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Apr 3, 2009 11:51 AM

I call BS on Centovini's [moved from Manhattan board]

I need your opinion. On March 20th, I went to Centovini's on West Houston with my boyfriend at 6:30 for a pre show meal. First off, we were the only ones in the dining room and my story may explain why.

The BF and I aren't wine connoisseurs but we almost always order a fine bottle at dinner so we've come to know quite a bit. We ordered a bottle of Rosso Conero Riserva Rubelliano 2003 Enzo Mecella. It was 60 bucks, fine. The waiter took the bottle off the wine shelf and showed us the bottle. He walked away. Minutes later he came back with the empty bottle and the wine decanted. The BF and i were perplexed. We tasted it.. but was it really the bottle we ordered? How did we know he didn't switch the wine with something behind the bar. We contemplated talking to management but finally called the waiter back over and asked him if it was "house policy" to decant the wine away from the customers. His response was that it was totally normal "some restaurants open the bottle in front of the customer - others don't. I didnt' want it to spill in front of you".

Do you call bullsh!t? I do. Is this something you've experienced anywhere else? This wasn't a cheap dinner and i really expect decent service. This just blew my mind. Please tell me if I was overreacting. Oh and btw, we're never going back to Centovini's.

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  1. Hi kissy,
    a wino here.

    I definitely get pissed off big time whenever my bottle is taken out of my line of sight.
    Taking it away, decanting and bringing it back after the fact is definitely not to be done, restaurant policy or not. Same with putting it away some place out of sight between pours.

    However I doubt they do it with some devious substitution in mind though, I can only attribute that behavior to just plain old fashioned stupidity.

    1. First of all... why did he decant the bottle? Did you request it? If not, did he suggest something along the lines of, "May I pour you a taste and decant this bottle for you," or "This wine has has some sediment, may I decant the bottle for you?"

      And second... did you get to taste the wine before he decanted? That's a bad no-no.

      Generally, an opened bottle of wine should stay in sight at all times, and permission should be asked to remove it from the table for the time being. The only exception might be decanting for sediment, where it might not be entirely practical. Even decanting for aeration should be done in sight of the table.

      But it does sound like they're just poorly trained or uninformed, especially silly given it's a wine place. But you're not over-reacting either.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mengathon

        this is standard operating procedure at multiple fine dining restaurants. i hate it too but really, at $60, they aren't out to switch anything on you...

      2. All could be well. Some (many?) restaurants do decant away from the table. Let's just assume that the bottle decanted was the bottle that you ordered.

        However, I like to be part of the decanting decision. If the sommelier suggests it, I'll usually go along with a big BUT.

        I like for the bottle to be presented to me, and opened in my general vicinity. I then like to taste the wine and give it an OK (in nearly every case). THEN, we can discuss the need to decant, whether to separate the wine from lees, or to aerate the wine. Like I said above, if the sommelier, or the server, suggest doing so, I want to be part of that decision. If the decanting is done away from the table, fine. I just have to trust the person doing the decanting.