentally). FORTY minutes later we were called to our table. I understand that sometimes reservations can't be accomodated immediately, but at a restaurant as "nice" as Campanile isn't it customary to at least inform the customer what's going on every fifteen minutes or so? The staff made no attempt to talk to us whatsoever. Not a good start.

Finally we got seated and our waitress took our orders, etc. That was more or less the last we saw of her until our bill came - over ninety minutes later. All we ordered was a single appetizer and sandwiches (which took FOREVER), so it's not like we were going for a drawn-out dining experience. We literally did not see our waitress again until we were ready to go, and she processed our bill without any hint of a smile.

My question is, is this kind of service customary at Campanile? The food was very good (albeit overpriced) and I had hoped to come for a special occasion, but I can't see myself spending $150 on dinner in a cramped, cacophonous, sweaty space where the staff doesn't acknowledge my presence. Was this some sort of aberration, a normal Thursday night, or just an average experience at Campanile regardless?

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  1. Sorry to hear about your experience. I have been to grilled cheese nite twice (and once was without reservations) and I think you were really unlucky. The first time, I was happy with the attentive service, reasonably priced wine, and the server took the time to recommend sandwiches and desserts when it was apparent that it was my first time there.

    I would suggesting giving this place another try, altho I can see how you would be unhappy given the wait, poor service, and large bill.

    1 Reply
    1. re: kotatsu

      I'd like to try it again, because the food was excellent and I liked the space. The service and crowds were really a turn-off, though - Luna Park down the street is loud and crowded, too, but they've always taken care of me there and the atmosphere is completely different. Obviously they're not the same class of restaurant, but my expectations at Campanile were definitely not met.

      With so many good restaurants in the area, hard to see myself coming back, but time heals all wounds. I'm sure they won't miss me, lol. They seem to be doing just fine.

    2. Grilled cheese night is always very crowded and my least favorite time to visit the restaurant. Even though they've been doing it for years the bar area still gets overwhelmed by the walk-ins. Not my favorite night but not typical of the other nights. BTW- You can get a plain grilled cheese any night of the week at the bar as well as the bakery.

      1 Reply
      1. re: JudiAU

        Wow, Judy, that's a fantastic tip. The plain one is the one I prefer anyway, but I haven't wanted to brave the Thursday zoo.

      2. I've been to Campanile once on grilled cheese night with the intentions of having an intimate dinner, a decidedly non-grilled cheese experience, and wouldn't do that again as it was indeed overrun. It felt more like an anthill than a place I'd want to dine again.

        But on weekends and other weekdays, I've always had great service and found the room fine and not crowded at all. In 10-20 visits over the years, I don't think I've ever had to wait for my reservation.

        I haven't been since they've remodeled, but went just before they closed in August and it was really excellent. I actually prefer the part of the room in the middle, across from the kitchen, against the wall. If it is still there....

        1. Grilled cheese night at Campanile has to be one of the most over-hyped experiences I've ever been suckered in to. Pricey, long wait, unremarkable sandwiches, poor service, limp fries, snotty and absent servers combined for a poor experience. Never again.

          1. Sorry you had a bad time. I have gone to Grilled Cheese Night with my sister several times (although not recently) and now opt to get there early and sit at the bar...not any particular reason other than my sister refuses to sit elsewhere as Nancy once gave her leftovers of the sandwiches she was trying out at the end of the bar...