Alta Strada: Why universally disliked?
I am relatively new to ChowHound (I have been using it to research restaurants and other food topics for a long time, but registered and wrote my first post yesterday, a review of Alta Strada's brunch). I happened to notice in other posts that Alta Strada is not very well liked, though few or no (?) reasons were given, probably b/c it wasn't the main topic of the posts.
Although it's not my favorite restaurant, being a resident of Metro West, it is certainly a reliable and convenient "go-to" place for us on nights we don't feel like cooking. I have relatively minor quibbles (which I"ve noted elsewhere, such as Open Table reviews... pricey drinks, miniscule portions for certain things liked cured meat antipasti)... The service is always excellent, good wine-by-the-glass selection, and the food is pretty darn good for what this is, a neighborhood joint. Some really good pasta dishes -- linguni w/clams, a tuna/tomato/pinenut/raisin thing that I've had in the past; and so on...
My husband and I have been to some top restaurants in Boston and NY and traveled extensively in Italy (Rome, Venice, Sicily, Tuscany, etc.), and I think we know a "dog" when we see one, so I have to ask...
Fellow ChowHounders... What is it you find so objectionable about A/S?
(Or like us, do you think it's just fine?)
I was also a figs regular, and actually prefer alta strada. What I've found is that I always enjoy the pasta and the apps, but have had mixed results with regard to entrees and sandwiches. Still, living in Metro West, I haven't found anything I like better for a comfortable "upscale" lunch nearby. I do second BostonMAC's comment about the wine-- I always wish that they had some decent less-expensive options; their mark-up is above the threshold I consider reasonable.
I happen to really like Alta Strada. I was a fan of Figs, too, but it's not Schlow's fault that English's life fell apart and out went Figs. IMO, it's nice to have an upscale yet still casual Italian eatery in town. My favorite item on the menu is the Mushroom-filled Lune. My least favorite is that they don't have inexpensive bottles of wine (cheapest bottle is around $45, I think and we figured out it's cheaper to drink wine by the glass then order a bottle).
I think that the wide-spread dislike of Alta Strada is, in part, a result of it having replaced Figs, which was extremely popular and is sorely missed by those of us who considered it sort of our second kitchen. Not only was the food excellent and interesting, but the wait staff and manager became almost close friends with the regular clientele. That aside, I think that the food at Alta Strada is uninspired and as you said, small portions and pricey drinks. If you compare the menu at Alta Strada with another of Michael Schlow's restaurants, e.g. , it is difficult to believe they are connected. Via Matta's menu is much more interesting and the food much much better. Alta Strada is ok in a pinch but quite boring and not our go-to place like Figs was.
Hmm, interesting. I too was a Figs regular, but had gotten kind of bored with it toward the end. I got really tired of the pizzas, which seemed to get more greasy and burnt and unappealing over time (maybe they stayed the same and my tastes changed?). They did have the best crab cakes I've ever had. Good cocktails too. I haven't been to Via Matta, but had been to Radius for a special dinner and was underwhelmed. Gee, I wouldn't say the food at Alta Strada is "uninspired" though maybe just simpler and smaller selection (again, not viewing this as "fine dining" but as a neighborhood place in the Figs vein). The pasta, though limited in selection, is consistently good IMHO. Again, I can see why people aren't raving about it I just don't get why it seems to get "dissed" so much. To each his own, thanks for sharing!
ps: the small portion was not an across-the-board comment about the plates, but about some specific items, such as the salumi or cured meats that are in the antipasti selection ($6 for three paper thin slices probably weighing a half ounce...). I do think the portions for most other dishes are just about right though.