A Voce -- too noisy
A dining expeience has to be enjoyable from several aspects, sure the food is the main course but if the service and surroundings are not enjoyable, the food quality won't carry the expereince too far. The food last night at A Voce was superb, especailly the pastas. However when we were seated inside the noise level was absurd. No foursome could go to that restaurant and have a conversation over dinner, we even saw a young couple on a date move their chairs closer to hear one another. The designer of the space is crazy, no soft surface to absorb sound on anything ! We requested to have another table and the maitre d' was helpful, but said outside was the only spot that would be quieter. We had a very pleasant table outside, the weather was great, but the service outside was horrible. The waiter had far too many tables to watch and everytime our dishes arrived, the staff had no idea who ordered what and never offered cheese, pepper, water, bread etc.
If you were alone eating at A Voce, you would have a great evening because the food is worth it. If you want a complete evening experience, travel elsewhere.
My wife and went last night for the first time - arrived at 8:15 PM and were seated immediately in the back, by those attractive hanging columns of trimmed wood pieces.
We love the contemporary design of the place but could tell immediately that is was all hard surfaces and that the sound volume would be high. And it was. Reminded me of the levels we experience at Applewood in Park Slope. But it never rose to the truly "we can't stand this and will never return" level. In fact, we thought the noise gave A Voce a certain NYC vibe that we could accept.
We were greeted immediately and the bread and olive oil w/cherries service was brought out quickly. As was our bottle of wine - even before we ordered food.
The service from all parties, server, sommelier, bussers, etc was prompt and courteous - if anything, to a fault - it seemed they couldn't wait to clear the table. And our only major complaint of the whole evening (which lasted about 2 hours) was that the pacing was just too fast in the beginning - the appetizer's arrived blazingly fast and the mains followed too quickly after that.
But the food, oh the food - for that reason alone I'm hooked - the food will bring me back frequently.
We started with appetizers - me the world class duck meatballs with that heavenly cherry mostarda - classically northern Italian. My wife had the fritto misto - shrimp, white fish, calamari, veggies - very light batter - perfectly prepared with a great dipping sauce. For mains my wife had the sweetest sweet corn ravioli and I had wonderful pillowy soft gnocchi w/lamb ragu. We shared a baked eggplant Parmesan which was much better than anticipated - in fact it was so good I'm still thinking about it.
All in all we had great food that more than negated the noise and too fast pacing.
As it happens, I live a block from Applewood, and have eaten there several times. I have never thought the noise there a problem. But during my one meal to A Voce, it was horribly, oppresively loud. No one could hear anyone, and some people were hoarse the next morning from shouting in a failed effort to make themselves heard.
I have been saying exactly what you said since our first -- and only -- dinner at A Voce not long after it opened. When we arrived around 6:30, there were still many empty tables. So, no hint of what was to come. However, as the room filled, the noise level rose higher and higher until, eventually, it was so insanely high that conversation became virtually impossible. Thus, although the food was delicious, we have not returned. And, frankly, even if I were eating alone, I couldn't stand the noise.
We pass by often (it's in our nabe) and have considered dining al fresco. However, the tables look rather small -- more like tables for cocktails -- and I've seen people smoking there. So, that's a definite no go!
Too bad, really! Because as just about everyone agrees, Andrew Carmellini's cuisine is first-rate.