A Voce - Why, oh why?
Just got back from a dinner at A Voce, and felt the need to add to the many reviews posted here, only this time with a warning not to bother.
Simply put, the service is nice, the room is nice (if you don't notice the foam coming out of the ripped cushion at the corner of the bench)... but food was absolutely bland. Italian? Uh, if they say so.
The Pork loin special arrived with red cabbage, and was smoked to taste like sweetened ham. Rolf's would hav done a better job with the dish. It was baffling. The Gnoochi were rolled so small that the texture was more like little rubber pellets with unseasoned ground meat tossed on for wjat was billed as a lamb bolognse. It tasted microwaved, and fast food honestly. The menu mentioned mint as an ingredient with the Gnoochi, but let's just say you have to have fine tuned taste buds to notice it. The ricotta smeared on top helped, but all in all this wasn't the type of dish a trained chef should be serving. It wasn't understated so much as amature. Something you would make at home while watching the Food Channel, and then having to apologize to your guests for not getting it right. Putting this on a menu for more then $15 is a crime. I have a hard time believing anyone looking for an Italian meal would be satisfied with this.
Worse, the Brocolli rabe was served in a pool of water, without the garlic or oregano described in the menu. It wasn't cooked properly, so it was unedible.
The table next to us had obviously read all the reviews and were desperately trying hard to have this 3-star dining experience, complete with different wine for each course.... but they ended up ordering the same dishes we did, and couldn't force excitement by the time they got to the entrees. It was reassuring to know it wasn't just our servings, the place is just crummy.
The duck meatballs were yummy, but not worth the trip. The polenta sticks were the best thing they served, but weren't any better then what a $10 a dish pasta joint would sell. That's how I would describe this place.
If they were just a cheapie but nice little Italiam establishment in the neighborhood, it would be fine... but even then, I still wouldn't go back. I kind of get the feeling the chef's just trying to cash in on the Batali craze or something. Th abundance of duck dishes indicates he's trying to spread his menu for maximum profit. Again, I have a hard time understanding how the people giving this rave reviews are talking about the same place.
You're right about the sweetness, and it wasn't a good kind of sweet.
We found the atmosphere mellow and nice, but we were there early in the night, so the place was still empty. The troika of hostesses in evening wear (complete with costume jewelry) was a bit much.
There was an absurd number of waitstaff tripping over each other. It must be one server for every 3 tables. They were polite and attentive with us, luckily.
As for the wine - the majority of bottles were in the $100-$300 range, with several in the $1000+ range. If you're pushing collector bottles with chintzy food then of course "all American wines taste the same". Cough. For what it's worth, the $8 glass of Pinot Grigio is a winner if say you really, rally dislike Pinot Grigio and wish it tasted more like a stale/bitter generic house white.
Your comparison to Batali is interesting. Because I am 100% positive if one was to poll the top chefs and restaurant professionals in New York on raw talent. Batali would only score on public relations. It is no secret that Carmellini is hands down one of the most talented and respected chefs in the business.
With that said your report is not a minority as there have been many mixed opinions since A Voce opened. Which is something unexpected by many.
Also A Voce is not inexpensive by any means. I believe when entrees are approaching the $40 line people have higher expectations and are not as forgiving. I know I'm not.
I agree with you. As mediocre as the food is though, the attitude is even worse. This place is trying so hard to be a "scene." It is so loud and I truly felt that the servers were too flustered to check on us. Our waiter told us that "all American wines taste the same," which was bizarre and of course incorrect. Just a mess. I was considering giving it another try as I did really like the meatballs but everything was a little too sweet for me and it sounds like it hasn't improved much. Thanks for your review.