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Nov 9, 2007 03:55 AM

Bebo - Bad Experience

I had heard about the bad service at Bebo Trattoria, but being a very laid-back diner, I did not take heed.

A friend and I went to Bebo on an early Sunday evening and sat ourselves in the tables by the bar. After 15 minutes, no one had greeted us or come with menus. The bar itself was about a third full, and the restaurant similarly occupied. I walked up to the bar, and waited until the bartender hung out and chatted. Then waited after she looked at me, and passed right by. And again as the other bartender looked at me, then went by. I went back to my table without menus.

The manager himself then came around and suggested that we go sit at the bar. “Otherwise, we get no food?” my friend joked. “Right,” he replied. So we went and sat at the bar. And waited.

Finally, the bartender came and put some menus down and walked away. It took another 15 minutes or so for her to stop chatting and come back after we had put our menus down. We order. And wait. And wait. And wait again while others who ordered after us (similar entrees) received their food, prompt drinks, and silverware.

The other bartender then came around and mumbled something about the kitchen. Then asked if we wanted some wine while we waited. I ordered a pinot grigio. He came with it in a dirty glass, and took it back on his own accord. Instead of pouring a new glass, he took the wine, poured it out, rinsed the glass, and poured it back into the wet glass.

Presenting this mess, he said, “This is hand-washed.” The hand-washed glass, not the hand-dried glass. I was about ready to eat my own hand, so I took it with a smile and told him it was no matter. He smiled back and apologized for the various delays of the staff and kitchen, and offered the wine gratis.

We finally get our food. The Bebo pizza and calzone, which we ordered because we were running out of time, were undercooked, and the latter was a pale mess of dough and cheese. We had to ask for silverware, which came after yet another delay.

By the way, the wine ended up, “gratis,” on the final bill.

I’ve had servers drop plates on me, slosh wine on my hand, ask me out while my date was sitting on the other side of the table, clear plates before my party is finished, and serve the wrong drinks. I am no stranger to “bad” service, but more often than not, know that they’re harried and just trying to do a good job. But being blatantly ignored, treated like cattle, served undercooked and underwhelming food, and cheated on top of it all, is just insulting.


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  1. Link,
    I used to work in the area and went there a few times (I don't know why I just kept hoping it would be a good experience). It was dreadful everytime. The food would have been average if the service was not so horrid. I don't know how this restaraunt did well in the Washingtonian (I believe it got top 10?). Sounds very fishy.

    2 Replies
    1. re: xena1441

      Yeah, it's usually fair to go a few different times before shutting a place out. However, as you say, the service was so horrid that I have sworn off other Donna establishments. Never a penny more from me.

      I also wonder how it keeps getting such high reviews?

      1. re: link_930

        I've never worked in a restaurant, and so maybe I'm missing some other possible explanation, but it seems to me that either Donna fosters an atmosphere in which mistreating diners is a point of pride, or he treats his employees so badly that they don't care about doing a good job. Either way, it's sad.

    2. They're not getting another chance. How many things can they get wrong? Waiting and waiting and waiting. No half orders of pasta. Olive oil for bread poured onto colored plates so you couldn't see if there was oil or not.
      Forever to get the food which came at different times for everyone at the table. Half of us had no flatware because the table hadn't been properly set in the less than half-filled place. We finally had to get up and snatch it from other tables since there were no waiters to be found.
      When the single waiter came, he had to handle three tables - for 6, 10 and 12 diners - alone.
      Then when the main course finally arrived - again, all at different times - the staff evaporated once more. No flatware again since it hadn't been replaced when they cleared the first course. No waiters anywhere.
      One of us got up to find the manager who sneered, "We only cut pizza on request." Well, how are we supposed to know that we should ask, please? When told that we didn't have flatware to cut our pizza or eat our pasta, he snapped, "Why don't you have flatware?" as he turned on his heels and walked away. About 10 minutes later, he came to the table with a small pizza cutting wheel such as you'd buy at Safeway for $1 and attempted to cut the pizzas on the dinner plates.
      When we left, some of the kitchen staff were sprawled in chairs by the front door reception area, laughing and talking.
      Oh, the bathroom was dirty.

      4 Replies
      1. re: MakingSense

        From reading the comments on this board and elsewhere, I should mention that I had an excellent experience at Bebo tonight. Good service-I sat at the bar, and the bartender checked on me several times while I was waiting for a friend and was very attentive to our group through the night. Napoletana pizza was very good. I certainly plan on returning.

        1. re: MakingSense

          Why do people tolerate this for a moment?

          I am SO SICK of "we spent $200 for dinner and the food was awful and the service worse, and the same thing happened when we went there again!" Do you have that kind of money to throw away?

          I wouldn't take this treatment at some hole-in-the-wall with a server who just got off the boat and never waited before (and, yes, that has happened to me and, no, I didn't go back).

          "We only cut pizza on request"???? I can hear myself now ... "And how do most patrons eat uncut pizza?" - - No, no, not worth the effort - - instead, I'd be saying "this is entirely unacceptable, and we're leaving."

          Forgive my parting shot, but I've had world-class ethnic dinners for twenty bucks a person including a generous tip. If I had that kind of money, and more to throw away on a return visit for more abuse, I'd be seriously considering even the morality of doing so ... there are hungry and needy people out there.

          1. re: wayne keyser

            People in DC reward poor service by returning to the places that have treated them poorly because those spots are "trendy" or the chef is a celeb. Half the time these guys aren't anywhere near the place and if they are, they haven't touched anybody's food.

            Too many mid- to upscale restaurants are making their profits on their bar business, small plates, shared orders, appetizers, and chasing trends in designer digs. They don't have to train professional level staff for that. People are satisfied to be able to sample the signature dishes of a name-brand celebrity chef in glitzy surroundings that someone has decreed to be elegant. Anyone who has higher expectations is having an increasingly harder time finding it in the Washington area. Maybe the profits aren't there.
            You're right about sometimes getting a lot more respect for your dining dollars in some of those world-class ethnic places.

            In the case of Bebo, Donna should be ashamed of himself. How many have posted that the dining room was less than half-full when they went and they still had crappy service?
            Our over-burdened waiter was actually good, appeared to be new at Bebo, and had the good grace to be embarrassed that he was poorly supported by everyone in the place from the surly manager to the bumbling bussers to a kitchen staff incapable of timing the meals of a partially-filled room. We tipped him well and went out of our way to reassure him that we recognized it wasn't his fault.
            Rest assured, letters were written, we won't be back.

            1. re: MakingSense

              With the exception of the fine service, you are describing our experience at Central. Add on so much noise you couldn't have a convo without yelling. i wouldn't go back if they gave us a freebie.

              The worst ever in DC though, would be the little Indian place on CT in Woodley park, i forget the name unfortunately but we sat outside because there were enough other diners out there and we saw servers walking around so figured it would be ok. Well i wasn't. Serviced sucked. You almost had to beg for menus, more drink, etc. Then they served me a thali platter, which i normally love, and i could not eat it. I asked for MILD, and i even said "American mild" and i nearly had to ask for a fire extinguisher to put out the flames. Aside from the heat factor, each little dish was dried out, like it had sat out all day and then was blopped in into the little dishes when someone ordered it. I even ordered more raiti to sooth the heat and still couldn't eat it. i didn' t want to start over because by then i was queasy. Literally. Hubby was almost done w/ his food (he said it was marginal) and when the waiter FINALLY came back and commented on me not eating my food (i would have complained earlier IF he'd ever come back) i said "it was so spicy it made my stomach hurt" and he was like, "Do you want a box?" DUHHHHH! Hubby got the check and we scrammed. And no they didn't comp anything. It was really inexpensive so i didn't insist on kicking up a fuss (which i would have at a nicer place), and by this time i just wanted to get home and get rid of the evidence not to be nasty...but...

              Another funny bad experience, while not in DC was when we were at the Princeville resort in Kauai at their fine dining spot. Ate out on the balcony, watching the sun set over Bali Hai. THE most romantic setting i've ever seen. Menu was pacific rim. i ordered miso and just as the waitress came to serve it to me, she somehow tipped it the wrong way and send the entire bowl cascading down my arm, soaking my sweater and skirt of my sundress. Luckily it wasn't boiling hot, but it was hot nonetheless, and she was even more horrified than i was! She offered to have my clothes cleaned but we were leavign the next morning. They did comp my meal though which was proper comp i thought. And she was so contrite, and looked like she was going to cry, that i was comforting her!! The meal was fab BTW.

        2. My experiences at Bebo have been mixed, to say the least. The first time we visited, we ate at the bar. The food was amazing, the service was great. We couldn't wait to return. When we next went, the teen-age hostess was so rude that we walked out without eating. The third time, we sat at a booth, the good was great, and the service very good. Then we went there last night. A nightmare. The host had no record of our reservation [although he was the one who took it over the phone that morning]. When we were finally seated, we discovered that the couple next to us had the same problem. When we sat down, there was no silverware. When they brought bread, we had to ask for bread plates. We ordered [wine, salad, pizza]. The first thing to arrive was the pizza. We sent it back saying we wnated our salad [and wine] first. A few minutes later another waiter tried to deliver the pizza again. We sent it back. The wine and salad finally arrived [with tableware]. Don't bother with the ceasar salad. A failed attempt at trendy presentation. Then the pizza arrived, After a miserable time trying to cut it, it was obvious that they had simply put our pizza under a heat lamp for 20 minutes. Horribly disappointing. However, with plenty of time before the theatre, we pressed on. We ordered the olive oil cake for dessert. After 10 minutes, the waiter returned to say they didn't have it. We ordered chocolate gelato. After another 10 minute wait for someone to scoop ice cream into a dish it arrived. Five minutes later we received our spoons. When the bill arrived, it contained a $20 charge for orichette that we did not order.

          The meal wsa a disaster. I might try the bar again, but not the dining room. The couple at the next table had similar problems [that I won't recount]. The Chef is talented but he definitely needs someone experienced to run the front of the house.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Dakota Guy

            We were visiting some friends in the area Saturday night and decided to give it a try. Knowing full well what I was getting myself into we approached the place with an open mind. I have to say this was some of the worst service I have ever experienced. From no one at the front to seat people to a waiter who was clueless we could only laugh after all the missteps. We had finally had it when half of our meals came out wrong. It seemed like the place was staffed with people who have never worked in a restaurant. The food that came out right was actually quite good, but wow what a mess.

            1. re: Annapolis07

              Same night we were there. Horrible service [see above] but a huge crowd still trying to get in. Perhaps Chef Donna thinks there is nothing wrong as long as there is a line at the door. The place desperatley needs an expereinced manager for the front of the house.

              1. re: Dakota Guy

                tips for at the bar, go off hours (Saturday lunch is a great time) and order the pizza is some of the best pizza in NOVA currently for this style and their pasta dishes have been very good to excellent..also try the hamburger for lunch during the week, it is outstanding....the dining room during peak hours is a just asking for trouble with service..we have dined at the bar on a Friday night and gotten decent service..I know a restaurant should be able to deal with peak times in its dining room, but paraphrase Rumseld, you go to eat with the Bebo you got, not the one you wish you had..that being said we have had many enjoyable meals at the bar with only a few misteps in many visits, but I understand the angst and a need for floor management. The place has alot of potential.

                1. re: prowarbler

                  Here's a better tip for Bebo: Don't go. It's over-priced, poorly cooked food. Sort of like Galileo was, but more of a rip-off because now it can be sloppy. (Or "rustic.")

                  Not to be overly harsh, but Roberta Donna's food has only impressed me in sandwich form - he made some very reasonable and delicious lunch fare on the days he fired up the grill at Galileo. The pork shoulder sandwich... man, so good. It gave me high hopes for Bebo, especially since it claimed to be an authentic Italian experience. You want an authentic Italian experience in DC? Try Dino. You want messy, inconsitent food, bad service, and high prices? Hello Bebo.

                  I'll be sticking to Dino for my closest-to-actual Italian fix, Luigi's for 70's-style Italian-American, and Two Amy's for Neopolitan pizza.

          2. Do they still have the guy in the leather jacket and scraggy beard that just seems to walk around the place, not really doing anything? The last time I went to eat there, he couldn't be bothered to look at us when speaking to us, we left and went to Jaleo and had a great time there. I went to bebo when they first opened, and it was very good for the money, but I doubt I'll go back.

            1 Reply
            1. re: MsDiPesto

              That's funny you mentioned the guy wih the beard and the jacket and we had a negative experience with him last week. I work in Crystal City and 3 of us went for Pizza. The first round of Pizza came out burnt on the top. He tried to bring it back to us and say it wasn't burnt. Then he took it back and I just happened to be facing the pizza ovens...he then proceeded to give it to another waitor to serve to another table. Our second round of Pizza came out and one was fine and the other was now burnt on the bottom. We call both he and the waitor over again to show them and again he didn't react. My colleague had worked for an italian family for years and said the problem was that they were not cleaning the pizza oven properly which was why the pizza's were burning and leaving a soot like substance on the plate. Again now major reaction from him. As we were leaving, he said I hope you come back again. My colleague responded we won't be back anytime soon...he was like to be so colleague responded...that he was lacking in customer service and should be more concerned about their product then he demonstrated. Needless to say, we won't be going back anytime soon

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