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enoteca: not very good...

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just wanted to report that my experience at enoteca was exactly as other previous chowhounders reported: not that great. i should have ordered a salad as some people recommended that but i didn't. the pizza (funghi) was so-so and the ravioli was so-so. the suppli was the best part of the meal. we skipped dessert. we also ordered small plates as apps but they came straight from the cold case up front inthe store--not very fresh looking..
hope vespaio's is a very different experience....

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  1. Ugh, thank you! I was so excited to go to Enoteca after the marvelous review in the fearless critic, but I guess the writer was having a momentary lapse of judgment while critiquing them. Rarely has food been served to me that was that inedible. The pizza was atrocious (Margherita and quail egg/arugula/proscuitto) and the pasta worse. I will say the suppli are good and most of the appetizers seem mildly passable, but that might be giving them too much credit. Shame on Vespaio for tarnishing their name with such a travesty.

    12 Replies
    1. re: foodiefound

      To quote a line from an earlier thread, the "Fearless Critic" is neither fearless nor a critic. Chowhounds have been questioning Enoteca Vespaio's quality and consistency for a long time:

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/378902

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/334867

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/310934

      1. re: MPH

        I'm surprised people have bad experiences with the pizza, though. IMHO, that's one of Enoteca Vespaio's strengths (relative to location, of course).

        1. re: Brian Lindauer

          I'm surprised, too, Brian. It could have been an off-day; their pizza could have gone downhill; or, the other posters in this thread could have different tastes in pizza than I do. Both are relatively new ‘hounds, so that’s possible. Personally, I haven't had EV's pizza since my post [the third one linked to above] that asked if anyone else had noticed that their pies had gotten crunchier, saltier, and cheesier. That was a year ago, so I don’t know the current situation. Have you had their pizza recently? Or has anyone else?

          1. re: MPH

            No, it's probably been a year since I've had a pizza from there. I had a good salad and some suppli couple of nights ago, though.

            1. re: MPH

              I don't really have any historical context to offer as I only recently tried the pies at EV, but I've had the lardon and prosciutto pizzas in the last month, and neither time did they seem salty or overly cheesy (a thin 75% coverage). The crusts did seem to have a more crispy consistency (almost cracker-like at the edge with a slightly softer interior), but that's the way I prefer it, so I can't really echo any complaints or offer any comparison with earlier versions.

              1. re: MPH

                Perhaps they were having an off night, but the pizza was incredibly salty and oily. I could feel the grease drip down my chin with every bite and the salt dehydrated me for days. The ingredients seemed to be of a good quality, but the execution was horribly flawed. The chef somehow found the need to add an extra layer of salt to a cured meat pizza. The margarita was somewhat edible, but honestly the $14 quail egg/proscuitto pizza was the worst pizza I've ever eaten.

                1. re: foodiefound

                  That actually sounds delicious to me. Greasy, salty, drippin with yolk, mmmm.

                  For some reason, I find it amusing that I've seen recommendations for Enoteca's fries on more than one occasion. They really good ?

                  1. re: Nab

                    I do get the impression that the prosciutto is a bit saltier than your average pie, but it is prosciutto after all, and I'm sure that melting the fontina will even concentrate the salinity of the cheese, but it balances out well with the arugula and crust. Then again, I have a virtually infinite tolerance for salt, so maybe I'm not the best to judge what is too salty....

                    1. re: Twill

                      I share your tolerance for salt, Twill, but I must agree that oversalting is a problem at Enoteca. While I may normally enjoy this, any item with a naturally salty component is bound to be nearly inedible. In my case, I opted for the Neopolitan pizza, in which neither the anchovies nor the capers were desalted, and the addition of olives brought it to the point of painful eating. Literally, my mouth hurt. A little more care taken with said saline ingredients would be much to their advantage.

                    2. re: Nab

                      Personally, I don't think their fries are that good, Nab, but they're really popular. Maybe because they come in a cone-shaped holder, as do the fried calamari, which I also find unappealing (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/33486... ).

                      I still haven't retried the pizza, but thanks for the report on your recent experience, Twill. It occurs to me that a customer could ask the kitchen not to "finish" the pie with salt and olive oil after it comes out of the oven. That might be one way to get a more pristine version. Like Twill and Nab, I usually have no problem with salt and "grease" that come from good-quality cured meat, mozzarella cheese, and olive oil. If something is salty to the point of being inedible, however, I send it back and let them try again. I'll be sure to post an update at the bottom of this thread after I re-check out their pizza.

                      1. re: MPH

                        I feel like the pizza recipe has devolved or perhaps even blatantly changed. The last several times it has been much saltier than normal, as well as richer and heavier than normal. Perhaps they're just suffering from inconsistency, but it seems like a deliberate change to me, as three consecutive ordering attempts have provided similar results. I don't know why they'd mess with a good thing.

                        That being said, calling it "honestly ... the worst pizza I've ever eaten." is pretty far out from my experiences. Not that it will help you, foodiefound, but Enoteca's prosciutto, egg, and arugula pizza has so far been my favorite pizza in all of Austin. Even in its newer, saltier, oilier variety, it has been tasty (although inferior to its previous form). The kitchen must have been under severe duress that evening -- a pinch-hit appearance by an inexperienced chef due to unplanned absence, perhaps?

                        1. re: tom in austin

                          I retried Enoteca Vespaio yesterday—before the weekend crowds made that part of town even more unbearable. The pizza was not noticeably different than it was when I wrote this report more than a year ago:

                          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/310934

                          The prosciutto pizza was salty, but not too salty or unbearably salty to the people at our table. The egg on top was not extremely salty, either. I didn’t find the pizza “greasy,” but the pizza was still crunchier and cheesier than it used to be before I wrote the above review in June 2006. Everyone at the table enjoyed it, however. The one person who had never tried their pizza before thought it was delicious compared to most pizza that's available in this part of Texas. The supplì were also still quite good, though they were slightly underdone (pale color on outside; cold filling in the very center) and more loosely packed, or liquidy, than I recalled. They are still accompanied by way too much arrabbiata sauce, which, as I’ve said before, I could do without—especially with this dish. As an Italian-sauce purist, I’m not a fan of their pasta in general. Their sauces are either too sweet, too spicy, or too creamy. Sometimes they are just plain ill-conceived, like the gross-sounding special of penne pasta with Mexican crema, roast chicken, and Hatch chiles.

                          The large group at our table sampled a wide variety of items, including some vegetable antipasti (the fire-roasted sweet peppers); charcuterie (pork rillettes); salads (the spinach, gorgonzola, and candied-walnut salad); and main courses like steak frites and the pork-meatball panino. These non-pizza items were all still underwhelming to me. The roasted peppers were very sweet and rather one-dimensional in flavor. They were fresher, but not tastier, than good canned varieties, let alone what can be made at home. The pork rillettes were not tender, creamy, or rich enough to achieve the famous “brown jam” appellation that they’re known by in France. Though the menu calls this a spicy pork dish, the flavor was extremely mild. The spinach salad was okay, but I certainly couldn’t taste the pancetta that was supposed to be a central feature of the vinaigrette. Enoteca’s salad is relatively lightly-dressed compared to places that glop on the vinaigrette, but this was still slightly overdressed, in my opinion. Given the bad vinaigrette that they used, this seemed especially unnecessary. The steak frites—hmmm, I wonder why this option is so popular. The frites consist of a large mound of square-cut, pale, and soggy fries which are liberally topped with a mixture containing overly-large crumbles of parmesan cheese, minced garlic, and lots of salt. I thought the fries were unpalatably salty, and I like salt. I know parmesan-dusted fries with rosemary have been all the rage for years in Italian eateries in the U.S., but these are not a good variation on the standard. The hanger steak used in the steak frites was cooked quite rare (they say it’s medium-rare) and was tender, but the crust was not burnt and peppery enough for me. Plus, the shallot-red-wine reduction sauce that traditionally accompanies steak frites was at Enoteca more like a [beef] au jus. The pork meatballs were Italian-American-red-sauce-joint in style. Though better than I thought they’d be, they’ve got nothing on Hog Island’s meatballs. The bread alone would make HI’s meatball hoagie superior. We skipped dessert, which I think is a weak point at Enoteca. Their non-espresso-based coffee was better than average.

                          The pizza’s different than it used to be, but I still liked it. A year later, I don’t really like much there besides the pizza and supplì.

          2. I've only been to dinner a few times and I'm a fan of the taleggio pizza, fries, and the spinach salad. Other people I know really like their panini's and the lardo pizza(I'm vegi) .The porcini creme pasta was a fairly bland.

            Enoteca however, is on its best at brunch, which is rarely packed. Everything on the menu I've tried has been terrific. The poached eggs with brown butter, crepes, and french toast are all excellent, as well as the yukon gold potatoes with caramelized onions.

            The prices are very reasonable too for the quality

            1. i disagree,i have only had good exp[eriences there.the calmari is wonderful and the pork scallopini and the sandwiches were very tasty,this reminds of some of the ny places i ate in as a child living there, my favorite italian places are ciolas and siena and want to try belissimo and vespaio.

              1. Enoteca's overall offering may be mixed, but the house-made charcuterie has always been, in my opinion, beyond reproach. I've yet to make my way through all the offerings but the duck galantine reigns as my favorite; I never dine there without an order or two (and yes, it comes out of the cold case when they serve it, but it is made by hand, as are many of the other terrines and pates). Otherwise, stick with the simple stuff like panini, salads and fries and I think you can make an enjoyable lunch or brunch here.

                1 Reply
                1. re: brentb

                  I love the galantine, as well, though I'm partial to the duck mousse and pork rillettes...which reminds me that I have a quarter pound each in my refrigerator beckoning me directly.

                2. I really like the polpete. In the sandwich is my favorite, but with the penne is good too. I would wait until cooler weather to order it, but I have to have it when the time is right.

                  For dessert, I like the olive oil cake, but that is easy to make at home. To me, the fries used to be really good, and then dropped off. But maybe because I got more interested in the other menu items. I don't remember the salads very well, but do remember that they were dressed well - light but with flavor.

                  1. i like the food here and the calmari ,fries and the pork scallopini are delicious,i like the polpete too but this is what makes life interesting we all have our own opinions.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: nytexan

                      I am surprised that no one (I think) has commented on their mussels. I have to say I really enjoy enoteca.... specifically their mussels. I could seriously eat that for a meal. AND, while I am not a panna cotta girl, the lemon panna cotta is really nice. =)

                    2. I have only eaten dinner there once and don't remember much about it, either b/c it wasn't memorable or because I was too tipsy at the time.
                      HOWEVER, I had brunch there yesterday and really enjoyed it. Considering that I usually have only bitchy things to say about hip restaurants, this is really a compliment. There were five of us at the table and I tasted everything, and thought it all right-on. I ordered their interpretation of eggs benedict and the poached eggs were perfect, the brown butter hollandaise was delicious, and their yukon gold fries had great flavor and texture, a welcome brunch diversion from the ubiquitous homefry. They serve a polenta that is creamy, cheesy and buttery, and a contender for best side dish, though I think I still prefer the yukes. My partner got the crepelle which was smothered in mushroom bechamel and melted fontina, all the better to drag a potato through (I am outing myself here as a very classy diner, I know). My friend got the breakfast panino which was pressed just right. The grilled pancetta was thin and crispy. And one of the best things about their brunch menu is the fair price--all dishes in the $8-9 range. You could spend a couple bucks less down the street at Magnolia, wait forever, and get snarled at by your server. Or you could cough up a few extra bucks and dine at a place with significantly better food, fine dining service, and no vinyl tablecloths. My new favorite brunch.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: tipsytexan

                        enoteca has certainly changed over time, perhaps more than most places, yet i agree with MPH that suppli and pizzas are still amongst their best work (however, i disagree, especially given the above thread, that there's some sort of consensus on chowhound against enoteca). i agree that pizzas have changed, but i still like them; i do really miss the days when they used to do fried zucchini flowers. on the other hand, i have liked fried meats i've tried, e.g. sweetbreads -- a new innovation -- though they're a bit heavy for lunch. but i also think it's easy to forget that with all the daily specials etc., the simple pasta preparations like bolognese have continued to be good. the panini, too, have quietly gotten better over time. it might be the best panino in town at the moment, and i don't think they were even doing many panini when they first opened. that's change, but it's good change. i think the biggest point, though, is that (especially on the fixed menu) the prices have remained eminently reasonable. tipsytexan's magnolia comparison is quite apt--you can spend the same for so much less elsewhere in the neighborhood. just my 2 cents.

                      2. Went to Enotec last night for the second time (the first visit resulted in a disappointing pizza). Started with the suppli which were very good. My hubby and I devoured the four perfectly fried balls of cheesy risotto goodness. I ate one and was semi-full but could not resist the allure of the second. I will definitely get these again.

                        For an entree, I had the pasta special which was basically a chicken sugo, parpadelle, and romano cheese. I had never had a sugo sauce before and thought I would give it a try. The result, was a bowl of extra wide parpadelle and slivers of chicken in a flavorful broth with carrots and onions. My husband tasted it and proclaimed it to be an Italian verison of chicken and dumplings. I laughed, but i see where he was coming from.

                        While pretty good (not great), the sugo was not what I had expected. This version was basically broth-based. Does anyone else have experiences with sugo and can tell me if this is typical? I expected something thicker.

                        BTW- the charge for our meal (1 Italian soda, 1 suppli, and 2 entrees) was $32. Very reasonable for the quality and amount of food.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Honey Bee

                          I finally set sail on my maiden voyage at EV recently. Ended up there for Sunday brunch on a whim, knocked back some pretty decent bellinis, and started things off with the bread basket which I smothered with copious amounts of the tasty plugra butter (barely touched the nutella or the marmalade). I think the bread was pretty good, though it served basically as a garnish. My panino (w/ proscuitto, fontina, arugula and truffled egg) was very tasty, my only minor gripe with it was that the yolk wasn't as freely flowing as I would have liked. My partna had the scrambleds (with bacon, crescenza cheese, spinach) which were pretty tasty, but a little underdone for her (slightly overdone for me) and they were sitting in a little bit of liquid which was a tad of a nuisance. Overall, I thought it was a pretty good deal, and while I may not rush back (eating brunch or breakfast out is a huge annoyance for me), I think it's a pretty good spot for those looking for this sort of thing. I would highly recommend sitting at the bar as opposed to the tables.