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May 3, 2008 10:29 AM

Bocca Restaurant-East Haven, CT

I was immensely excited to head off to Bocca Restaurant last night, after reading a rave review in the Advocate a few weeks ago. Now, I'm not one to get my restaurant advice from the Advocate (TRUST me on this one...) but my dining companion insisted we try it, because he was impressed by their prix fixe menu. And by the end of the night? NOT impressed. In fact, we were so disappointed, we were trash talking every inch of the place all the way home.

The crowd here was much, um, older than I thought it was going to be. Not a day under 55 (except for the two of us). I don't know where I got the idea it was a younger crowd, but oh well.

The place is teeny tiny. Everywhere you walk, you're squeezing your way around lines of people, someone else's table, etc. And when you're dining, you'rethisclose to the people all around you. There are two bathrooms, also small, single stall, and it was reported by my companion that there is a curtain separating the toilet and the urinal so that there can be two occupants at a time. A curtain!

We paid about $16 per person, and we both got a house salad, a glass of wine, entree, and dessert. They also served us (cold) bread when we sat down, with some olives and a roasted head of garlic. The salad--mixed greens, apples, candied walnuts, some bits of mealy tomato, gorgonzola, and "famous" dressing--was just okay. It sounds more exciting than it was.

My entree, the cedar sea bass, was actually pretty good. It was moist and flaky with a mustard-y glaze, and was served over steamed string beans and (two) baby carrots, with some mashed potatoes. It was cooked to perfection and I finished every last bite.

My dining companion had the Zuppa Di Clams--clams with a chunky red sauce served over linguine. Nothing special. We both agreed that it needed more oomph.

The waitress informed another table around 7 p.m. that they were out of carrot cake for the night, so the dessert choices were pecan pie, banana cream pie, vanilla gelato, or cannoli. The waitress practically laughed in my face when I asked if the desserts were made on the premises (isn't that a fair question?!) We opted for the pecan pie and cannoli. Both mediocre. Then again, I'm spoiled by Libby's cannoli, and turn my nose up at store bought pie. With one coffee, one tea, and tax, our meal was just over $42 (of course, I'm viewing it as a $42 piece of fish but, you know, whatever!)

There's no other way to say this--the service sucked. I don't even think our waitress told us her name. She rushed around the entire time (the place was packed) and basically ignored us. At one point, she came over and said "Do you need anything else?" and before I could even get the words out of my mouth that we wanted the check, she turned immediately to her right and asked the table nexttous the same thing, then dashed. We waited about 25 minutes after finishing dessert to get the check.

Maybe we went on a bad night. If anyone else has been, I'm curious to know what you think!

Sorry for the lengthy review, chowhounds...but I hope it helps. If you want to check out Bocca, the info is below. You can also view their menu online.

Bocca Restaurant
190 Main Street
East Haven, CT 06512
(203) 467-9498

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  1. We have been to Bocca a number of times and found the food excellent and the service friendly and competent. This is a family restaurant and is the most popular in the area. It's too bad some want to know the name of the wait staff on a busy night. they do the best they can. Being a small restaurant it is expected that at some time they will run out of menu items. I appreciate the diner reviewing the restaurant but hope that reasonable people looking for a great meal in family surroundings will appreciate Bocca. It's one of the best buys around (i.e the early bird specials).

    4 Replies
    1. re: vanpc

      I went to Bocca on 10/13/08 and found the food lacked any flavor and was expensive for what you were served. The restaurant is so dark that one of our friends had to stand by a wall sconce to read the menu. Bocca is not a place I would recommend to anyone at this time.
      I would tell people to go to Aniello's in the Trolley Square shopping center across the street for great Italian food. It is flavorful and priced right. You may not have the fancy paintings on the wall but the food tastes good and isn't that why you went out to eat.

      1. re: pockee

        Too bad to hear that Bocca has been so dissapointing. DH and I LOVED the place when it was Ristorante Faustini - we even had our wedding rehearsal dinner there! No excuse for poor service in a place that small. Glad that I stayed away.

        1. re: pockee

          Well all good things must come to an end. I revisited in November and found it dissapointing to say the least. The food lacked flavor, the early bird specials were higher in price and not nearly as nice as earlier in the year. Too bad - -

          1. re: vanpc

            The chef from Bocca was on an early morning local show on Sunday and I happened to be up, watching. He prepared a chicken dinner (supposedly for the budget-conscoius) that honestly, I would not feed to an animal. It looked disgusting! All during his cooking demo all he did was schill about his restaurant. I can only hope that the Faustini's did not see what has happened to their former restaurant, where the food and atmosphere was truly wonderful.

      2. The original comment has been removed
        1. My family and I used to order trays of eggplant parm from Faustini's. I did not eat eggplant until my fiance, now my wife, introduced me to Faustini's. Our family would order an average of 1-2 lg tray per month. My cousin actually order some to give to friends as a holiday gift to her friends at Mashantucket Tribal Nation. Her husband comes from a family which own their own Italian Restaurant in PA, and he thinks Faustini's had the best Eggplant. Anyhow, I call the number on my speed dial and a strange voice picked up, Dallas, he was a total jerk and I did not what to buy anything from him. So I sent my cousin and her husband down there, mind you my family is from SECT, and they had nothing good to say about.
          I never ate there, but I alway felt that food that good was meant to be shared with family and friend, not in a restaurant elbow to elbow with strangers.
          Mr. Faustini (Bob) seemed to have the magic touch when it came to hospitality and food. He was a great person and and outstanding cook and i hope he opens another restaurant. SOON! Anyone heard or know anything regarding him opening another restaurant?

          1. I also forgot to say that my collegues at Yale ask me about Faustini's and I tell them not to go to Bocca. For good eggplant parm, go to:
            La Piazza
            901 Boston Post Rd
            Old Saybrook, CT 06475
            (860) 388-9389
            If you like eggplant parm, and this is one of only two that I will eat, you WILL NOT be disappointed!

            3 Replies
            1. re: Filarico


              1. re: Zina

                Thanks for the update. We loved Faustini and went there probably 10 times when we lived in Branford. We stopped going over the bridge when we moved to New Haven, but from time to time we've talked about going to the new place. I won't now!

              2. re: Filarico

                For great eggplant parm go to Romeo and Ceasar on Orange Street.