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Artu, N. End -- an unfortunate (and HUGE) disappointment

My girlfriend wanted to take me out for my birthday so she told me some of the ideas she had in mind. After taking some decent rec's from a couple friends, as well as what seems like some fairly positive rec's on these boards, we chose Artu's North End location.

First the positive's:
I think the only negative things I've heard/read are about the service and some troubles sticking to a "reservation". Well, we made a reservation from 7:30 on a Saturday night....we walked in about 5 minutes early and they sat us right away. We were immediately greeted by your classic Italian mother-like waitress who was an absolute sweetheart. It was a busy night, she was clearly rushing around - but she was fantastic!

We started off with a nice bottle of pinot grigio and an order of the spicy calamari -- both were fantastic. Specifically regarding the calamari - not too much breading, not fried to the point of being unrecognizable - tossed with some hot peppers, olive oil and fresh garlic -- quite simple, but a very nice start.

Now the negative's:
My girlfriend ordered the shrimp scampi and linguine...what she got was a plate full of linguine with literally 4 small shrimp tossed in with too much olive oil. Now, we weren't expecting Vinny Testa's type of plates that are weighing in at roughly 20lbs a plate, but 4 small shrimp?? C'mon. The dish as a whole was extremely amature...and tasteless.

I ordered the veal braciolettine - I'm already biased because of my great aunt's home-made braciole, but that's irrelevent here. Actually, it wasn't that bad....except for the obvious canned mushrooms that were mixed in. I thought that was a little...cheap, I guess you could say. But the meat was cooked well and had a decent taste, so I will give them that. In addition to that and honestly one of the biggest disappointments I've had at a restaurant, especially one in the "authentic Italian" North End, I ordered a side of fusilli with red sauce. After the first bite I say out loud: "spaghettio's" ... my girlfriend asked what I meant and I said that it tasted EXACTLY like spaghettio's. She tried for herself, and she immediately agreed "oh my god it's definitely spaghettio's!"

That right there was the nail in the coffin. We've all had medicore meals, but in a whole this was just a bad meal and an extremely disappointing experience - especially since the previous year we had a fantastic dinner at the neighboring Fiore.

I hate to be so negative, and like most things I'm sure this will be debated. But I felt so strongly about my experience at Artu that I really wanted to post this and share with you all.

Go and try for yourself if you wish, I just really hope you DON'T experience the same as we did.

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  1. Sorry, your meal didn't go well. I am a huge fan of Artu and have spent many a Sunday afternoon there over the past few years. However, in thinking about it. I don't believe I've ever ordered anything with red sauce other than the mussels in fra diavolo which were great. For some reason Artu, is my place for thin crust pizzas; chicken stuffed with spinach and prosciutto; meatball sandwiches and calamari. They also do a wonderful steak. I would suggest if you go back, stay away from the red sauce dishes and you may feel differently about the place. They really do have a wonderful staff.

    1. I only get their roast chicken and sandwhiches, Favortito, roast pork, which are pretty good. Not a place I'd venture into full blown dinner.

      1. We had the same experience there about a year ago. We will never go back.

        1. I am so tired of so many "Italian" places serving mediocre pasta that I am afraid to order pasta out, unless I know for sure it will be amazing. Especially red sauce, since I grew up eating my Italian grandmother's.
          At Artu I have always ordered their roast pork with marinated eggplant....very good.
          How sad that they cut corners like this. I've wondered how their pastas were and now I know for sure I will stick with their roasted pork.

          Did you tell the waitress? Curious to know what she'd say....I've had the same one there many times and she seems to care about the diner's experience.

          4 Replies
          1. re: poptart

            pegmeister...
            I would love to, as it sounds like their non-pasta dishes are good. However, with so many other choices in the area that I have not yet checked out, as well as places I would love to go back to, I don't think I'll be back to Artu any time soon. I'm actually really bummed to say that, too.

            poptart...
            I would have loved to have said something...but I didn't, to be polite. And like you, I grew up on my Italian grandparents' and mothers red sauce ... but I'm not that picky! ;-) Unfortunately, it was THAT bad. I didn't want to be rude - and it was my bday night out, so we tried to make the best of it!

            1. re: holo1979

              Understandable that you'd want to make the best of it on your b-day!

              Luckily there are so many other places to try and it's not our only choice for Italian in Boston! :-)

              1. re: holo1979

                I feel the same way when folks say "give them another chance". Why? There are so many other places to eat and, for me, it's hard to go back to a place where the memories aren't great. Canned mushrooms are a huge no-no as is crappy red sauce. No excuse for either.

                1. re: three of us

                  Yes...canned mushrooms in the 1970s, maybe. But now?? Forget it.
                  And bad red sauce....never an excuse for that, and yet many "Italian" restaurants have horrendous red sauce on their sides of overcooked pasta. :-(

            2. It's too bad you had such a disappointing experience at Artu. I can honestly say in all the years I've been eating there I have never had a bad meal. As a rule, I don't order pasta anywhere, so I can't speak to that except to say I cannot imagine anyone in their kitchen using a canned macaroni product and passing it off as their own. But I've been up and down their menu since a couple of months after they opened and have enjoyed everything! I hope you return to give them another chance.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Gio

                I hadn't been to Artu in years but was in town with Swedish relatives on Tuesday and figured it would be a good, comfortable place for an early dinner. I think everyone enjoyed their meal but me! Not that it was bad, it was just so-so. I was actually disappointed in the calamari. It was OK but certainly far from the best I've had. My other dish was an antipasti with marinated mushrooms, artichoke hearts, olives, salami and cheese. The mushrooms looked canned as did the artichoke hearts.

                Shame on me for not going with the roast chicken or a pork dish! Next time.