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Jan 16, 2008 04:43 AM

Bait and Switch at I Ricchi?

My friends and I just had a terrible experience at I Ricchi.

We came in for Restaurant week, and when we sat down, the waiter never gave us menus, but just started in saying that we were going to get certain courses. It was pitched to us as antipasti, appetizers, and choice of entrees. Given that it's restaurant week, we assumed that this was the restaurant week special. We were never given the option to look at a menu, order a la carte, or told that the restaurant week menu was more limited. The person who had organized the dinner had told the host on more than one occasion that we were coming for restaurant week, but that wasn't noted anywhere, and the staff plead ignorance to the request. In addition, there weren't wines on the menu at less than $100 a bottle. Sadly, the bill came to $240 per person.

The Waiter told us that it was the standard practice at the restauraunt. I have been a number of times before, and I have never not been offered a menu. Our friend who organized the meal said that when she called they asked if it was a special occasion, she said, "yes, it's restaurant week". When we sat down at the table our waiter asked who the hostess was, and when our organizer identified herself, he told her that they wanted to impress our group so that we would come back again.

While we would have been willing to pay more than restaurant week prices, the deceptiveness of the pricing was outrageous. We knew that we would pay more than the restaurant week prices for the wine, and for a party of ten spent more than $600 on wine. The first two courses alone were more than $35 per person, and the main courses turned out to be between $30 and $40 per person, though we didn't know that when we ordered. They brought us vin santo, which we were lead to believe was a gift from the restaurant, but in fact they charged us over $10 a glass for.

I have never spent so much on a meal -- not at Citronelle, not at Elizabeth Daniel or Fifth Floor in San Francisco. And there is no question that the food in no way worth the price. While an enjoyable meal, and competently executed, it wasn't innovative, nor was it amazing. I've had better meals at dozens of restaurants around Washington, and at a quarter of the price.

When we objected to the way the meal had been communicated to us, and complained to the management, they made no attempt at accommodation. Our server was informative, pleasant, and was the only person willing to make amends for the situation.

Is this kind of bait and switch standard at I Ricchi now?

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  1. This is a fascinating, and slightly confusing, post that is certain to get lots and lots of comments.

    Let me start by saying that I have nothing good to say about I Ricci, and would never give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to deceptive and selfish practices. However, I do have one question....Did your party, at any time, inform your waiter that you wanted/expected the "Restaurant Week" special? Or did you "assume" that since it was Restaurant Week, that that is what you would receive.

    If the former, then I Ricci's actions are absolutely abhorent. If the later, they are still guilty of being slightly deceptive and opportunistic, but they also did nothing wrong by not passing on what the hostess may have said to the reservationist. And by never asking the waiter if this deal was too good to be true, and in fact, ordering $600 worth of wine, I think it could be argued that your hostess accept some share of the blame in the misunderstanding that itr might not have been obvious to the server that this was a Restuarant Week party.

    1. Poor you...I can't BELIEVE you spent $240/person at i Ricchi...a restaurant that has stood out in my mind as bad for a number of years after a bad RW experience there with some friends. We had bad service but nothing compared to yours. We were more treated like crap because we were young and more or less rushed out the door. Plus the pizza oven backfired or something and the entire room filled up with smoke with little explanation from the staff and a little bit of panick in the eyes of many patrons.

      When we went in we were handed a menu and while the options were slim we still had them. I'm a little confused at your experience. At any time did you mention to the waiter that you were there for Restaurant Week? It seems so bizare that they would be running any sort of special during RW but perhaps they were.

      Even if it wasn't an obvious bait and switch I feel like the waiter, hostess, manager etc could have been more clear about what you were there for and what they were serving you.

      1. You should write to Tom Sietsema at the Washington Post - at worst, he'll post it in his weekly column and you might get a response. More importantly, however, is that you'll warn lots of people so they can avoid what you experienced. I've heard really negative things about this restaurant. You are simply confirming what most others have said.

        1 Reply
        1. re: dcandohio

          I was thinking the same thing about writing into Tom. I would be very interested in seeing what his advice is.

        2. sorry -- i erased my post. i thought iricchi wan't participating, but they are. yeah -- i agree. your experience was horrible. but i've never heard good things about that place.

          1. I'm a little confused. Who was the server you mention at the end? Different from the waiter you mention above? Out of curiosity, what did the server do to make amends?