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Crispo - Awful food. What happened?

c
COrrico Mar 15, 2008 09:47 AM

So I was super excited to go to Crispo, having read all the buzz about it on the board. I'm a huge Lupa fan, and have been looking for new Italian joints to go to in Manhattan. Especially more so since I had just gotten back from living in Italy.

I really hate to say this, but given the buzz about this place on the board, I was actually shocked at how bad the food was (Maybe there are two Crispos, and they ment the other one, my friend said)

I went with two friends, and we were seated at about 10:30.

We ordered three appetizers:

Risotto Balls, which were fried, not baked, that came with an awful marinara sauce for dipping. All of us commented that if you had given them to us blindfolded, we would have thought we were eating frozen mozzarella sticks and dipping sauce from a diner.

Prosciutto, Polenta, and Fresh Mozzarella, which came out looking great. But the heat from the polenta had already started to cook the prosciutto (it didn't say on the menu it was supposed to be prosciutto cotto) leaving it somewhere in between raw and cooked, and rather unpleasant. This wouldn't have been so bad if the polenta hadn't been a complete watery mess, leaving it with no flavor at all what-so-ever.

The arugula, ceci, and ricotta salata salad was something that had to be hard to mess up, but it was also pretty awful. It was left completely bone dry, until you got to the bottom of the salad, where all of the oil and lemon juice had been hidden in a huge blob at the bottom of the plate. I found it hidden down there way too late to enjoy the dish, as almost everything was gone already at that point.

No fear, I said, I came here for the pasta, and the pasta will not disappoint!

Well, it did. Big time.

First off, the pasta portions were huge. They aren't meant as first courses, it would appear, but rather as main courses. So that was the first turn off. I understand that lots of people like to have pasta as a main course, I'm American and I do also, but if this is supposed to be a serious Italian restaurant, that isn't that way it should be done. Especially when your main courses are labeled "Secondi" on your menu.

I had the Butternut Tortelloni with Roasted Chestnuts. This looked and smelled wonderful, but in the mouth just didn't work well. I expected the dish to be a nice mix of sweet and savory, but the chestnuts were just SO sweet they overpowered the whole dish, making it seem more like a dessert. I could only eat about half of it before I had to stop.

My friend got the Bucatini all'Amatriciana (spelled wrong on their menu. Not a huge deal, but you know, just saying). This was the best pasta of the night, but given the circumstances that really isn't saying much. I have high standards for this dish, with the one at Lupa being one of my favorite things to eat of all time. So when you serve this not that far away, and $5 more expensive than at Lupa, you better know what you're doing.

The guanchiale they used was fantastic, but the what should be the driving force of the dish, the thick tomato sauce, was flavorless, and overpowered by the chili pepper. The cheese that came with the pasta grated on top even tasted funky, and I mean funky in a out of a jar grated cheese kind of way. And yes, this was the best pasta dish of the night.

My girlfriend got the Carbonara, which was easily the worst of the night, if not the worst Carbonara I've ever had. She couldn't even eat it (and she's not half as picky as I am), and just had them wrap it up to take home. Wet noodles in egg is about the best way I can describe it. No flavor, no seasoning, just noodles in egg. Ehck.

We did order one secondo to share, the seared duck with figs and port, which was actually really good. Simple, cooked well, and to the point. Really enjoyed it, though at this point, I was just happy I could stomach eating it.

We skipped dessert at this point, and just went straight to coffee, and called it a night.

The service was fantastic, and I liked the whole rustic/nouveau (sp?) mix of the decor, though I thought the music selection was pretty bad (cheesy 80's dance music just didn't fit the atmosphere. We laughed a few times at the music that came on)

Oh, and a small, and this is totally personal, complaint about the wine list though. When I'm eating Italian, I want a nice, large selection of Italian wines from all over Italy, and I felt like the list at Crispo was too much of a mix of New and Old World.

I also hate it when restaurants group their wine lists into "Light" "Medium" and "Full" Bodied sections, instead of by country and region, making it impossible to find something you want if you're looking for a specific varietal, or region of production. This is totally personal though, I realize not everyone is as into Italian wines as I am, and I'm not letting this make or break the restaurant for me.

So what happened? Did I go on a really off night, or are their others out there who agree with me that this place is over rated? I really wanted to like Crispo, but with higher prices, bad pasta, and a worse wine selection that Lupa, I can't really see a reason to go back again.

  1. l
    Lucia Mar 15, 2008 09:59 AM

    Since you liked some of the dishes, characterizing your experience as "awful" seems a little strong. I too have been to Italy, but I don't expect to have the same experience at Crispo as I do there. I don't think Crispo is trying to be authentic in the way of a Lupa. It's just good food in its own right. Different strokes, I guess.

    13 Replies
    1. re: Lucia
      i
      idia Mar 15, 2008 10:25 AM

      Yes Lucia, I tend to agree with you.
      I have been there too many wonderful times (and I am one obnoxiously fussy and finicky person!)
      COrrico, I am truly disappointed by your negative experience and certainly believe every word of what you say.
      You didn't say what night you went and I tend to think it might have been a Saturday night because of your 10:30 rez but actually I don't know, but if so, that might be a factor.
      I also agree that the music stinks as well as the noise level which is considerable and annoying. For me to constantly go back with both of these negatives says that for me the food, so far, has been superb, not just good, superb.

      1. re: idia
        r
        RGR Mar 15, 2008 01:51 PM

        Why should it matter what night COrrico went to Crispo? Or even at what hour.

        We often dine on Sunday evenings, which is the night many executive chefs are not in the kitchen, and in really excellent restaurants -- whether they are upscale, more moderately-priced, or inexpensive -- the food still shines. So, in my view, for a restaurant to be considered excellent, it should be in top form regardless of when you dine.

        1. re: idia
          r
          rrems Mar 15, 2008 08:57 PM

          I can't say much more than idia has already said, as I agree completely, but I will add that in all my dinners at Crispo, the only dishes I have had of the ones you mention are the duck (which you agree is wonderful) and the carbonara, which at least when I have had it, was not wet, and was well seasoned. As to the complaint that the pasta portions are too large, this is typical of Italian restaurants in the US, where most people order pasta as a main course. I generally do not, and at Crispo I ask for a half order as an appetizer, which they willingly provide. I too hate the wine lists that that don't list by region, but this is fairly typical these days. Even Eleven Madison Park divides its huge list by type of grape, which is really frustrating. Does it stop me from dining there? Absolutely not. Finally I will mention that I also like Lupa and have a reservation there in two weeks (getting a res there is a pain), and IMO Crispo and Lupa are equal in food quality. It annoys me that Lupa will not serve a half order of pasta as appetizer, but I can live with that.

        2. re: Lucia
          MMRuth Mar 15, 2008 04:11 PM

          It sounded to me like the only dish COrrico liked was the duck. I've had Crispo on my list of places to try - and probably will just to judge for myself. I have to say, that meal sounds pretty lousy to me.

          I've never been to Italy, but do love the food at Lupa.

          1. re: MMRuth
            r
            RGR Mar 15, 2008 05:27 PM

            Like you, MMRuth, I've had Crispo on my "go to" list for a long time. However, despite the great deal of praise it receives, it's the occasional negative reports like COrrico's (he's new to me), but more especially from Trish, who is a long-time Hound and whose opinion I value + the fact that pretty much everyone agrees that the noise level is exceedingly high, that have kept me from actually trying it. At this point, I'm still hesitating....

            1. re: RGR
              NAtiveNewYorker Mar 17, 2008 06:44 AM

              Let me break your tie. Don't go. I finally went after all these years of great Chow write-ups. Disappointed, especially with the vaunted Spaghetti Carbonara. The pasta felt like Sbarro pasta, pre-cooked and then flash boiled. The Carbonara egg came *cooked*, like a sunny-side-up egg. (Tough to mix in an egg and coat the pasta when the egg is served sunny-side-up.)

              Il Cortile (in the much maligned Little Italy) is much better for traditional Amer-Italian dishes.

              1. re: NAtiveNewYorker
                MMRuth Mar 17, 2008 06:45 AM

                I wondered about someone else's description of an egg on top of the Carbonara - didn't sound appetizing to me ...

                1. re: NAtiveNewYorker
                  r
                  rrems Mar 17, 2008 10:43 AM

                  The classic spaghetti carbonara is made with raw, beaten eggs added after the pasta is cooked. I doubt whether health department regulations would permit this, so I assume that is why Crispo uses a cooked egg. It is not sunny side up, it is poached, lightly, so the yolk is runny and can be mixed into the pasta. Is what you are saying that the yolk was cooked solid? If so I would have sent it back.

                  1. re: rrems
                    NAtiveNewYorker Mar 17, 2008 01:10 PM

                    A runny yolk is not good enough. For Carbonara, it's all or nothing. Either the patron mixes in raw everything at the table, or the chef does this in the kitchen. Having cooked pieces of egg white on top of my pasta is not acceptable. The whole point of egg in this dish is that the egg cooks to the heat of the pasta...and coats it.

                    (BTW, why would the Board of Health allow runny yolks and not runny whites?)

                    1. re: NAtiveNewYorker
                      r
                      rrems Mar 17, 2008 04:29 PM

                      Because an egg can be cooked and still have a runny yolk. To me, the point is how the dish tastes. I think it is excellent, and it is one of their most popular dishes. FWIW, it was named Best Spaghetti Carbonara by New York Magazine in 2003, and also received high praise in a New York Times review. All or nothing? It does not have to be rigidly authentic to be good.

                      1. re: rrems
                        QueenPeach Mar 18, 2008 10:52 AM

                        I completely agree.. "It does not have to be rigidly authentic to be good." I thought the Carbonara was delicious and a great idea/presentation to have a sunny side up egg on top. and why is cooked egg white on pasta so unacceptable? Why not think of it as another ingredient that makes this dish it's own?

                        I do understand that tastes can be relative. I'd say if you're hesitant about trying Crispo, just go. Any place, no matter who the great big famous chef is or the amazing hole in the wall restaurant will get both negative and positive reviews. But Crispo seems to have overwhelmingly positive reviews (including one from myself after my first visit) so what's the harm? Judge for yourself.

                    2. re: rrems
                      e
                      eatyououtofhouseandhome May 17, 2008 02:33 PM

                      You can't really think this is DOH matter.

                      1. re: eatyououtofhouseandhome
                        MMRuth May 17, 2008 02:37 PM

                        Actually, I think rrems posted on another thread on this subject that she checked and it wasn't a DOH issue.

            2. TrishUntrapped Mar 15, 2008 01:49 PM

              I too was letdown by my one and only meal at Crispo. If you scroll down, my report is on this thread: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/450861

              I thought it was mediocre, and considering the raves on this board mediocre isn't good enough. I still contend the pasta was too mushy (though the meatball was very good), and the veal dish was horrendous. Our service and table location made for an overall bad experience.

              I haven't been back...I'll stick with Peasant and such,

              5 Replies
              1. re: TrishUntrapped
                c
                COrrico Mar 15, 2008 09:27 PM

                Hi guys, thanks for the feedback. Just to clear some things up. I went on a Friday night, and sat down at 10:30pm. The kitchen closes at 12:00 but we were one of the last tables to be sat that night (as far as I could tell) (Prehaps the chef left early that night, and the remaining kitchen staff got really lazy?)

                Again, like I said, my expectations were high, but even if this had just been a place I walked into having never heard of it before, I would still be disappointed. Like I said, my girlfriend, who is the farthest thing from picky when it comes to her food, couldn't even eat her Carbonara.

                Still, I might have to hop back one more time just to grab a bowl of pasta again. I still feel like I'm missing out on a really great place!

                1. re: TrishUntrapped
                  r
                  rrems Mar 16, 2008 08:33 AM

                  Trish,

                  I just reread your earlier post and it seems your complaint is much less about the food than the uncomfortable table and rushed service. Whenever they have tried to give me a table I don't like, I simply asked for a different table, and they have always accommodated. I also accept the fact that at these prices, they need to turn tables, so the food comes out quickly. I have had the saltimbocca several times and it was perfect each time, so all I can say is I am surprised they did not get it right for you. I have not been to Peasant but have checked out their menu, and it is considerably more expensive, so I don't think it's a fair comparison.

                  1. re: rrems
                    TrishUntrapped Mar 16, 2008 09:30 AM

                    rrems, I understand I had a problem with the table and service. But I had a problem with mediocre food too. I didn't slam the food in my original review because it wasn't all bad. I noticed the table next to us was getting what appeared to be much better stuff (fish and such) than we did.

                    Having had time to step back and reflect, and putting the service/table issues out of my mind, I think the place can be inconsistent, You might get a good veal dish, I might get yesterday's leftovers (or at least what tasted like that to me).

                    So, while I accept that others have had very good meals here, I didn't. And contrary to what I initially thought - that I would go back for spaghetti and meatballs- I haven't had the desire to do so.

                    So, basically I am supporting the original poster and agreeing that one can indeed dine poorly at Crispo, sad as that may seem.

                    As for the prices between Crispo and Peasant:

                    At Crispo, pastas are listed at between $17.95 and $21.50 (on menupages.com)
                    At Peasant, pastas are $22 to $28 (Peasan't online menu) so for .50 cents more you can have a Peasant pasta.

                    As for mains, at Crispo they range from $17.50 to $21. If you want a veggie you have to tack on $6 more.

                    At Peasant, mains are $22 to $29 and include the veggies and starches.

                    I don't see a lot of appreciative difference, and I'm a cheap Yankee.

                    1. re: TrishUntrapped
                      TrishUntrapped Mar 16, 2008 11:17 AM

                      Sorry, forgot to add one more thing... About not getting a decent table.... rrems, good for you that when you complain to Crispo's staff they give you a better table. Unfortunately, that did not work for us.

                      I made my reservation on opentable.com and at that time requested a table in the Garden Room. When we arrived (early early evening), I reminded the hostess we had requested a table in the Garden Room. She said tables there are based on availability, She then took a few minutes, studied her chart and said yes we could have a table there. It was the first table on the left, when you enter the room. The swinging door next to it is a major distraction. In addition, this should be a two-top, but they squeezed three of us in it. It is also near a fountain, which doesn't smell very good.

                      I noticed 2/3 of the tables in the Garden Room were empty and asked if we could be seated at another table as it was not comfortable, I was flat out told no.

                      1. re: TrishUntrapped
                        r
                        RGR Mar 16, 2008 11:50 AM

                        Trish,

                        I totally understand your feelings with regard to the seating problem you describe here, especially since I am rather fussy about where I am seated in restaurants. Frankly, even when food is first-rate, it's hard to enjoy a meal when one is seated at a table that for whatever reason is uncomfortable.

                        This reminds me of what we encountered the first time we went to Casa Mono. We made a reservations for three, and when we arrived, the hostess tried to seat us at a table that could barely accommodate two, let alone three. Without even allowing her to walk us there, I stated in no uncertain terms that it was totally unacceptable, and we were not going to sit there. Her reaction was in the "if looks could kill" category, but no matter to me. We stood near the entrance until she arranged to put two two-tops together. At Casa Mono, tables are spaced sardine-close, so we were only millimeters away from the adjacent table, but it was still better than sitting at that teensy table.

                2. s
                  scrittrice Mar 16, 2008 12:11 PM

                  I think the comments on this board raise expectations for Crispo WAY too high. It's a decent neighborhood restaurant, but not a destination place, in my opinion. My feelings are the opposite of yours: I've had good food there, especially pasta, but I find the decor generic and the service never very good. I'm not a huge fan of Lupa, either, though, so to each his/her own, I suppose...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: scrittrice
                    i
                    idia Mar 16, 2008 02:08 PM

                    I agree with much of your post, scrittrice.
                    Crispo is no upscale fancy restaurant. It is really basic. In fact, if it were not for the always excellent Italian food I have gotten there, I'd probably never go because it is definitely not my type of dining establishment.
                    It's way too noisy for my taste, it favors a kind of young crowd generally, it's not pretty by normal standards -- just a typical looking Italian restaurant with a couple of very crowded rooms and a busy bar.
                    It is extremely popular and is totally mobbed on Friday and Saturday nights. And yes, it DOES make a difference in the noise level from other nights, believe me!
                    As for the service, I happen to have a friend that frequents there and as such we get "pampered" but I freely admit that without this perk I really believe the service would be less than attentive -- they're that busy!
                    For me, it's all about the food.
                    It's that simple.

                  2. b
                    Beau711 Mar 16, 2008 12:55 PM

                    I'm sorry to hear you didn't enjoy your meal. To a Chowhound, that's a major disappointment!

                    I went to Crispo for the first time this month with a friend and thoroughly enjoyed it. They seated us in the front rustic room which I found a little too tight to be seated next to other diners. I didn't know they had a back room called the Garden Room which is so airy with high ceilings and more comfortably spaced tables. That's where I'd want to sit next time for a birthday celebration or any other occasion.

                    We ordered the specials that day. My friend had grilled striped bass which was delicious and I had the Spaghetti Primavera which was the best I've ever had. I usually stay away from this dish because I don't like zucchini and Primavera is usually overloaded with it. Gusto's version was light with wild mushrooms, a little zucchini, eggplant, carrots. The prices were reasonable and the service was excellent. My friend enjoyed a glass of Pinot Grigio and felt the $7 price was reasonable for the size of the glass.

                    I would definitely go back to explore the rest of their menu. This is an excellent restaurant for the 14th Street neighborhood. I hope you'll give it another try.

                    1. l
                      lisettte Mar 16, 2008 10:57 PM

                      Help, I am going to Crispo next week, my only week in Ny and because of the CH's I hope it will be good. Is there any thing on the menu that is sure to be good no matter what? thanks

                      1. l
                        lisettte Mar 16, 2008 10:58 PM

                        Ps, I am going early on a Thurs night. Hope that will be in our favor.

                        1. Bob Martinez Mar 17, 2008 07:05 AM

                          "No fear, I said, I came here for the pasta, and the pasta will not disappoint!

                          Well, it did. Big time.

                          First off, the pasta portions were huge. They aren't meant as first courses, it would appear, but rather as main courses."

                          Since the pastas are priced at $18.50 to $21.50 that should have been a tipoff that they were meant as mains. I'm sure they would have let you order a half portion as a starter.

                          Menu - http://www.crisporestaurant.com/menus...

                          1. Sophia. Mar 17, 2008 09:22 AM

                            I'm really perplexed, because I went to Crispo for the first time a little more than a week ago, and I had a late reservation on a Saturday night. my mom & I dined there (on recommendation from CHers) and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. in particular, I loved the carbonara--I think it was the best I've ever had--but I can see how if you get turned off by raw eggs in general, you probably wouldn't like it. I was concerned about the portion size but the waiter did tell me I could order a half-portion if I wanted (I ended up not doing so, happily!). yeah, it was loud, and a little labyrinthine, but I'd go back and recommend it to friends. sorry we had such different experiences.

                            1. JungMann Mar 17, 2008 09:31 AM

                              I am SO GLAD that someone started this thread. Based on the hyperadulation on the boards, I made Crispo my first real meal after recovering from surgery. Nothing I ate convinced me that the restaurant was worth a second trip. The antipasti were underseasoned and served well under-temperature. The fresh mozzarella fritta really was a disappointment since it's such a simple and deeply satisfying dish when made and served right. My pork shank was okay, although I found the dish unbalanced. The sweetness of the quince overdominated and killed whatever little kick was there from the chilies. My Italian-American friend liked his ricotta gnocchi, but didn't think Crispo stood out in any special way -- certainly not the way I had been describing it in the run-up to dinner.

                              I don't think any of us are saying Crispo is a bad restaurant, but there is an EXTREME need for some balance on these boards. When I consulted the boards for a sure-fire successful dinner after surgery, I saw Crispo recommended for every occasion under the sun, whether an anniversary, divorce, out-of-town guest, uptown mom --- I wouldn't be surprised if it's been suggested as an alternative for Chinese. With posters chiming in just to sing the praises of the spaghetti and meatballs -- I thought the choice was easy.

                              Not quite. At some point Crispo recommendations turned into Crispo-hysteria that frankly, given the hundreds of excellent restaurants in the city, baffles me. It's like Crispo to some CHers is what the Beatles were to teeny-boppers.

                              1. 2slices Mar 17, 2008 07:48 PM

                                Order the bone marrow appetizer and see how you feel then. Socks... knocked... off.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: 2slices
                                  jvish Mar 18, 2008 12:52 PM

                                  Been to Crispo a few times, and I've always had good meals there. I don't look at Crispo as a restaurant that's striving for a truly authentic "Italian" experience.
                                  It definitely leans in the direction of a more upscale "Italian-American" restaurant. I've always found the food to be very good, but definitely less refined
                                  than the more authentic or ambitious Italian restaurants in town. If you are in the mood for yeah..a nice big dish of Pasta or something like Veal Saltimbocca Crispo is, I feel a great spot..I think a lot of people go in there with such lofty expectations and a skewed idea of the type of place that it is, that they can come away slightly disappointed. Overall I think its a great place for a comforting Italian meal.

                                  1. re: jvish
                                    egit Mar 18, 2008 01:55 PM

                                    For the most part I think Crispo is recommended when people say "I don't want to spend a ton of money." Crispo is good. But it was never an epiphany. I feel like it's solid and doesn't disappoint. I don't specifically remember what I've ordered there (last time was probably 18 months ago) but I've always been very happy with my relatively inexpensive meal.

                                    Personally I think Crispo is comparable to Lupa. But getting a table at Lupa is such a workout, being a Mario Batali restaurant, that I normally don't bother. It's better than places like Piadina, Da Andrea and Malatesta, et. al. But if I'm going to spend more money on an italian restaurant I'll go to A Voce, L'Impero, Alto, Fiamma, or something like that.

                                    1. re: egit
                                      l
                                      Lucia Mar 18, 2008 06:40 PM

                                      I agree completely--that's why I like Crispo.

                                2. p
                                  Pan Mar 22, 2008 09:20 PM

                                  I'm sorry you had such a disappointing experience at Crispo. I've spent parts of three summers in Italy, though not recently (the last time was in 1998). I would never say Crispo makes food of comparable quality to the best meals I had in Siena or Tarquinia Scalo, for example, but for a New York Italian restaurant, I've found it a fair value.

                                  Some of your complaints are about things that are just plain bad, some are matters of taste (not liking sweet chestnuts), and some are easily remedied (always ask for half portions of pasta at half price in the U.S.). If I were you, I definitely wouldn't go back to Crispo based on your initial experience. But I'm not you and have yet to have a less than delicious meal at Crispo. On the other hand, the last time I was at Lupa, I was so disappointed that I haven't returned. So some of this may just be the luck of the draw.

                                  1. l
                                    lisettte Apr 5, 2008 04:25 PM

                                    Thank you COrrico, I too had my one and only meal at Crispo and was very very disappointed if you look at my thread "and the winners are" I think Pasta is way to rate an Italian restaruant and if the pasta is bad (which is was at Crispo) I am sure this is not a good place. I ate better pasta at a place which is rated bad on Zagat and even my hotel. Pepe Rosso and they had WAY better pasta than Crispo for a fraction of the price. The service at Crispo was fine but I am suspect where they put us. Way way in the back and I noticed the people way way in the back near the nice fireplace where either ethnic, not dressed up, or ok, acting weird, not us lol Can this be true? The lady next to us, was moving her chair around all during the meal, me and my daughter were dressed up but in old jackets from the 80's as I live in Hawaii. Well, never again. Peopolino was superb. Crispo only meat and buffalo Mozzarela were good. Pasta yuck!

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: lisettte
                                      NAtiveNewYorker Apr 7, 2008 11:27 AM

                                      We got sent to the otherwise empty back too (and then asked to be moved). I think we were all well dressed and well behaved. And we wouldn't be targets of ethnic profiling.

                                      So being seated in the back is merely a sign of the time you arrive. Off hours, you get seated near the bar. When it's crowded, all rooms are crowded. But when you arrive just as it gets crowded, you might be one of the early diners seated in the back to start things off back there.

                                      And yes. The pasta is not that good. I suspect from the texture that it's precooked and then reheated.

                                      1. re: NAtiveNewYorker
                                        f
                                        Feaster18 Apr 7, 2008 04:07 PM

                                        So should I cancel my reservation there?

                                        1. re: Feaster18
                                          NAtiveNewYorker Apr 8, 2008 01:39 PM

                                          You'll do better for pasta at Il Cortile in Little Italy.

                                          1. re: Feaster18
                                            r
                                            RGR Apr 8, 2008 08:06 PM

                                            Feaster18,

                                            Hounds who love Crispo and think the food is excellent will tell you to keep your reservation; those who have had less than positive experiences will advise you to cancel. In a case like this, where there are mixed reviews, you have to decide if you are willing to take the risk and see for yourself. (Keep in mind that even when a restaurant gets overwhelming praise, there are bound to be some who are not bowled over.)

                                            I have yet to try Crispo. But my reason for hesitating relates to the fact that people have mentioned the very high noise level, which would not make me happy. If I can work it out so that I can eat there when it might be less noisy (some say Sunday is my best shot), I'd be willing to try the food and judge for myself.

                                      2. l
                                        Lucia Apr 13, 2008 06:54 PM

                                        I went tonight for the first time since last November and had another great meal. I decided to depart from my usual pasta since the halibut special sounded tempting. The halibut was a nice, generously-portioned filet seared to a nice crust underneath and topped with porcini mushrooms. It was accompanied by fava beans, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes--a nice spring-inspired dish. My friends, Crispo first timers, were very happy with their spaghetti and meatballs and orechietti w/sausage and broccoli rabe. Sunday night is apparently the time to go if you're wanting to avoid the crowds and noise. We were there from 7:30-9 and the restaurant was quiet and only about half full.

                                        1. r
                                          Richard Burns Apr 13, 2008 07:10 PM

                                          I have no idea.....it used to be sooo good
                                          (I guess it got too popular)

                                          1. n
                                            Nikitenka May 17, 2008 07:47 AM

                                            Time for my two cents. I had been meaning to try Crispo since I moved into the neighborhood and have been reading some serious raves on this site. I was a little put off by this thread seeing as how more than a few people lately haven't been thrilled with the food. I decided to see for myself and took the BF (the resident expert, having lived in italy for a year) last night.

                                            I wasn't even so bothered that we were seated in the bar area at 8PM. It was loud, crowded, and there was a girl who kept bumping her rear end into our bottle of brunello for the first hour or so, but we were close enough to each other that we could talk without screaming and I sort of chalked it up to the atmosphere of the place and the fact that it was prime time on a friday night.

                                            Which brings me to the food: I don't get it. Here is what we ordered:

                                            Calamari and Zucchini fritti: This came out piping hot and was lightly battered and properly fried. Sounds like a simple accomplishment but a lot of places in the city screw up fried appetizers. The underlying zucchini however was flavorless and the bland and watery marinara sauce they served with it looked like it came from a jar and really brought the dish down a notch. B-

                                            Bone Marrow Appetizer: Thanks to those on this board who recommended it. We waited probably 35 minutes for this but it was the high point of the meal. Extremely large portion for $15 (you get 2 large bones each sliced in half). It looks very cool and tasted delicious on rustic toasts with the sweet onions they served it with. That said, the BF did point out that "they basically sliced a bone in half, sprinkled it with garlic and breadcrumbs, and put it in the oven". Fair point, but I don't penalize for simplicity when well executed. A-

                                            Spaghetti Carbonara: I love carbonara but was a little leary of having poached eggwhites in my pasta so the minute this came to the table I drained my egg yolk and set the white to the side. This dish was a real miss. When the waitress had said that the dish included pancetta, I had assumed that it would be cooked / rendered down to the crisp, delightful pancetta bits that are traditionally folded in to the pasta. What I got was thick chunks of fat, room temperature, with almost no meat to speak of. As a result, there was not a lot of flavor to the sauce other then the overly rich yolks + pancetta lard. The pasta was a bit gummy (possibly from having soaked up all of the above) and I ended up barely eating half of it before giving up. I know this is a rich dish but come on. C

                                            Orrechiete with broccoli rabe and sausage: This dish was ludicrous in its preparation. The kitchen had literally peeled the casing off a sausage, cooked it in the pan, and thrown it into the bowl effectively whole along with whole stalks of broccoli rabe. Literally all of the sausage meat was still attached when they brought it to our table. The BF spent the first 5 minutes breaking the ingredients down into something that could be ingested with a fork, and once it was, it wasn't that nice, possibly because the pasta hadn't had a chance to absorb any of the flavor of the condiment. There was way too much broccoli rabe for the portion size, resulting in a bitter liquid collecting on the bottom of the bowl. I can do this dish much better in my sleep. D+

                                            After an OK start with the appetizers we were thoroughly disappointed with our mains. Combine that with iffy service at best and people bumping into our table with their rear ends all night and I ended the night shrugging apologetically to the disgruntled BF and saying, "Sorry about that, I had heard this place was supposed to be good."

                                            1. TrishUntrapped May 17, 2008 09:47 AM

                                              I stand by my statement that Crispo is a crapshoot.

                                              Some hounds have gotten good meals, while some of us have not. My one decent dish was the spaghetti and meatballs, but even that tasted like it was reheated from the day before.

                                              For those who love this place, fine. The rest of us will leave it to you.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: TrishUntrapped
                                                t
                                                trishottawa May 17, 2008 09:53 AM

                                                The appetizers were o.k. but the pasta was one of the worst dishes I have ever had. A bland glob of pasta topped with gritty greens. The mushrooms described on the menu were nowhere to be found........truly horrible. My friends pasta dishes were at least edible but nothing worth returning for.

                                              2. s
                                                suzaan May 17, 2008 04:15 PM

                                                Anthony Connolly left...that's why

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: suzaan
                                                  r
                                                  rrems May 17, 2008 06:30 PM

                                                  Who is Anthony Connolly, and when did he leave?

                                                2. j
                                                  JellyCrazd May 17, 2008 04:52 PM

                                                  It stinks that the food didn't live up to your expectations. My husband and I go to Crispo even though it is way outside our neighborhood because we think it always lives up to ours and the food is pretty consistent. That being said, I don't think we've concentrated on the pasta dishes as much as you seem to have. I really love their pappardelle special (it varies as to the sauce but is usually either meat or mushroom based) and when they have their truffle pasta. My husband gets the duck, pork or steak. For app's we usually get their fried mozz (which is crisp and light and far from some diner kind) and the zucchini flowers are also great when they are in season. My husband also loves the cold prosciutto salads; with peach or fig or melon.

                                                  Hope this helps!

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