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Rez for Prezza, did I make a mistake?

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Greetings Boston folks, I'm new here but do try to contribute when I can to a certain travel site (rhymes with go-mores) and I will gladly follow up on these boards re: what transpires this weekend... my issue is this: my husband and I are getting away to Boston this weekend for some kid-free time, and this trip is a gift to each other for our birthdays and anniversary. I made 7 PM reservations for Friday night for Prezza after seeing it hailed here and elsewhere, and in the few moments I've had to look around more I've now found many reviews slamming their service.

I don't nailbite these things typically, but if we're spending what (to us) will be a significant amount of $$ on a good meal with good wine I'd like to have a strategy or two to deal in advance. Are there any particular servers we should request? We've little experience in the city other than Logan airport, and would like to stay in the NE on Friday. Thanks in advance for any help, even if it is just telling me to chill :)

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Prezza
24 Fleet St., Boston, MA 02113

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  1. Perhaps someone here can tell you a good table to request; otherwise, they'll just stick you behind the hostess station...Ask me how I know....

    1. Chill ≠ Chowhound.

      1. I had a horrible clip joint experience at Prezza recently. Ordered a reasonable bottle of wine and they (clearly) intentionally substituted it for a bottle 3X the price. The two have similar numbers on the wine list, which was also pretty clearly intentional.

        When I called them on it they only charged for the lower priced bottle, but the host had the routine down, complete with the, oh we get busted on this every once in a while smirk.

        I am leaving out MANY details which made it clear to me that this is part of their routine, but I was pretty shocked. Worst clip joint maneuver I have ever had anyone pull on me in Boston.

        Caveat emptor.

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        Prezza
        24 Fleet St., Boston, MA 02113

        6 Replies
        1. re: StriperGuy

          Wow, that's amazing...I am shocked with you and would love to hear more of the details...

          1. re: Bob Dobalina

            The complicated narrative of how it all transpired would take a page or so to really convey; better told over a beer. By the end of the interchange it was so obviously part of their well rehearsed routine, that I and the buddy I was dining with were stunned.

            If you want to inflict the same hustle on yourself order the Terrazas Malbec Reserva $36 (#230 on the wine list), but don't be surprised when you are served the Catena Malbec $88 (#320). Also, itt was not the Catena Malbec Alta on the web version of their wine list that we were served, but the regular bottling.

            The hustle included the waiter, to whom I was speaking Spanish, asking if I wanted #320, and I said "NO I want #230, the Terrazas, see here on the wine list" and him ignoring me and proceeding to bring the $88 bottle anyway.

            So in fact it was a double hustle. "Mistakenly" serving the wrong bottle, then serving the Catena Malbec ($24 retail) instead of the Catena Malbec Alta ($50 or so retail) that is on the list.

            1. re: StriperGuy

              Disturbing. I pay attention when they show me the wine (from long, hard-earned experience), and I know I've had to correct a server at Prezza at least once this way.

              Now I'm wondering if this is, as StriperGuy suggests, a standard practice. That would be ugly to uncover, as I really like the place otherwise.

              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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              Prezza
              24 Fleet St., Boston, MA 02113

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                The verbal exchanges with the waiter and the maitre d were so well oiled and well rehearsed that both my buddy and I had NO doubt that this was their routine for anyone ordering that particularly well-priced Malbec on their wine list.

                They then rely on MOST guests being to timid to bring the "mistake" to their attention.

              2. re: StriperGuy

                Yeesh. I'm reconsidering now - husband will be gone a looong time next year, so I wanted a nice night out., and this was pretty much the upper limit of what I was willing to pay. We're staying in Charlestown, hence looking in the North End. Looking at the "My Own Private North End" thread now...

                1. re: StriperGuy

                  The Malbec vs. the Malbec Alta is particularly shady - most people are not going to notice the difference _ I am sure I wouldn't have... Sounds like you got the smirk because you are one of the few people who have ever noticed.

                  Would be curious to have someone with a really good knowledge base go over that list with a fine-toothed comb to look for other lower grade wines from the same vintner that could be subbed in for the more expensive "alta"-like bottles and then running a little sting.

                  Surprised that they tried to slip by a lower grade Malbec on someone who was speaking Spanish!

            2. I am guessing that most restaurants in Boston will be fairly quite this weekend with the start of Yow Kippur being Friday at sundown. I would hope this would this would mean great service for everyone who choose dine out this weekend.

              21 Replies
              1. re: csammy

                Maybe in Brookline or Newton....

                1. re: csammy

                  Boston has a fairly tiny Jewish population, Newton and Brookline the exceptions.

                  1. re: StriperGuy

                    Who do you think dines (especially fine dining) on the weekends in Boston? People from the suburbs!

                    1. re: csammy

                      That's certainly true in the South End.

                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                      1. re: csammy

                        REGARDLESS the Jewish population is tiny. If every Jew in greater Boston decided to hit the restos on the same night it still wouldn't put much of a dent in things.

                        1. re: StriperGuy

                          well, we only all hit the chinese restaurants on christmas eve, so the rest of you all should be safe. as to prezza, i had a good meal here but a similar strange wine experience. the wine list included a sauterne we knew at an impossibly low price. we just didn't feel right not bringing it to the sommelier's attention, and asked if that was, indeed, the correct price. He went to check it on the computer and it was mismarked by over 200.00 dollars. He thanked us for bringing it to his attention. One of my dining companions noted that if we had ordered it, at the listed price, it would have been quite a bargain for us. The sommelier smiled and said "well, the computer would probably have come up with the correction when the bill was printed." we didn't discuss it further, but my dc did say the restaurant would, in fact, have been required to honor the posted price and he thought they should have comped our drinks for our civility in correcting their error.

                          1. re: teezeetoo

                            Apologies in advance if i've missed this discussion before but... How has this shltstorm gone on at Prezza without being mentioned for so long? I haven't seen any of this before which means you're all guilty of hiding an unpopular opinion. I'm pretty sure that Prezza is one of the most consistently recommended restos on this board, esp in the n end.

                            Also, LULZ at referring to Jews like this- "Who do you think dines (especially fine dining) on the weekends in Boston?" even funnier that you think there's enough Jews here to turn the city into a ghost town on YK.

                            -----
                            Prezza
                            24 Fleet St., Boston, MA 02113

                            1. re: Beachowolfe

                              This thread plus several other very recent reports of miserable service made me cancel. I don't expect fawning, new-BFF slavering from waitstaff, just competent and prompt service, and I didn't want to go in nervous and on guard (and triple-checking wine labels) when we'll be throwing major duckets down for a meal. So Taranta it is, that spicy lamb sounds very good... Thanks for the replies, all.

                              1. re: AHaugeto

                                Remember when you asked in your original post whether we should tell you to chill?

                                Please see my original post upthread. :D

                                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                  (laughing)
                                  yeah, I know. but this is an unfortunately rare opportunity for us. I don't have unrealistic expectations, but going in suspicious is not what I'm after. Thanks for your honesty.

                            2. re: teezeetoo

                              yes, they should have comped a drink or brought a dessert. this is quite curious, and disturbing. I don't go there often, but that truffled egg rav thing still knocks my socks off when in season.

                        2. re: StriperGuy

                          but they misrepresent proportionally dining out...

                          i have dined countless times at prezza and lost track of the numerous recs on this board. the owner has unearthed cellar bottles, not on list, for me at basement style prices and i have never felt anything but coddled there with service, food and wine.

                          this conspiracy theory sounds extra icky sour grapes.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            Would your extra attention there have anything to do with being an industry wine professional yourself?

                            I don't follow what you mean by "sour grapes".

                            I'm not going back on my longstanding love for Prezza, but I will keep my eyes peeled the next time I'm presented wine there. It's an unsettling anecdote.

                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                            -----
                            Prezza
                            24 Fleet St., Boston, MA 02113

                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              the misrepresent comment was referring to a particular demographic mentioned up-thread.

                              as for sour grapes, i'm only commenting on what's in this thread because i've never heard these complaints before and am wondering where people are finding them? have they been posted here on chow or elsewhere?

                              my treatment indeed may be preferential but i have seen the owner and maitre d' schmooze just about everybody in the joint whenever i am there.

                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                I'm still confused about how "sour grapes" applies. I take that to mean, "pretending not to care about something once you realize you can't have it". Or is it a wine term I don't know?

                                I'm sorry the OP opted not to go to Prezza based on this one incident. I haven't had cause to be suspicious of shady wine substitution practices at Prezza, but StriperGuy's story made me review my recent experiences there in my mind, and indeed, I caught the sommelier bringing me a bottle similar to but much more expensive than the one I ordered. At the time, I chalked it up to an innocent mistake; now I'm not so sure.

                                It's not enough to make me cancel an existing reservation, but the details of his experience get my antennae up.

                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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                                Prezza
                                24 Fleet St., Boston, MA 02113

                            2. re: hotoynoodle

                              I have absolutely NO axe to grind re: Prezza. I have eaten there 3-4 times over the years and enjoyed it.

                              The night in question I was out about town with a buddy and had hoped to just have a nibble at the bar, not a full on dinner. Bar was full and they seated us at the tall table behind the hostess station knowing we just wanted a bite, which was fine.

                              The clip joint maneuver that I experienced, they very obviously reserve for folks who are NOT regulars and order an inexpensive bottle of wine.

                              For folks who are "in the trade" and buying pricey bottles... well is it really necessary to spell it out for you?

                              And seriously, though Jews MAY or may not eat out more then other ethnic groups your stereotyping is questionable at best. There certainly are not enough Jews dining out in Boston that the Jewish high holidays would put any notable dent in restaurant traffic overall.

                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                fact is, i'm always on the hunt for underpriced bargain bottles and leave the big names with big price tags for those showing off on expense accounts. i'm not trying to get in a battle here, and simply will ask again where "all the complaints" are turning up that are causing folks to cancel reservations? other than this thread, it's the first i've heard of it.

                                striperguy, i like your posts and do not have a dog in this hunt. i certainly don't work at prezza, i just really like the place and have only had wonderful dining experiences there.

                                as for demographics and dining out, my 20-year career in hospitality has shown me that yes, the high holy days do INDEED cause a dip in business. it's not just about those observing holidays, but it means the clients they would have entertained don't come either.

                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                  I hear ya. Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                    Apologies, hotoynoode - I should have noted where I've heard/seen the negative vibes. I'll cop to peeking at Tripadvisor, which I typically take with a HUGE grain of salt and ignore anything more than 6-9 months old, and I have heard anecdotal evidence from a colleague employed at my company's location in Cambridge. This individual went midweek with some out-of-town colleagues and experienced brusque, if not downright rude, service and was left feeling that he should have thrown down his corporate card at the beginning to get better treatment (the food, however, was highly praised).
                                    As mentioned above, this is a rare opportunity for just my husband and I, and when I hear all this I just think meh, why bother. If it's that good it will hopefully stay that way, everybody has off nights, and if there is a problem brewing perhpas someone there will spot this and correct it.
                                    It's still on my to-do list for your city, just not this time. Thanks for the discussion.

                                    1. re: AHaugeto

                                      as an aside, recently recommended prezza to an acquaintance who had peeps coming from out of town, including some not-so-adventurous eaters. no connection to me making the rez, did not blow the lid on expensive wines and they had a fantastic evening, both food and service.

                                      the sommelier shenanigans described above are really bothering me. people fear us enough and stories like this just give credence to their trepidations. if it really was underhanded actions, rather than a mix-up, that sort of behavior does a true disservice to a profession about which i feel very passionate.

                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                        I hear ya.

                                        Thing is, by the end of the interaction, the reality of them being "busted" was just so obvious.

                                        As we left neither me, my buddy, the waiter, or the maitre d' had ANY doubt that they had been caught trying to pull a fast one.

                                        In fact, after we called them on it, the waiter did not show his face at our table again AT ALL and the maitre d' took our final check.

                                        I mean honestly, I couldn't make this stuff up.

                                        The feeling I had was that they MADE the waiter do this, and it was not something he was particularly proud of. i.e. "when they order the cheapo Malbec you know the drill."

                          2. I am really confused about the North End. Cannot really figure out where to eat. All the info on Prezza is all over the place. Rave reviews here and terrible reviews on Zagat. Now after seeing this post, I am more confused than ever. Traveling to Boston for the first time in October and would love to ate at a North End Italian place that is classic and well-established. I have it narrowed down to two, Prezza and Mamma Maria's. Any advise would be helpful.

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                            Prezza
                            24 Fleet St., Boston, MA 02113

                            Mamma Maria Restaurant
                            3 North Sq, Boston, MA 02113

                            11 Replies
                            1. re: smoot60

                              It's tough to know who to trust online, for sure. One useful thing about Chowhound that is not true of Zagat is that you can get to know individual reviewers' opinions, their likes/dislikes. You can figure out if they're the sort of person you'd like to get advice from, though it's tougher for a visitor who doesn't know the places being discussed.

                              I'd say the consensus on this board is that Prezza is one of the North End's best. I admire it for being a full-service restaurant -- offering parking, valet, reservations, a full bar, dessert, a serious wine list -- which many North End places are not. And the food is generally excellent, a mix of modern, Northern-leaning Italian and wood-fire-grilled chops and steaks. It's modern-looking, with high-touch service, and expensive by neighborhood standards.

                              I like Mamma Maria better than many people here. It's the most formal (some might say slightly stuffy) place in the North End: white tablecloths and tuxedoed waiters, located in an old townhouse with a mix of larger and smaller dining rooms (including one that only seats two people). Very traditional, mostly Northern Italian, a good wine list. It can be romantic or suitable for business entertaining (which is more often how I use it). It's also full-service, though it lacks a big, comfy bar like Prezza has. It's also one of the pricier places in the neighborhood.

                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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                              Prezza
                              24 Fleet St., Boston, MA 02113

                              Mamma Maria Restaurant
                              3 North Sq, Boston, MA 02113

                              1. re: smoot60

                                I have been to Prezza a couple of times at least, but the last time was several years ago. I always had good food and service. Over the years I have been to Mamma Maria more often and always enjoyed my meals there. They are consistent.

                                -----
                                Prezza
                                24 Fleet St., Boston, MA 02113

                                Mamma Maria Restaurant
                                3 North Sq, Boston, MA 02113

                                1. re: smoot60

                                  To add to your confusion, and I do not claim to know a lot about Italian food, i like Rialto in the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square. It won best Italian restaurant in Boston in Boston Magazine for what that is worth. I also like Coppa in the South End and recommend their pizza and home-made charcuterie. I am a fan of Ken Oringer's restaurants. I have never found dining in the North End exciting but there are more experienced people on this board.

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                                  Coppa
                                  253 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

                                  1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                    I like Rialto very much as well. I think it is one of the most authentic Italian restaurants in the area and we enjoy the changing menu. However, IMO, Best in Boston magazine and $2.00 will buy you a ride on the T. One word of caution, recently I have seen Rialto mentioned in several threads lately like this one where the OP is not familiar with the area and is clearly looking for something in the North End. Harvard Square is not very convenient to the North End, particularly for someone unfamiliar with Boston.

                                    To the OP, I have had nothing but excellent experiences at Prezza. You have been adeuately forewarned about the reported wine issues, so just keep a close eye on that and report back if there is a similar issue. Otherwise enjoy it. Prezza is tops in the NE and you will love the food.

                                    1. re: Gabatta

                                      Good point about Harvard Square though Rialto is located about 2 blocks from the harvard red line stop which I consider convenient as long as one is willing to use the subway.

                                      Your caveat about Boston Magazine is understandable but perhaps a bit harsh. They may not locate the best places but most of their choices are reasonable; I mentioned my skepticism about Boston Magazine in my previous post.

                                      1. re: Gabatta

                                        I used to believe that Boston Magazine was Phantom Gourmet-like, i.e., entirely bought and paid for by advertisers, especially after they picked Joe V's as "best new neighborhood restaurant", but in the brief period I freelanced for them, they gave me a bunch of Best-of awards categories to choose (why did I get all the fried foods, I wonder?) and pretty much used my choices verbatim. Unless, of course, that was a clever ruse to get me to tell this story and throw Chowhounds off the scent of naked graft.

                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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                                        Joe V's
                                        315 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                          I am skeptical of any 'Best of' lists, and historically have found Boston Magazine's recs to be hit and miss (with some real head scratchers thrown in). I think they (and other sources) have improved somewhat, I suspect in part due to borrowing information from sites like this. I fully expect a publication to come out with a suggestion article/list which is a direct list of Striper Guy's evolving tome posted here.

                                          I am happy to know the fried food winners in BM are solid though. It would be great if they let you do all of the awards, but than again that would just mean that any good spots which might be a bit under the radar would be overrun once the issue came out.

                                          1. re: Gabatta

                                            the problem in boston appears to be that good places such as Unique close due to lack of patronage rather than many places get overbooked. I think that Chowhound and Slim do Boston a service by giving restaurants a chance to succeed.

                                            i also am skeptical of lists especially when advertising dollars are used to support a publication. But just because I do not agree with the BM, how nicely put, does not mean that their choices seem unreasonable. Go over the main recommendations in their last Best of issue and see what you think.

                                            Yes, there were a lot of Ken Oringer restaurants, but I really like Clio/Uni and Coppa. Oringer was the souchef for Jean Georges Vongerichten when JG was in Boston; that says something to me.

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                                            Coppa
                                            253 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

                                            1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                              As a longtime BM subscriber I do read that issue every year, including last year. I still think the Boston Mag recs are hit and miss (regardless of the pedigree of any of the represented chefs). Even the hits are not often representative of the 'best'. Sorry to have a differing opinion on this.

                                              1. re: Gabatta

                                                Agreed, there are still plenty of howlers each year. I was just surprised that they honored my contributions a few years ago: I'd felt certain I'd get the "Well, what do you feel about this *cough* sponsor *cough*?", and didn't.

                                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                    2. re: smoot60

                                      Why go classic and well-established? The best places are often the young pups as often as the old dogs. Neptune, Taranta, Mare - all as good if not better than the classic places.
                                      Or better yet, avoid the North End whirlpool and go to other Italian places (both classic and nouveau) in other parts of the city. Just saying...

                                    3. Sit at the Bar instead and let Lisa take care of you, much better service and a mighty fine pour of wine by the glass.