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Feb 6, 2009 05:40 PM

Osteria Mozza - Disneylandesque and Terrible Service

I have enjoyed a few meals at Pizzeria Mozza, and heard great things about Osteria Mozza, and have been meaning to check it out. I did some free legal work for some friends, who wanted to take me out to thank me with a splurge dinner - Mozza came to mind and we tried it.

Four of us made a reservation for 9pm on Weds. We arrived on time, and were left to stand in the doorway until 9:20 before we were seated. No apologies. No sip of wine offered to hold us over. No amuse waiting at the table to acknowledge the delay. I guess we were just supposed to be thankful to get a table. When we were seated, the host led us half way to the table, and then made us stop and wait in the middle of the dining room because the table was not actually set. When I used to manage restaurants before I became an attorney, that host would have had his wrist smacked with a ruler and he wouldn't have made that mistake again.

We were greeted by a down to business server, She didn't engage us with the menu at all. Just asked if we were ready to order. We paused a beat too long, and she told us she was going to take another table's order and be back. As she was walking away, over her shoulder, she barked - and I'll need your whole order. Are you kidding me? $58 for a steak and if I want to order an appetizer while I look at the menu I can't do that? Strict rules to be honored with the Mozza reso I guess!

When she returned, at one point someone asked what Orata was. Miss thing walked away from the table mid conversation without any comment to the bus station. When she returned she described the fish - no comment on her momentary departure.

The wine service was awkward. I hate it when they hold the wine hostage off the table without communicating to the guests where the wine is being stored. Of course if they weren't shoving four people onto a table not bigger than a card table, there would be more room on the table to store the wine. At one point, with just about two ounces of wine in the decanter, the wine was placed in the bus station. Why not just poor the wine off, rather than stress out the host that the wine was going to be lost in the bus station?

Staff was invasive and intrusive when it came to selling us more wine and bussing my unfinished main course plate while I was mid-sentence, but oblivious to details. Sure the staff was quick with a few tricks like replacing napkins when guests got up for the restroom, but missed things like empty glassware when the table was being reset for dessert.

No one checked on us to ask how the food was - ever - in a three course meal.

Bread is not offered with butter or olive oil. Maybe that's sophisticated. I think it's pretentious. Sort of like seasoning the wine glasses with a splash of wine. Come now.

Now the food was mostly excellent. We loved the grilled octopus and all things mozzarella. My duck was overcooked and mushy/dry in the breast - I didn't finish it. Unaccpetable at this level of dining, but as a guest I certainly was not going to raise a stink, especially with the server never checking in. One of our friends was non-plussed by the linguine with clams, which was overly spicy to his palate, and very al dente.

I went in really expecting a sophisticated, excellent meal. Instead I found the trappings of 'fancy'. I found entitled, inattentive clumsy service. The space is pretty, but also crowded and inelegant.

I could go on and on.

I won't be back.

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  1. Nice details, excellent writeup. I find the whole Mozza enterprise Disneylandesque. It sure didn't sound like your servers felt they were working in an Italian restaurant....

    3 Replies
    1. re: Adsvino

      Totally agree with your assessment Adsvino - cannot find a justification to return to either operation. Personally, I hope Street, just up the street to be opened by Susan Feniger next month will become the reason to return to that area to eat.
      Too much preciousness for me when all I really want to do is eat quality food, pay a fair price(which they charge), and not be so rushed or ignored the whole night long. Just not a comfortable environment for dining.

      1. re: carter

        I've talked to Susan F. and have high hopes for Street. RE: that area, what is in the Red Pearl space?

        Let's leave the Mozza's to the wannabes--LA is about the real deal foods.

        1. re: carter

          Sorry to say this, Carter, but I'm afraid the swarms of schmucks that LOOOOOVE PM won't even get it if they ever see something real.

          Meaning, you need Disney show for sustainable business, and the real things ends up being not enough to cover the expenses.

      2. FWIW I don't think 20 minutes is really that long a wait at a very popular restaurant. No I wouldn't be happy, but a "sip of wine offered to hold us over"? I never even heard of this especially for a 20 minute wait..

        "No amuse waiting at the table to acknowledge the delay." Never heard of this either--what before you sit down they're suppose to hold you up longer while they put food down on your table?

        "The wine service was awkward. I hate it when they hold the wine hostage off the table without communicating to the guests where the wine is being stored." Another strange comment--so you can get up, go across the room, and get it yourself.

        "Bread is not offered with butter or olive oil. Maybe that's sophisticated. I think it's pretentious. Come now." I guess I'd ask for it if it needed it.

        No, it didn't sound like you had a great experience and if I felt the way you do I would definitely scratch it off my list.

        19 Replies
        1. re: The Old Man

          I agree with all this. There is no butter or Olive Oil served at Babbo or B&B either, just an amazing crusty Italian rustic loaf. Otto has dry breadsicks and a white Italian loaf, no topping either. Only his Del Posto serves a topping with the bread, and that is a dish of butter and a dish of lardo.

          No problems with opinions, but many seem nitpicky. The waitress sounds poor, however.

          1. re: uhockey

            I'd be interested in learning what the total tab was for the night. If you are paying high end prices, the expectation is that you will receive high end service. Regardless of how popular the restaurant is, if a patron makes a reservation, the reservation is accepted with the implication that it will be honored, and the patron appears at the appointed time and place for the reservation, the restaurant ignoring the patron for 20 minutes is not acceptable, no matter how "popular" or big of a "name". That is the kind of arrogance that looses any loyalty that might have been forthcoming from the patron, take a look at the current New York restaurant scene, restaurants that were formerly "popular" are now extremely thankful for any patronage in tighter economic times.

            1. re: ChinoWayne

              I've never really bothered to keep track of who does and who doesn't, but I've had a glass of wine comped or something similar when reservations get backed up and I've had to wait for a reserved table.

              1. re: rednyellow

                On more than one occasion I've also "had a glass of wine comped or something similar when reservations get backed up and I've had to wait for a reserved table," as rednyellow put it. I believe that is required under Rule 38 (c) of the restaurant guide and regulations. Oh, no, wait, I'm sorry -- now I remember. It's just plain common sense and courtesy to apologize in some way to a mistreated guest (and waiting 20 minutes for a reservation is mistreatment) whether in the home or at the job site, as so many members of the dining-room staff seem to regard it.

                Thanks for the post, lalaw05. I don't know if Mozza and other popular but service-challenged places would change if their patrons flooded the boards with these kinds of measured, detailed critiques, but it can't hurt to try.

                1. re: sbritchky

                  Of course that "mistreated" guest and party are the very same ones sitting and sitting and talking and talking away, long after the last of their coffee has been drunk and all their food has been consumed, making the next party wait for them to give up their table.

                  1. re: Servorg

                    Guests who linger overlong are part of the cost of doing business, which restaurants have to keep in mind while accepting reservations.

                    For some people -- the waitress and host described by lalaw05, for example -- simple courtesy also seems to be a "cost" they resent paying. I've worked in bustling restaurants that would fire anyone who didn't have the common sense to treat customers respectfully. Being busy and popular is no excuse for discourtesy.

                    1. re: sbritchky

                      Simply pointing out that waiting 20 minutes for your table at a very popular restaurant is hardly a crime against humanity, and not really worth the time it takes to post about it, since the restaurant is not in control of how long their guests decide to camp out for. In this case 20 minutes would be a blip on the radar for a place like OM.

                      1. re: Servorg

                        I've already addressed these issues, Servorg. I very much enjoy your reviews and am surprised to see this difference over the importance of hospitality to the enjoyment of a good meal.

                        I'd like to see people speak out on this board whenever they find unprofessional service. As a native Southern Californian who has lived in every major region of the U.S., I can tell you that I've seen more indifferent and inhospitable service out here than anywhere else, which is not to say there isn't also very good service to be found. The misfits and don't-cares on dining-room staffs won't get the message unless we speak clearly with our words and our tips. (And I often use both by writing a brief explanation of the tip on the bill or credit-card receipt.)

                        1. re: sbritchky

                          I just don't think one can equate waiting 20 minutes for a reservation to be honored at a very popular restaurant to "terrible service." There was some unhappiness about the lack of being offered something for this "wait" by the OP, and this smacked a bit of an entitlement mentality that made me take the entire post with a grain of salt. I may have "over salted" here, but maybe not. lol

                          1. re: Servorg

                            I agree with Sevorg. A 20 minute wait isn't the end of the world. It's annoying but by no means entitles one to comped wine and amuse waiting at the table before one sits down. If Lalaw wanted a glass of wine s/he should have purchased one at the bar to make the wait less outrageous.

                            Some of the gripes in this review are a bit odd (eg. "holding the wine hostage", butter not served with bread but brought to the table when asked, amuse "waiting" at the table).

                            I think Sevorg's use of salt is just right in this instance.

                            1. re: Servorg

                              I was more moved by the total experience the diners had, from greeting to seating, to eating, to leaving.

                              I am very attuned to what I feel is a prevalence of "overly entitled" consumers that can be seen here and other venues these days, but I did not get that feeling in this case (the OP did not indicate that his party made any requests to be comped in any way, and did not seem to make a big deal of it with the staff). I know that if I am going to spend my hard earned cash at any service establishment, I don't want to feel like a "second class" client, just treat me as well as your best client, and maybe I will one day become your best client.

                              1. re: ChinoWayne

                                You may well be right. Maybe it was a case of my reading that first gripe about the 20 minute wait (with no free wine by way of apology or a free appetizer waiting on the table when they finally got there) and being struck "wrong" by it and then the rest of the post came under increased scrutiny because of that bad beginning.

                                But that may well have been what happened to the OP as well. That first thing (the 20 minute wait) went wrong with no apology from the FOH, and from there on he had an eye out for any and all other service transgressions. That can happen. Hell, I've done it.

                                In any case, at least the food was good for the most part.

                                1. re: Servorg

                                  my read on it was not that OP was expecting a glass of wine, but rather that he or she did expect something (an apology, a glass of wine, or an amuse know, something...). I most definitely DO expect an apology (at the least, and yes, a glass of wine would be nice, though not expected) if I am made to wait more than 15 minutes for my table, no matter how popular the restaurant. After all, how many restaurants say you must be there within xx number of minutes of your reservation (usually no more than 15, often 10) or they will give your spot away? Shouldn't the restaurant be held to a similar standard, and how much would it cost them to apologize if they can't meet that standard?

                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                    Folks, a general discussion of what is and isn't appropriate wait times, why they happen, whether there should be compensation, etc, would be more appropriate on our Not About Food board. We've removed some posts that aren't about Mozza, and would ask that if people want to have that debate, please start a new thread there.

                2. re: ChinoWayne

                  We brought two $100 bottles of wine and paid $20 corkage for them and the bill was about $350 for four of us.

                  1. re: lalaw05

                    So that works out to about $88 a head for the food, which seems reasonable for fine, but not ultra high-end dining.

                    This is just speculation, but possibly the fact that your party did not have a significant beverage order, and the fact that your party was not "known" to the house (i.e. not repeat customers), your server, might have not had much incentive to provide your with superior, let alone, adequate service.

                    Both the fact that you were ignored for 20 minutes after arriving on time as promised, and received such dismissive table service was entirely unacceptable in a restaurant of this caliber. The expectation of a restaurant that has the names Batali, Bastianch and Silverton behind it is that a superior experience in terms of food artistry and service is the standard that is never deviated from.

                    The contention by some that your 20 minutes of receiving the cold shoulder should be expected and accepted at a "name" restaurant that is "popular" among the general public is a misapprehension. One wonders just how often patrons of this establishment have seen Mr. Batali, Mr. Bastianch or Ms. Silverton present, and supervising the staff, likely rarely, if ever. Ms. Silverton is apparently hands-on at the sister restaurant, and doing a great job of it. Mr. Batali and Mr. Bastianich are likely spread way too thin for their growing empire, and have apparently done an inadequate job of attracting and training high caliber, professional restaurant staff and management.

                    This all leads one to surmise that in terms of the Batali/Bastianch empire, as a consumer, this may be the place to go to find decent, if not superior food, and to be a part of the latest "scene". But probably not the place to experience true cutting edge cuisine, or world class service.

                    Don't get me wrong, I really do admire and appreciate Mario Batali and would love to experience his food. He also demonstrated to me, via his "Molto Mario" television show that he is passionate about the food and culture of Italy and is a great teacher. The downside, is that "Batali" has become a national brand, and it's more about selling "stuff", whether food, kitchenware, books, or "what ever". The bigger Batali and company get, the bigger the "nut" they have to come up with.

                    Be interesting to learn what the debt service is on the Mozza operations, that might really open our eyes in terms of the establishment trying to turn tables.

                    1. re: ChinoWayne

                      I don't care about it being a "name" restaurant. It's a popular, crowded restaurant. I've waited 20 minutes at restaurants. It's not fun, but I don't expect free wine and appetizers waiting at the table. I'd just need (which apparently he didn't get) a "sorry, it should be a few minutes (of course that's always a lie, but at least it's an acknowledgment).

                      The butter issue was a non-issue and the "hostage wine" was just a bizarre complaint.

                      1. re: ChinoWayne

                        "This is just speculation, but possibly the fact that your party did not have a significant beverage order, and the fact that your party was not "known" to the house (i.e. not repeat customers), your server, might have not had much incentive to provide your with superior, let alone, adequate service"

                        There is no excuse for poor service.... and what a snooty attitude!

                3. re: The Old Man

                  The problem with the wine being away from the table at a place like Mozza is that the tables are jammed close together, there is a great deal of rushing about by losts of waitstaff, and this makes it a real challenge for the diner to get up, make her way past the moving obstacle courses, locate the wine (if it's white, it's in a bucket near somebody else's table) and come back to the table and pour the wine. It's about as awkward as going behind the bar to get another spoon or something.

                  My main problem with Mozza was the food -- overly salted and dry. Did like the appeztizers with the various cheese, though.

                4. Bread is not offered with butter or olive oil in Italy, either, or at several other restaurants in LA. If you want it, surely you can ask for it.

                  20 Replies
                  1. re: jaykayen

                    We were given butter when we asked - and it was actually really good tasting butter with sea salt.

                    1. re: jaykayen

                      You know, I have to say this was one of my key complaints about Osteria Mozza -- that a BATALI /Silverton resto would not offer olive oil with their bread. If you've ever watched his cooking show, he's all about singing the phrase "a little extra virgin olive oil" as he pours generous amounts of it in to his pan.

                      When we did ask for some oil to go with our bread -- and why should we have to? -- it arrived in a tiny dish that (a) you couldn't really dip into and (b) was awkward to pour from onto your b&b plate without making a mess.

                      I guess they don't always offer olive oil at restos in Italy etc but they do at Studio City's Mezzomondo, which is my fave little Italian trattoria, owned and run by a lovely Italian gentleman (Elio) and nowhere near the high-end (in terms of pricing, I'm not talking about the food, which *is* high-end) that Osteria Mozza aspires to be.

                      And why should you have to run and get your own wine when dining at OM?

                      I consider $88-100+ pp (remember, they brought their own wine) to be fairly high-end and I agree the service - and in some cases the food - doesn't match the price point and the level at which they are poisiting themselves in the marketplace, namely high-end Italian cuisine. Yes, it's an 'Osteria' -- they are still pretentious and fancy.

                      1. re: Maxmillion

                        Bread with oil is an American thing. You will NEVER, EVER find bread served with oil in Italy. Not in an Italian home, not a trattoria, and not in a ristorante.

                        Olive oil is good, but that doesn't mean that it has to be everywhere.

                          1. re: jaykayen

                            We're not in Italy. If the overwhelming majority of patrons enjoy olive oil and/or butter with their bread (as most Americans do), why not be gracious and serve it without requiring it be requested. To make a customer ask, seems pretentious and saying you don't know the right way to eat bread!

                              1. re: steve h.

                                What does that have to do with anything? Obviously the guests are primarily Americans, and yes most of us want either butter or oil with their bread. To make us ask for it is ungracious and/or pretentious!

                                1. re: josephnl

                                  i don't expect butter or dipping oil in an osteria. i don't expect a knife and fork at a chinese restaurant.

                                  1. re: steve h.

                                    The ratio of interest to number of words written about this subject is getting unusually, and infinitesimally, small.

                              2. re: josephnl

                                Because Batali tends to lean toward traditional Italian?

                                La Botte doesn't serve oil or butter with theirs, either.

                            1. re: Maxmillion

                              "If you've ever watched his cooking show, he's all about singing the phrase "a little extra virgin olive oil" as he pours generous amounts of it in to his pan."

                              I'm not sure how oil to cook with is the same as oil to dip bread in.

                              1. re: The Old Man

                                Because when a chef is ***all about the EV olive oil***, is it such a stretch to expect some to dip your DRY bread into?! Like you frequently get in OTHER Italian restos?

                                1. re: Maxmillion

                                  Oh. My. God. Can this part of the discussion stop? Here's what it boils down to:

                                  1. In Italy, few if any restaurants automatically serve oil (or butter) with bread, and waiters will look at you funny but bring it if you ask for it. This despite olive oil being a vital part of may regions' cuisine.

                                  2. In the US, many Italian restaurants (and virtually all Italian-American ones) do serve either oil or butter or both with the bread.

                                  Batali chooses not to; other chefs choose to. There is no right/wrong answer (though choice 1 is more authentically Italian). That's it. End of story. If you want oil with your bread, you have to ask for it at OM and other places. It's just not a big deal, regardless of the price.

                                  (Oh, and the sommelier kept our decanter of wine on the table, and our waitress refilled our glasses regularly. But that's beside the point.)

                                  1. re: conor610

                                    La Botte does not serve Olive oil or butter w/ Bread, either.

                                    1. re: uhockey

                                      A gracious host (or a smart business person) will always opt for bending the rules a bit to please customers. This is not Italy, and if the majority of guests enjoy butter and/or oil with their bread, to not do so is, as lalaw05 said in his/her original post, pretentious (or perhaps, overly frugal)!

                                      1. re: josephnl

                                        It's neither. And as the OP noted, a dish of oil was brought upon request. I just don't see what the big deal is; it's not as if the waiter said, "No, sir, we do not deign to give you oil for your bread." You just have to request it if you want it.

                                        1. re: josephnl

                                          ...and would you say the same about a traditional SGV Chinese place that wouldn't automatically put ketchup in all the sauces? or the top end sushi places when they don't bring you soy? are they also being frugal? or just pretentious? if everyone does it the wrong way, it doesn't make it right...

                                        2. re: uhockey

                                          I think La Botte is northern Italian, where the fat of choice is more often butter than olive oil.

                                          1. re: a_and_w

                                            They don't serve butter with bread in Northern Italy...

                                            ps. the co-founder was Sicilian and the current chef is from Bari

                                            1. re: lambrusche

                                              I never said they did. My point was that, if a condiment for bread were served, it would more likely be butter than olive oil. Do you disagree?

                                              Also, I'm a little confused by your Sicilian comment. Whatever the background of one of the co-founders, La Botte is supposed to be focused on northern Italian cuisine. Their own website mentions that the owner/GM is from northern Italy and that the chef has experience cooking northern Italian cuisine.


                              2. It sounds like none of your expectations except for the delicious food were met. I am curious what made it "Disneylandesque." I think of Disneyland as a place of great guest service and always find attentative workers there.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Jeff the Chef

                                  It was disneylandesque to me because it felt like a set. It felt like the trappings of a fine restaurant, but not really a fine restaurant. It felt fake I guess.

                                  1. re: lalaw05

                                    it's meant to be a good place to eat. it's an osteria, not a fancy restaurant. prices reflect that. you're not happy. expressing your displeasure is your right.

                                    i like the place and will continue to go back. the food/wine is very good. service is pretty good in my book. perhaps you shouldn't return.

                                    1. re: lalaw05

                                      lalaw05 -- "It felt like the trappings of a fine restaurant, but not really a fine restaurant."

                                      my sentiments precisely. We were seriously underwhelmed by the experience (food mostly, not so much the service, tho I still found that a little lacking) and, as I metioned in a different comment, we were dining with a VIP! I dread to think what it would have been like if it was just me & my guy -- a couple of unknowns.

                                      1. re: Maxmillion

                                        Such drama. I'm an unknown and I had a great experience at O.Mozza. In fact, I was even able to add on an appetizer and a pasta in the middle of my meal. The server handled it just fine.

                                        No restaurant can please everyone all the time. Different people, different tastes. I'm sure people have been underwhelmed at restaurants that you really enjoy.