Vito's - Excellent Pizza, Frustrating Service
We finally made it to Vito's last Saturday night (we live in the Pasadena area and just don't make it to the Hollywood area very often).
First things first - I've been eating pizza for a long time and had come to the conclusion that I don't care for the thin crust pizzas. I would now like to retract that conclusion. In fact, it turns out that while I don't care for other thin crust pizzas, Vito's are incredible! That crust that's somewhere better crispy and chewy, with a few lightly carred bubbles. Really, really marvelous (and now I understand why people have been frustrated with other thin-crust offerings here in L.A., if this crust is the norm back east).
Anyway, we originally ordered the White Pizza and a calzone (can't recall which one, but it had pretty much everything) to go. Amazingly, both reheated reasonably well on a stone in our oven - not as good as eating there, but more than acceptable. And we'll definitely go back to try more of the pizza options. We also had two slices while there - one of the cheese and one of the pepperoni. Both were just ... perfect. Not too much sauce, not too many toppings - simple and perfect, with all of the flavors and textures meeting and blending into something incredible. Really, I am now a convert to Vito's pizzas.
As for the service, I've no idea if the person at the till was new or having an off night or if she was always like this, but it was pretty off-putting, and it started the minute we walked in and went to the counter to grab a menu - she asked what we wanted to order, we said that we weren't sure and needed to look at the menu. She said, "Well, do you want pasta or pizza?" and we replied "We're not sure, we need a minute or two to decide." At which point she sighed and then glared at us. Weird. So then we ordered the whie pizza and the calzone to go and paid.
After a few minutes of waiting (and drooling over the pies in the window), I asked the girl how long it'd be for our order to be finished. She replied "oh, at least half-an-hour." I looked at my dining partner (DP) and we didn't even need to discuss options - "Okay, while we're waiting we'll have a cheese slice and a pepperoni." So that's rung in, and then my DP notices the sign about them having wine, so he orders a glass of the house red. Total for two slices and a glass of red? $17.00 and some change! Okay, our fault for not asking the price on the wine (since the pizza wasn't more than $5.00, that wine was $12.00).
The slices were delivered to our table, but not the wine. Went back and asked the girl - she said "Yeah, hang on." So back to the table. Slices were cooling off, so we started to eat them. And we finished them. And still no wine. Back to the counter - her response "I'm getting to it!" My response "That's okay, our order'll be out in a moment, just cancel the wine." Her reply "They've already poured it and you've paid. I can't do that." Um, okay - so the wine's been poured but not delivered to the table or handed over the counter? So I turn back to ask my DP what he wants to do, and I see that our pizza and calzone, boxed and ready to go, are on the table.
It's late, we're tired, and we're hungry. I turn back to ask the girl if she can't just refund the wine charge and we'll get out of her hair - she turns and walks away toward the pizza ovens. A glance back at my DP and one of the kitchen staff was handing him a tumbler of wine. So what to do? Obviously eat a slice or two of the white pizza while the wine's consumed. Open the box, take out two slices, and then the girl snaps at us across the counter, "You can't eat that here, it's to go!"
Okay, we just wanted to leave, so the DP (who hates to waste anything) gulped down the tumbler of wine and we left.
As I said, the pizza was incredible and I would gladly recommend that people go there. And I'd go back, too, for the food. But the interaction with that one person was enough to sour the initial experience.
Thanks for the reassurances, my friends.
I really was taken aback by the girl's behavior - thinking back on it, my guess is that she really didn't want to be there that night, and was taking out her frustration on us. Or maybe not. I don't know.
I didn't see Vito (I assume that he looks like he does in that marvelous photo on the website and the menu?) there while we were there - he might have been there but in the back or something else (I was looking forward to meeting him, as we'd spoken on the phone about a week before when I'd called about their hours, and he was nothing less than charming and welcoming).
But we will be going back - we've friends in from out of town this weekend (NYC transplants now in Northern California) and we're taking them there for a surprise - my guess is that they'll love the food and if the service is bad we'll just shrug it off.
Btw, I've been thinking about that cheese slice all week.
I haven't been to Vito's yet, but from all the posts here about his friendliness, I'm sure he will want to know about your experience. Also, there is no way you should have had to pay for that wine. I suggest you write a nice letter to Vito, letting him know the great things you've heard about his staff and his pizza, but telling him about this experience. You could even cut-and-paste the your original post above. When I've had situations like yours and I've written to the owners, I usually get a nice response back, and they also usually do something to make it up to me.
I guess I go there a lot more than everybody else. There's a four different women I've seen behind the counter since it started to blow up and they hired new folks. For a while it was just Antonio, Vito, and Joey, but they've hired a dozen new people I think. Antonio doesn't even work it all the time when he's there. With all that said, I've had good to great service from the new employees. There's a younger Asian woman who is ridiculously nice and some other girls who get flustered but have always been very accommodating.
Of course, I go there 2-3 times a week so maybe it's just they recognize me.
That is so odd, I've always had the nicest service there. If I were you I'd view this as an aberration and be confident that the next visit will be much much nicer. If it isn't, I think Vito would want to know that one of his employees couldn't be bothered to help you.
I did see a girl there one night, pretty young with dark curlyish shortish hair, but she was just soooo super sweet, I can't imagine her being the rude one. We had to look at the menu too and she said "take all the time you need." Then we ordered and sat outside and planned to have one of us hang out inside for the drinks and slices, but she inststed we just sit down, and she brought out our drinks and napkins and red pepper and everything to our table. Completely accommodating.
i am really surprised at your experience. i drive there from la canada and have always had nothing but great service. have never seen a female employee. i may go by today and tell one of the guys about your experience. hope that you don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. i like the garibaldi combo.
Wow, if there was anything better than the food there, the service has always been top-notch. In fact I worried that Vito didn't get days off. I was there one day, Vito was (finally) off and the pizza was still just great. But I imagine as new help is hired, there will be adjustments. Vito's people barely know me, but always greet me warmly. I'm sure Vito has heard about this incident already.
I hope you go back to try the eggplant parmigiana sandwich and their outstanding canolis. Warning: the sandwiches are to eat there only; The bread is delicate and doesn't travel.
Never seen a female either, but I go during the day, or maybe one of the restaurant guys who reads this will say something to Vito. I know this is not the kind of rep these guys want, they work hard to make everyone feel like friends and family. Maybe just e-mail them this thread.
I eat there pretty frequently, but only for lunch. Never seen a female behind the counter. Antonio, Joey and Vito are the most people friendly and helpful blokes you'll ever meet. I suspect the girl must have been a new hire.
As I recall from a recent conversation with Antonio, they are always on the hunt for new help. At this level, good help has got to be a major challenge because, let's face it, this is a simple place for a slice or a take-out pizza, you're not going to get well trained people as servers.
BTW, I'm the last guy in the world to be selling veggies but, as good as their other slices are, the vegetable pizza is so overwhelmingly wonderful that everything else kinda pales in comparison. And this is from a guy who just knee-jerks orders sausage or anchovie slices!