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Snubbed by Scampo

gansu girl May 22, 2009 09:13 AM

Hey All - need some perspective, then some advice.

First, the background. I'm turning 40 next month and so we're planning a little dinner out w/our very closest friends (8 people total) to celebrate. I thought that Scampo might be a good place to go - a little funky, lots of food choices to satisfy the crowd, fun drinks, nearby options for continuing the celebration after dinner. So my husband calls for a 7 p.m. reservation and they tell him that "they don't seat large parties during the height of their evening service." So . . . they'd seat us at 5:30 or 8:30 p.m. Whaaaaa? So you mean to tell me that even though we'd come and spend hundreds of dollars at that place they won't seat us at 7?

I've never, ever encountered this. Thoughts?

Second . . . suggestions for a party of 8 for a festive yet mature b-day celebration? Preferably downtown so that we can go out afterwards (if we're still able to walk??).

  1. a
    arbanne May 22, 2009 09:11 PM

    I hate to break it to you gansu girl but most restaurants that rely on doing volume will have a similar policy (especially on a Saturday night!)...they just won't tell you that. If you were to book a table for 8 people at 7pm, the restaurant will only be able to use the table once. If you come in at 6pm there might be a chance that they may be able to use it at 8:30/9:00. You may not like to hear it but unfortunately it's the truth at most restaruants on a Saturday night.

    1. gansu girl May 22, 2009 10:53 AM

      Thanks, all, for the quick and balanced responses.

      I looked at MC Slim JB's suggestions - per usual, all good and in-line w/what I was seeking, but none as appealing to me as Scampo. I understand the issue w/jamming up 2 4-tops, etc., (waited tables myself for many years) but again, I think that considering the fact that is a big-drinking and big-eating crowd, they'd clear or nearly clear what they'd make on, say, 2 seatings at 2 4-tops in the same time period. So, inspired by Bob, I just called Scampo again, and implored the nice reservationist to reconsider. She said "yes, I'm sure that's what they told your husband, but my manager is right around the corner, and let's see what we can do for you." The gracious manager explained the reasoning (indeed, the no table for 8, 2 4-top issue), and offered a compromise time of 6:30. It's a deal.

      Thanks, again for the reality check and advice. Once again, Chowhound saves the day!

      19 Replies
      1. re: gansu girl
        macadamianut May 22, 2009 11:23 AM

        Excellent! Now...... Ask for Mario. He is the greatest waiter ever. Italian Mojito, homemade farfalle with crabmeat and mascarpone cheese, truffle and lobster pizza. Seriously call back and request Mario. Talk about lovely and gracious.

        1. re: macadamianut
          MC Slim JB May 22, 2009 11:27 AM

          He is an excellent server.


          1. re: macadamianut
            emilief May 22, 2009 01:04 PM

            We just love Mario!!! He is your classic Italian waiter, like out of a movie! And so competent. a big shout out for Mario!

            1. re: emilief
              macadamianut May 22, 2009 02:15 PM

              You and MC Slim Jb are correct. He is special and is right out of a movie. I adore his accent, he could bottle it!

              1. re: macadamianut
                kristinayee May 26, 2009 07:36 AM

                Did anyone go to Copia for the short time it was open? Is this per chance the same Mario that worked there? Because if so, he was seriously the best waiter we'd ever had and would request him again in an instant.


                1. re: kristinayee
                  MC Slim JB May 26, 2009 07:37 AM

                  I'd been to Copia a few times, but never made that particular connection.


                  1. re: MC Slim JB
                    kristinayee May 26, 2009 07:40 AM

                    Can anyone describe him? Our Mario was as people described, straight out of a movie - Italian, dark hair, average to short height, on the heavier side, super friendly, great personality ...

                    1. re: kristinayee
                      Small Plates May 26, 2009 08:42 AM

                      Same guy. He is wonderful!

                      1. re: kristinayee
                        Prav May 26, 2009 08:46 AM

                        We had Mario as well! Italian, pudgy, wore overalls, plunger, and donned a thick mustache.

                        1. re: Prav
                          Bob Dobalina May 26, 2009 09:06 AM

                          Kept jumping on the tables...climbing the columns...

                    2. re: kristinayee
                      Rubee May 26, 2009 12:34 PM

                      Yes, that's the same Mario from Copia (and Prezza for a time). Great guy, who always remembers the patrons.

                      (edited: Sorry Small Plates, I missed that you already answered the question)

                  2. re: emilief
                    kristinayee May 28, 2009 10:25 AM

                    Went to Scampo last night. Had a few of our faves ... gnocchi and spaghetti with cracklings, but more importantly, we were seated in Mario's section! He was great as usual.


                  3. re: macadamianut
                    pollystyrene May 22, 2009 10:48 PM

                    Thanks for the recs! A friend and I are going for the first time this Thursday. I tried to get a Fri., Sat, or Sun reservation over a week in advance, and the best they had was 9:15, so we went with 7:30 on Thursday. I was eyeing that Italian Mojito, and now I'll be sure to try it. It sounds just like an Old Cuban. If you can recommend any vegetarian dishes, please let me know.

                    1. re: pollystyrene
                      macadamianut May 23, 2009 08:18 AM

                      Yes try the beet ravioli. Another winner! There are lovely salads and pizza's too.

                      1. re: macadamianut
                        pollystyrene May 29, 2009 02:34 AM

                        Thanks for the recs. We started with the Mario. I wouldn't say he's the best waiter I've ever had, but he was charming. The garlic bread was great, buttery, toasted to perfection. The mozzerella portion of the caprese was also great, but I've had better tomatoes and basil. The pasta portion of the candele with vodka sauce was very good, thick and al dente. I've never had that long tube pasta before. The sauce was average. The Italian Mojito was disappointing--too sweet for me, although my DC thought it was good. I think the best part was dessert: warm chocolate cake with white coffee ice cream. It was just like good coffee ice cream with hot fudge, and really hit the spot. The place was so loud, and the whole hotel was quite a bustling scene. Lydia Shire was out mingling. I'm glad I tried it, and would go back, but not in a hurry.

                        1. re: pollystyrene
                          twentyoystahs May 29, 2009 05:18 AM

                          I LOVE that garlic bread. You're right, crispy, grilled to perfection and really buttery......and as a result, really good.

                          1. re: pollystyrene
                            twentyoystahs Jun 12, 2009 06:07 PM

                            We were there last night and definitely didn't have Mario. Our waiter was very low-key, TOO low-key I think. One of those waiters that just says "Do you know what you'd like to order?" but clearly just wants you to tell him what you want, quickly. Never came to the table to check on us once our food came. Ordered a second glass of wine and waited 10 minutes (while eating, and subsequently finishing, my pasta course) for it to appear. Then when dessert was served, I didn't have a spoon. I asked for a spoon, one of my DCs asked for a cup of coffee. A few minutes later, I see the waiter clearly lingering in the dining room, looking over his tables, clearly NOT getting my spoon. (I am now eating my pudding with a fork.) I can't figure out what he is doing, but most importantly why he isn't just grabbing a spoon quickly for me. Maybe coffee takes a few extra minutes, but a spoon? Maybe 5 minutes (and many forkfuls of pudding) later, a busboy comes by with the coffee and spoons. So, that, apparently is how it works. He's the waiter, can't be bothered with doing the small "errands" for his customers so the busboys do it. As someone who has waited many tables in her life, this grates on my nerves. A $260 dinner for 4 should come with excellent service. It didn't last night.
                            (FWIW, no complaints on the food. It was very good, as usual.)

                    2. re: gansu girl
                      Bob Dobalina May 26, 2009 06:30 AM

                      That's awesome, Gansu! Really glad to hear that they were reasonable.

                      1. re: gansu girl
                        chowmensch May 26, 2009 07:36 AM

                        The food is exquisite and I'm sure you and your party will enjoy. Just one warning. Don't expect to be able to hear anyone at your table when they wish you happy birthday. The noise level at Scampo is so high my ears are still bleeding from a visit a week ago.

                      2. Angel Food May 22, 2009 10:51 AM

                        I ran into this at a number of places while trying to plan a celebratory dinner out for a group of 10 on a Sat night last summer. You can get an early or late reservation, but not in between. We ended up at Stella in the South End (they accommodated us around 7:30 I think?); the food was good, it was fun, but it is very loud in there.

                        1. p
                          Parsnipity May 22, 2009 10:49 AM

                          We had almost the exact same situation with being refused a reservation for 8 on a Saturday at Oleana. Our group even would have happily agreed to either 6:30 pm or 2 tables of 4. We ended up eating at Dante, had a great meal, and were treated very well by all the staff. I must say, the experience with Oleana left me much less likely to bring my business to them in the future. (I'm going to head over to my original post and write up the meal at Dante there.)

                          1. t
                            tallullah May 22, 2009 10:34 AM

                            I would imagine a lot of restaurants have this policy. If I had been told, as I have been in the past, that there were no available slots other than 5:30 or 8:30 I wouldn't give it another thought.

                            What gets me is the not seating people until the whole group is there policy. I understand if more than 50% are missing, but 1 missing person?

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: tallullah
                              MC Slim JB May 22, 2009 10:43 AM

                              Gotta disagree with you on the complete parties seating policy. When you seat an incomplete party, either the meal starts right away, in which case the latecomers disrupt the flow of the whole meal, or the party sits and waits and idly ties up the table. That's one rule that I think should be deemed ironclad; diners have to respect it.


                              1. re: MC Slim JB
                                tallullah May 22, 2009 11:48 AM

                                Oh I respect it and understand why it's done -- I just don't like it.

                            2. StriperGuy May 22, 2009 10:13 AM

                              I will say, 7:00 is tough, you basically kill the table of 8 for the whole night, which means then won't get two seatings for that whole 8 on their busiest night. Some popular places (though I don't see this in Boston much) have two scheduled seatings, say 6:00 and 8:30 period.

                              1. Bob Dobalina May 22, 2009 09:43 AM

                                Happy birthday!

                                This sounds wrong - a table of eight is not a large party.
                                I would call back and ask to talk to a manager, and not whatever knucklehead your husband unfortunately spoke to the first time. Another suggestion would be to call the maitre'd at the Liberty - if the front door is jammed up, go around back. If they still won't acquiesce, could try the ol'...Then give me two tables for four line. What's the difference really?

                                If they are that obtuse to still say no without a reasonable explanation for their dumb-ass policy, shake the dust from your shoes and tell them you will forward all your friends on chowhound to Bina Osteria or throw Erbaluce hidden away in Bay Village some $$$, like MC suggests.

                                1. m
                                  macadamianut May 22, 2009 09:40 AM

                                  Wow I can't believe that. I have eaten there twice and enjoyed it both times. The second time though they were bringing me out my food so quickly that I barely had time to rest and enjoy each course. The whole experience took 45 minutes. I will say that the food was delicious but the food timing was way off. As I stood outside waiting for the valet to get our car I watched as the tourist next to me asked the Valet where to go to eat. The valet was sending him to a restaurant ( the name is escaping me) which was fine in the 80's but who even still goes there. I looked at the man and told him to turn around and eat in his hotel where the food is wonderful. Hotel food has a real stigma and he did not believe me and took a cab to the restaurant that the valet sent him to. I had to laugh because where he was sending him to could not even compare to the deliciousness of Scampo. If you do go order lots and lots of pasta dishes and share. They are divine. Happy Birthday!

                                  1. MC Slim JB May 22, 2009 09:35 AM

                                    This may be related to the downturn, the fact that people have greatly curtailed their weeknight dining out in favor of Friday and Saturday nights. The restaurant's rationale is probably that it can get twice as many covers with smaller parties than one big, slow, lingering 8-top, and can't afford to sacrifice that business.

                                    (I wrote about this on my blog, "Support your local restaurant: dine out Sunday to Thursday".)

                                    That's a big party to get seated anywhere during prime-time on a weekend, so book well in advance. Some downtown options with food good enough for a celebration: Bina Osteria, Sorellina, Erbaluce, La Voile, Sasso, Sel de la Terre (I prefer the Waterfront location), No. 9 Park, Hamersley's.


                                    1. GretchenS May 22, 2009 09:25 AM

                                      I am not condoning or approving of Scampo's policy but I am guessing that they don't think that their kitchen can handle getting 8 meals out at once at the height of the rush without negatively impacting other diners. I am sorry that this has negatively impacted you! No downtown suggestions but Craigie on Main is pretty special both in the food and the drinks departments. Have a very happy birthday, wherever you go!

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