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Carmine's Italian Restaurant & Bar in PASADENA

This place should have a sign that reads ' OPEN TILL 10PM, BUT 1/2 ASS SERVICE STARTS PROMPTLY AT 9:20 PM '

Never in my life have I ever felt so unwelcomed at a restaurant.

I had never been here before and drove by it last weekend with a friend. We decided to make a fun date out of it and go the following weekend. So we went to watch a movie and drove there for a late dinner last night. We get there and there are 3 staff workers talking in the first little room where you wait to be seated. We stood there waiting for someone to come by not knowing if we are supposed to seat ourselves or wait to be seated. It was an awkward 1-2 minute wait as we looked over at them talking amongst themselves, obviously knowing we had just entered. We then decided to just go in and sit down. As we started to, one of the 3 came over to us and FINALLY seviced us. The place had families there and dates there with plenty of empty seats as well. When we got there many of them were leaving and the place just looked a little more emptier. At this point we had no clue they closed at 10. We were seated and our waitress came. I don't know if I'm already spoiled, but this waitress was not welcoming or friendly AT ALL. You could see it in her face and actions that she really didn't want to be there and surely didn't want us there either. That's when we started wondering at what time they closed. I asked one of the bus ladies and was told 10 pm. My watch said 9:24. I've never been one to leave 1 star just for the service, but this place was sooooooooooo HORRIBLE that even if the food tasted good it just made me look into all the negativity of the place.

The food was actually good. I ordered the chicken something with a rasberry martini and my friend ordered the chicken florentine with a glass of merlot. His dish tasted much better than mine. My Martini SUCKED ASS. I ordrered a Rasberry Martini and let me tell everyone that I know my Martinis and the crap that was given to me was not one. Just because it was in a Martini glass DOES NOT MAKE IT A MARTINI. It was too strong and I kindly asked the waitress if they can make it less strong for me, maybe water it down a bit. I mean, it was suppsed to have been a rasberry maritini and I didn't even taste the rasberry because the alcohol was so strong. I've had Rasberry Martinis in several different places and even when they have been strong I'm able to taste the rasberry juice, but the shit that was given to me was PURE CRAPPY ALCOHOL. When they brought it back it did taste better. I hesitated at first saying anything about it because I was sure they'd spit in it, but I really didn't want to pay for it and not drink it. We were done eating and our waitress disappeard, I had to ask the bus lady for to go boxes and our check. When our check was brought to us I noticed that others received their check in a little tray and ours was just placed on top of our bag. We decided to only tip her $4 dollars. Everything including our tip cost $50. That's pretty much what we spend at the cheesecake factory, gin sushi, yang chow and many other places. However, the main difference is that we get top quality service and in this trash of a place I was really upset that my friend had to pay 50 for the HORRIBLE SERVICE we got.

I will NEVER go back to this place and it's a shame because Italian is my favorite food.

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  1. You have to take Carmine's for what it is -- a very popular mid-priced family neighborhood place with traditional food.. Sorry your service was bad, they are incredibly crowded on weekends and were probably burned out, not that that's an excuse. And it's an old-fashioned Italian restaurant, not the sort of place I would expect an excellent raspberry martini (not sure I would order that anywhere anyway, but whatever). There's something strangely compelling about their retro food, including the veal piccata, the eggplant parmigiana and the spaghetti al'oglio. The portions are huge, enough for two or three meals. The best way is to go on a weeknight, when the service seems fine, or do take-out (I think they deliver too?). Some people on this board like the pizza too.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chowpatty

      I love the pizza...and hate the service....it has been really bad lately...

      1. re: Chowpatty

        They definitely deliver and their delivery people are the best. I have often called the manager to commend them on the sweet and pleasant young men who deliver (there never seem to be women delivery people).
        I would call the manager (or Carmine, the owner's son who is there quite often) and tell them of your experience. I know that the service in-house is not always that great, but I truly enjoy their food (their pizza is my fave - cooked well done) and will keep on going. Pasta Pescatore with pink sauce is the best! Great Happy Hour as well. Also, their lemon drop martini is the best - they use fresh lemon juice.

      2. I had a similar experience at Musashi in Porter Ranch (Northridge). I walked in with two friends, and we waited while the host and host just talked and talked away with other people. After waiting a few minutes without being acknowledged, we were about to seat ourselves, when they rudely said, "No. Let us seat you." That was it for me. We walked out, and I'll never go back.

        1. You were upset because a martini was too strong? Call me a lush, but that doesn't sound like a problem to me.

          6 Replies
          1. re: teach

            I thought the same thing about the martini! In these situations, an ice cube or two will solve the problem. But then the OP's frame of reference is the Cheesecake Factory, so...

            1. re: Chowpatty

              There's nothing wrong with liking the Cheesecake Factory. I didn't notice the martini statement. However, I have had nasty martinis before (not at this particular place).

              The next time I get a bad or strong martini, I'll remember the ice cube suggestion. I've never done that before. I will add that there are so many kinds of martinis available these days, that it's difficult to keep track of what's in them. To give a few examples, there is the lychee martini, the pomegranate martini, the chocolate martini, and so on.

            2. re: teach

              yeah...I'm confused. for someone who "KNOWS MARTINIS" they would know that martinis ARE pure alcohol. Even the flavoring is usually flavored liqueur or vodka. And don't get me started on saying that one "KNOWS MARTINIS" but willingly orders a raspberry one.

              1. re: annalulu

                I used to be a bartender at Lolas in LA. I know a lot about Martinis. I was in the mood for a Rasberry Martini that night and the crap that was given to me, was not a rasberry martini. It was pretty much like a straight up vodka. If I wanted a vodka, I would have ordered a vodka, but nope....I ordered a Rasberry Martini, I paid for one, I expect one. Don't ask for much, I just want what I paid for, give me something fruity nothing more than that.

                1. re: handycrafter77

                  I used to be a bartender too, and we had a mighty long list of martinis. I dislike paying for a crappy drink. Although the restaurant is unpopular here, I had a great lychee martini at Villa Sorriso in Pasadena on Monday. The drink was perfectly balanced and tasted just right to me.

                  1. re: katkoupai

                    Ooooh lychee martinis are so good. They are truly underrated, not many people are willing to try them. Have to check that place out.

            3. Try their location on Live Oak in Arcadia. Not sure why, but the difference in service is night and day.

              3 Replies
              1. re: calabasas_trafalgar

                I go to the Arcadia location because every time I drive by South Pas Carmines in the evenings ESP weekends, it looks hectic and mobbed. Even when its busy, I've had great service at the Arcadia location, even the bus help and runners are right there to help all the time. I can't compare the food of course, just speak for the service at the other loc.

                1. re: MaryT

                  Finally, someone knows that Carmines is in SOUTH PASADENA, not Pasadena.

                  1. re: carter

                    I know Carmine's is in So. Pas!! And have mentioned it several times here.

              2. I've never had a rasPberry martini, but I have had many rasPberry flavored vodkas. They probably made the martini with rasPberry flavored alcohols instead of the rasPberry juice...

                I think the real problem is the service. I have been to Carmine's in South Pas several times and the service has typically been "below average". It is too bad because the food is decent, but there are just too many other places to go in the LA area for good food with better service.

                1. Carmine’s must be famous for bad service by now. Unfortunately, I went based on some positive posts on CH. I ordered a specific wine but they brought an inferior, less expensive one. I pointed it out to the wine server. She left and someone else finally came over, so I re-explained the problem. They left, eventually someone else came over and I re-explained the problem. Nobody else came to correct the error. By now, the food was getting cold so we drank what we had. When the bill came they charged me for the more expensive bottle. I pointed that out when they finally retrieved the bill with my credit card. They charged me for the wrong bottle anyway. By then, I just wanted out of that HORRIBLE place.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: BN1

                    Go to the Carmine's in Arcadia! The service is top drawer, I swear every time I go, there are more people willing to help out it's almost too good. I finally found a place that does thin crust not so bad (soggy in the center, but that is pretty common for the situation here in CA). I had a veal dish once too that was pretty nice. I haven't tired out the pasta dishes to any extent to judge. But service service service.

                    1. re: MaryT

                      Their pescatore(with either white or red sauce)is very good. MaryT is right on about the service in Arcadia. Too bad it didn't spill over to Pasadena.

                      1. re: calabasas_trafalgar

                        I get the pasta pescatore with the pink sauce - best of both worlds!! Also, order their pizza, regardless of thin or thick crust, well done. It makes it all that much better!

                          1. re: eberhard49

                            no way! There pizza is great! Crispy crust with fluffy crumb...lots of ingredients...alwyas has been good.

                            1. re: chefthisguy

                              there is too much cheese...the cheese taste of low quality

                              1. re: chefthisguy

                                Absolutely, chefthisguy! ;-) I like my pizza with lots of cheese!!

                              2. re: eberhard49

                                I'm not a fan of their pizza either, I go for the pasta, sandwiches, etc.

                      2. Sadly, I have to jump on the bandwagon here. Three of us ventured over to the So Pas location tonight for a change of scenery (my grandparents live near the Arcadia location and we have always had a good time there). The service was flat-out terrible. Everything we asked for took 10 plus minutes (water, drinks, silverware, crushed red pepper) and frequently we only got it then because we flagged down a second person or got up and asked for it. More than once I looked up to see our waiter standing across the restaurant but as soon as he saw me look his way he quickly averted his eyes and disappeared. In addition, when one person asked whether he recommended the open face or regular sandwich he quickly said "Neither. I don't think either is any good" and recommended something completely different. I guess I appreciate the honesty but the tone implied that we were slightly crazy for even thinking about it in the first place.

                        What should have been an hour long dinner was nearly 2 hours long - most of it spent waiting. That's unfortunate as the food (pizza, a sandwich and fettucine alfredo) wasn't bad. I guess in the future we'll spend our money at DiPilla's, Domenico's or somewhere else more welcoming

                        3 Replies
                          1. re: calabasas_trafalgar


                            Old school Italian at the intersection of Valley and Rosemead. I've been going there since I was a kid and it hasn't changed at all - and I think that's a good thing. You'll have to let me know what you think if you try it!

                            1. re: RoxyGrl

                              I thought the name sounded familiar. I used to go there 30 years ago or so, but it does look exactly the same. The wife didn't care for it, though...but she does love Domenico's(our default Italian place of choice)

                        1. The last time we went to Carmines to eat, it was not busy. It was during the day. The service was Horrible. We were reluctant to go back this time because the service the time before was Horrible too. The server had a bad attitude. The bus boy was far more helpful than the server. They should bump the bus boy up to server...the service might improve then.

                          A couple of weeks ago on a Friday, we went to the bar and were turned away. They said they were at thier capacity. As we were walking away, four people entered the bar.

                          Carmine should read some of these reviews and step up his game a little bit. How can they survive if they keep chasing thier customers away with bad service.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: chilovyek

                            I agree that it would be helpful if they read this and improved their service, but I'm pretty sure you have answered your own question of how they can survive when you said it was at capacity...it's always packed.

                            1. re: Chowpatty

                              People, at least in LA, aren't turned off at all by consistently bad service. In fact, assuming reasonable product (or maybe not even), the worse the service, the better the place seems to do. The popularity of Casa Bianca in Eagle Rock could serve as a sociologist's master's thesis; Sweet Lady Jane's (see the legendary Chowhound thread) could be the PhD study. Maybe the LA lifestyle leaves us feeling the need to be punished.

                              1. re: Griller141

                                Makes you wonder why the Soup Nazi doesn't open a branch out here... it'd be a gold mine! I read the Sweet Lady Jane threat for a while and then got fed up and stopped. I can't believe everyone complains so much yet they keep going back for more.

                                1. re: Griller141

                                  No, I think we're actually pretty spoiled by good service at most restaurants and will put up with a few bad places because they have nostalgic favorites.

                                  Carmine's in SOUTH Pas has never had good service and I'll only go to humor some friend who loves their pizza. (I don't care for it. Give me Folliero's in nearby Highland Park ANY day! It's only two fwy exits away -- about 5 minutes drive -- at Ave. 57.)

                                  As a NE L.A. native, I still love Casa Bianca's pizza but will only order it to go. The slooooow wait is not worth the nostalgic experience. Nicer to bring it home and crack open a bottle of good wine. But I think many people will tolerate the dismal service for a piece of 1960s L.A. nostalgia. The place hasn't changed a bit since I was a kid.

                                  Crappy service is less well-tolerated in new places. A new restaurant with crappy service isn't going to last a year in this town, even if the food is fabulous. Why? There's plenty of fabulous food EVERYWHERE -- and generally with good service. I can't think of one terrific new restaurant that I have returned to if I thought the service stunk.

                                  Trendiness just can't counter bad service. You have to have a loyal, well-established clientele to get away with that!

                                  1. re: Reeter1

                                    Excellent points - I stand corrected. I agree that you need to have an established customer base to get away with consistent abuse. Though I remain mystified how these places got the base to begin with, as they never had adequate service.