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no tap water - and no good food - at Trattoria Pesce Pasta

Anyone who's been to Italy knows that special feeling you get when you walk into many restaurants in that country: that the proprieters wish to separate you from your money as fast, slickly, and thoroughly as possible. The owners of Trattoria Pesce Pasta (a stupid name to be sure) have recreated that experience here with their chain of four or five NYC restaurants.

The first thing the waiter asked - or more accurately demanded - was "sparkling or flat water?" I said I'll have regular water. He said "sparkling or flat". I clarified that I wanted tap water. He insisted "sparkling or flat". "No tap water?" "Sparkling or flat". Not in the mood for an argument, and willing to go along for the absurd ride, I relented. "Flat".

I started with minestrone which was hot and thick and colorful and chock ful of veggies and, by the way, completely devoid of flavor. This flavorlessness persisted despite the waiter having - without my consent - come over to grind pepper and spoon cheese into my bowl. Like I said, I was in this for the ride.

After laboring through the minestrone, next came penne with meatballs. And more unrequested grated cheese. The sauce was super-thick, the meatballs dense. The flavor - well, there was none. Honestly, the chef here must really hate italian food, or food in general, or life itself. Although the place has some nice atmosphere and a fetching Sinatra soundtrack, the cooking is truly dead.

And did I mention? My flat water cost me $7. And the whole absurd ride, including tax, tip and toll, set me back $38.

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  1. I would have said 'no thanks' to either options, asked for an empty glass, filled it up at the sink and gave him a lousy tip for lousy service.

    1. I've had good meals there, but it was a looooong time ago! They used to do pretty good seafood, but always a little heavy on what I think of as a Livorgnese approach, i.e. chopped tomatoes or artichokes or other overpowering stuff on top. I gave up on this place when everything started tasting the same.

      1. Which location was this? The newish one on 9th Avenue, near Port Authority, is awful, but I still like the one on Bleecker.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Nina_P

          It was 9th Avenue - where the demented waiter at lunchtime recited the specials in warp speed and with an accent as thick as Livorgnese tomato sauce. He might as well have been a carnival sideshow - except for the fact that he projected a genuine thuggishness. One should bring the police along next time, in case the refusal of water devolves into a row or tumble.

          1. re: Skillet Licker

            Yup, the 9th Avenue one is terrible all right. I don't know what the deal is, how they have the same name as the one on Bleecker. Even the menus are different now; for example Bleecker St.'s delicious veggie antipasto plate is unavailable on 9th Ave.

        2. The Upper East Side location is quite friendly, an real neighborhood place. Single diners sit at the bar and chat w/the bartender who always refills your wine glass free of charge. I actually love their stuffed artichoke. And I've never had an issue ordering water there. I would walk out of a place that did not offer tap water in NYC, plain and simple.

          1. I'll also put in a good word for the UES location.

            And I hapen to be just back from Italy last week and I know the exact feeling the original poster described. I was looking forward to getting back to NYC to have some good Italian food. (Actually, I had more great meals there than poor ones but a real effort had to be made, and there were a few real clunkers.)

            1 Reply
            1. re: Michael Ambrosio

              Uhm... not to hijack the thread, but as I am Italian I feel compelled to get a word in here. I seriously don't think there are any more or less tourist trap rip-offs in your average Italian city than there are around tourist destinations in New York. All it takes is a little research and effort. I'm sure there are tourists who come to NYC and are sorely disappointed by Bubba Gump Shrimp in Times Square.