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Convivio... the OTHER review.

So after having read all the glowing reviews, I went to Convivio last Friday (my first choice would've been Babbo, but it was impossible to get through to make a rez).

Convivio's website claims that it has a Michelin star -- WHY that is the case, frankly, escapes me. Do they still have it? When did they get it? It's a mystery.

The place was packed to the rafters with diners, although there seemed to be about the same amount of service staff -- the dining room was swarming with waiters and bus boys. I like speedy and good service, but thought through most of the evening that it was total overkill. You couldn't have a sip of wine or water without someone immediately showing up and pouring more.

We went with the prix fixe menu: I chose two apps & two pastas, my man did the more traditional app, pasta, secondo, and dessert.

A busser showed up with three plates of the sfizi: roasted brussels sprouts, salami, and risotto croquettes and put them down on our table with a big smile. I smiled back and said that looked great, but we hadn't ordered any of those.

Two other bussers showed up, looking confused. A waiter showed up and said "please enjoy, these are on the house." They clearly had made a mistake (unless these were supposed to be amuse bouches, which would be pretty ridiculous given the amount of food. But whatevs). Since it was there, we tried it but didn't finish as we didn't want to spoil our appetites for the upcoming FOUR courses. The salami was very good, the sprouts nice but too greasy, the risotto croquettes a bland, heavy mess the size of tennis balls. I took one bite and left it at that.

The quail was ok, maybe the most "out there" dish of them all, which is not saying a lot. The sweetbreads were cooked well, but bland and boring. They were lacking some brighter contrast such as citrus or something -- anything -- to lift up the flavor.

My man's octopus was overdone -- too chewy, too dry. Not trusting his judgment, he made me try some, too, and by the time we had made a verdict, too much of the fairly small portion was eaten to send it back. Meh.

I had the malloreddus pasta which was a-ok, but once again, underwhelmingly bland. My man had the fusilli, most likely the best pasta dish we tried there (which is not saying much): rich, with lots of umami in the tomato sauce, and well-textured pasta.

My second pasta dish was the cicatelli al forno, and those were borderline disgusting. An incredibly fatty, cheesy, heavy mess. Really, most of the veal consisted of fat, and the cheese was overkill. I couldn't eat more than a fork or two. Ick.

My man had the duck breast which was cooked to a medium-rare, more on the rare side than anything, with a decidedly UNcrispy skin. Meh. Really, really meh.

Last but not least, we had a side of the pecorino potatoes -- nice, but too much in the end with all the other food.

The dessert was the great sounding "Tartaletta di Caramelle" -- in reality, a chocolate tarte with vanilla gelato and no trace of salted caramel. Incredibly boring.

The bottom line is: another overhyped, underwhelming dining experience. I have higher expectations of a 1 star restaurant; apart from that, I have had much, much better & inventive, exciting Italian food for much less money. At $230, this was an evening of wasted money. Too bad.

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Convivio
45 Tudor City Place, New York, NY 10017

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  1. Couldn't agree more. I went once. The food was nothing special, at all, service was amateurish and inattentive and not gracious, tables are too close together. I see no reason to go back.

    1. I'm so glad to read this review. I thought I was the only one who was totally underwhelmed by the food as well as the experience. I would not go back (regardless of the price) because I just didn't enjoy any of it. BTW, the same experience with way too much wait staff with too little to do. Somehow in that space it felt claustrophobic. Truly, I have no idea what it is that appeals to the assorted posters here who obviously love the place. I'm not saying they shouldn't, just that I really don't get it.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Jane A.

        Happy to hear this wasn't a singular experience. I was excited about the place after having read so much praise on the board, and it was such a let-down. I could've gone back to Crispo instead (which also didn't blow my mind, but I enjoyed the food and ambience there more) for a LOT less moolah.

        1. re: linguafood

          How do you guys think it compares to Scarpetta? I was underwhelmed there as well but I know most love it.
          JeremyEG
          homecooklocavore.wordpress.com

      2. We just got back from there and I couldn't agree more. I only wish I had checked in with you guys first! Why oh why does this place get a star? And, Jeremy, I am totally with you on Scarpetta and thought I was alone. Granted, we've only tried it once and are considering giving it another shot.

        1. "...the dining room was swarming with waiters and bus boys. I like speedy and good service, but thought through most of the evening that it was total overkill. You couldn't have a sip of wine or water without someone immediately showing up and pouring more.'

          I am SO GLAD you mentioned this. Give me a waiter and a busboy who know the business; not an army of wait staff running around looking like maneuvers at Ft. Dix! We had the same experience at Eleven Madison Park (another over-hyped place in my opinion). My partner and I both had the observation that the wait staff lined up was ridiculous to look at and made us anxious that they would come swooping in as soon as we put our water glass down; finished a plate; or even looked at them! Talk about overkill!

          3 Replies
          1. re: ttoommyy

            Ha - when I went to Convivio I had to actually get up from my seat to find someone to pour us water and take a coffee order.

            1. re: gutsofsteel

              Were you there on a weekday? Maybe they save their legions for the w/end '-)

              Either way, they're doing *something* wrong.

              1. re: gutsofsteel

                Mass quantities of wait staff isn't the same as attentive and well-trained wait staff! There was a lot of standing around as opposed to noticing when we might really want something.

            2. Wow Jane I am totally surprised that you had such a negative experience at Convivio. I had the total OPPOSITE EXPERIENCE and loved it when I recently went.

              Don't know what happened with your meal but I had three out of the four courses you had and was really impressed. Especially with the duck dish.

              Seems to me like most people love Convivio so I would just like to add a positive experience to the thread for those who would like to see another viewpoint. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but I would I would hate for anyone to read this and be deterred from going there. Here is my review:

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/689412

              11 Replies
              1. re: steakrules85

                I didn't specify what I had - responding to another post here - I just found it all not so great. I doesn't matter though. Some people love the place as you do - some really not so much.

                1. re: steakrules85

                  steakrules85:

                  "Everyone is entitled to their opinion but I would I would hate for anyone to read this and be deterred from going there."

                  It seems as if that is exactly the thrust of linguafood's post and Jane A's followup though...

                  Apparently, some other posters have a very different opinion of this restaurant. I, for one, choose not to go here even after it being recommended to me by a friend that I trust because of the prevalence of not so positive reviews on this site and, reading this thread today, I'm very happy that I did.

                  1. re: steakrules85

                    "Seems to me like most people love Convivio

                    Nope, you;re wrong. Not everybody likes Convivio. Where did you get that oprinion from.? Most here on this thread didn;t like it.

                    1. re: steakrules85

                      Ironically enough, steak, your review was one of the reasons that prompted me to get a rez there. Maybe we just have different tastes/expectations/priorities. Who knows. I thought it was a waste of money, frankly, having had MUCH better Italian food for much less money.

                      And I STILL cannot believe they actually have a Michelin star -- which for some reason is not reflected in the prices, either. I've gone to one Michelin star resto in my life so far, and it was WAY more expensive. And better. But that's not the point.

                      I am glad you like it, and I think everyone needs to have their own special food haven, whether others agree or not.

                      1. re: linguafood

                        There are many restaurants with one Michelin star around Convivio's price range, at least in NYC, Seasonal, Casa Mono, Perry St. off my head.

                        I've never been to Convivio mainly because of its location, all the mediocre/bad reviews aren't tempting me to go all the way crosstown anytime soon...

                        1. re: uwsister

                          Well, next time we'll hopefully make better choices! As I said -- safe to stick to cheapo places that have fantastic food. Tons of those around, and really no need for a one-star meal. Ok, maybe one '-)

                        2. re: linguafood

                          Not sure where your other 1 Michelin starred restaurant was located, linguafood, but I've found that there's a huge difference between the food & service quality of the 1 Michelin starred restaurants in France, and the 1 Michelin starred restaurants I've visited in NYC and CA. I doubt most of the American 1 Michelin star restaurants I have visited would have any stars if they were located in France.

                          The prices of the last 1 Michelin-starred restaurant I visited in France was also considerably more expensive than 1 Michelin starred restaurants I've visited in L.A. + NYC.

                          1. re: phoenikia

                            Oh, the standards are far different, sadly.

                            1. re: phoenikia

                              It's this place http://www.margaux-berlin.de/ in Berlin. The total bill including tip was 420 Euro. Ouch. Great food, though, and it was a special occasion...

                              1. re: linguafood

                                Sounds pretty much in line with the prices at Greuze in Tournus :
                                http://www.hotelgreuze.com/restaurant/

                                Hope to try Margaux at some point- have never had a chance to dine at a Michelin starred restaurant on any of my previous trips to Germany...

                                1. re: phoenikia

                                  It's well worth it. I've yet to try Berlin's only 2-starred resto, Fischers Fritz. They are WAY out of my financial league, at least for dinner.

                                  But they have a good lunch deal I may just have to try this year.... one can dream '-)

                        3. "A waiter showed up and said "please enjoy, these are on the house." They clearly had made a mistake"

                          No, not likely. Every time we have dined there we have been given an assortment of sfizi. I don't think they do this for everyone, and don't know how they decide who gets them and who doesn't but who cares. Sometimes they have given us an extra appetizer or pasta too. What amazes me is that you seem annoyed that they gave you free food. And how can anyone complain that service was too attentive?

                          What I really love is the posters who have never been and won't go because of a few negative posts vs. the large number of positive ones. Someone is bound to dislike just about anything.

                          13 Replies
                          1. re: rrems

                            OK, maybe I was misinterpreting the fact that the three busboys looked thoroughly confused when I said I hadn't ordered any of these MASSIVE portions of food, and a waiter jumped in to "save the moment." That's what it seemed like to me, and, never having been there before, I suppose I wouldn't know that this restaurant is so generous, mediocre as their food may be.

                            The fact that I didn't thank the gods that our table was chosen for extra free food seems to annoy you more than anything. I thought 4 courses were plenty of food, and if I had wanted any of the sfizi, I would've ordered them.

                            Besides, the service wasn't attentive, it was downright intrusive. Clearly, we have different opinions.

                            There are plenty of things I like (read my trip report if you may, there's more than enough of chow-worthy finds that made up for this completely average experience).

                            AND, if you read through the entire thread, I have told people to go and find out for themselves. My review surely won't be holding someone back who's read the "large number" of positive reviews.

                            1. re: rrems

                              Thank you rrems I agree fully with your opinion.

                              1. re: rrems

                                "Someone is bound to dislike just about anything."

                                Perhaps... But:

                                1. I really haven't read that many bad reviews of EMP, LB or Per Se. So, any of these would be a much better choice and, in fact, one of them was;

                                2. Even the suggestion of bad service at a restaurant like this knocks it off my list. Much less this review from gutsofsteel: "The food was nothing special, at all, service was amateurish and inattentive and not gracious"; and

                                3. Why else do you look at reviews on chowhound but to help you decide where to go and where not to go? You shouldn't take it so personally that people have decided not to go to a restaurant that you and steakrules have chosen to champion.

                                1. re: StheJ

                                  EMP, LB or Per Se are in a completely different category. I love EMP but it is not a "better choice" or in fact a choice at all if one wants something in Convivio's price range.

                                  I do not take it personally that anyone chooses not to go to a restaurant that I like. Everyone is free to make any decision they want, for whatever reason. By saying someone is bound to dislike just about anything I simply meant that for any restaurant (or almost anything else for that matter) there will always be someone who will not like it, and if we base our decisions on the opinions of a small minority rather than a majority who do like it, we might miss out on something we would have liked.

                                  1. re: rrems

                                    A very large number of people like McDonald's and Pizza Hut. Does that make them good? People base their decisions on the reviews of posters they have come to know and generally find themselves in agreement with. It's not about majority or minority, it's about subjective experience. I gave this example earlier: if sushiman (a CH poster) says a sushi place is lousy, no matter how many people disagree, I'm not going to go there. That's because I trust his sushi judgement and I think our tastes are aligned.

                                2. re: rrems

                                  "What amazes me is that you seem annoyed that they gave you free food. And how can anyone complain that service was too attentive?"

                                  If I order a 3-5 course meal and then I am given a considerable amount of "free food," that throws off my meal. Yes, it's nice to get something 'free," but a good-sized portion interrupts the flow of what a diner may have planned. Amuse bouche are fine, but I will often turn down a "free" appetizer or even dessert if I feel I have ordered enough.

                                  Wait staff constantly coming to the table to pour water and wine into glasses that I've only sipped from is intrusive; I do not find this "attentive." Annoying is really what it is.

                                    1. re: ttoommyy

                                      Instead of quietly resenting your servers, why don't you tell them how you'd like to be served? I'd be shocked if they continued to refill your glass or hand you free food after you asked them not to.

                                      1. re: ml77

                                        I don't know who was "quietly resenting the servers". I certainly let them know that this was food we hadn't ordered. They left it there anyway.

                                        And how do you suppose I approach overzealous busboys constantly refilling my wine glass? "Hey, chill out on the refills, please?" My guess is I'd never see anyone near my table again....

                                        1. re: ml77

                                          In a pricey restaurant I do not expect to have to tell the staff how to wait table properly. The only instruction I would expect to give if it were relevant is to please let us delay ordering for a few minutes while we enjoy our drinks and conversation/meeting. Training staff is not the diner's job - and if it is, then zero tip.

                                          1. re: Jane A.

                                            Did someone suggest that you "train the staff"? Keeping wine and water glasses filled is standard practice. If you don't like it feel free to communicate that to the waitstaff or manager, but ZERO TIP??? For doing what management has trained them to do? And if you don't want extra dishes at no charge, simply say "No thank you".

                                            1. re: rrems

                                              Tips are for good service. If you have bad service, the tip should reflect it. I don't care if the restaurant trained them to fill a water glass every 3 seconds and hover over me - bad service is bad service. There is a difference between keeping glasses from being empty and coming to the table every 3 seconds. And yes, I would reflect that in the tip if it happened to me. At the prices Convivio is charging, I expect professional service. The problem I had when I ate there was the opposite - service was almost nonexistent.

                                              1. re: gutsofsteel

                                                Folks, this is getting off-topic into a general discussion of service peeves, and we'd ask that you let it go. Thanks.

                                    2. Folks, we've had to remove several off-topic posts about trusted reviews on Chowhound. If you want to discuss that, please start a new topic on our Site talk board.