HOME > Chowhound > Philadelphia >


Laban gives Radice 3 bells???

  • j

As if the Phillies loss wasn't enough. I am starting to wonder about a reviewer who can give a place like this 3 bells and yet consistently gave Littlefish 2 bells (the same rating, btw, he gave a place in Bala Cynwyd that served inedible, gluey soup). I have been to Radice and, believe me, if it was anything near 3 bells I would have returned often since it is so convenient to where i live. I have to wonder what the man is thinking. Since I was totally stymied, I asked him once if he was more lenient with suburban restaurants. He denied that. Well, Craig, Radice is not a 3 bell restaurant unless things have drastically changed in the last few months. Certainly, the decor hasn't, as you mention it feeling like a deli.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Sounds to me like there is some thing more going on in this review. Comes to light recently that Labans "cover" has been officially blown or perhaps they are more familiar with each other than one would hope. In the past I could basically echo Labans reviews about 90% of the time. Well based on this review no way, no how! Was it special dishes and effort for a special person or perhaps he just happened to get lucky and select only wonderful dishes??? I understand that relative to great food I am the one more likely to mistake the true artistry of a chef than is Mr. Laban; but on this one review something is not quite right With his cover blown, all in the business know who he is, he should focus on other endeavors as he now can only judge what the establishment serves to the Inquirer food critic and reviewer. Which has little relationship to what it is you and I might be served. Right on JanR.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Bacchus101

      I know of one local restaurant, the Northbrook Marketplace, where they had a photo of Craig tacked up in the kitchen; just in case he showed up (which he did) they wanted the staff to be aware of his presence.

      1. re: CindyJ

        I've worked at several restaurants in Philadelphia that have his picture hanging in the kitchen, so you are spot on CindyJ. I think his cover is blown at this point...

        1. re: LPhila

          Philly Mag published this photo of LaBan a year or so ago, so it's not much of secret anymore. On the other hand, while a waiter can give him special attention if they know he's in the house, I doubt that they can change the food much.

          1. re: Cruz

            I agree. His being recognized can't account for the three bells.

            1. re: Cruz

              It depends on the food. They can't re-make something that takes hours to prep/marinate/whatever, but they can, for example if he orders a steak, pick the best steak they have on hand and make absolutely sure it's cooked to temperature before they send it out.

              1. re: Buckethead

                Agreed that the food can't really be changed. I've never been to Radice so if the food is that terrible, probably nothing they could have changed for him would have been truly significant, unless they knew well in advance he was coming. In my experience when he was in the house, the server had to make sure everything was perfect, chef touched every plate to make sure it looked good, was hot, and so forth... more care than one might get ordinarily. It's hard for me to imagine that alone could change, for example, a one bell meal to a three bell meal.

              2. re: Cruz

                Based on this photo, I'm thinking people have known what he looks like for some time now.

                A few years ago, my husband and I were eating at Marigold Kitchen, and when he left to use the bathroom, someone asked me if he was Craig LaBan. I asked him if he thought Craig LaBan would be drinking a $7 bottle of Cavit, and he had to admit I had a point. But with different glasses, my husband could pass for the guy in that photo, so perhaps LeBan wasn't as incognito as he thought....

              3. re: LPhila

                I wonder whether anyone has ever questioned Craig on the issue of his anonymity in his weekly online Inquirer chats.

            2. re: Bacchus101

              I thought he goes to restaurants in disguise now? Or maybe that was just a joke.

            3. Unless something has changed since the two times I ate at Radice, this is a 1.5 bell restaurant.

              1 Reply
              1. re: RitterSportRules

                Yes that is about where I would rate it based on my visits. Interesting to find that some here believe a good chef could not enhance the food or that they would not do so when a Metro wide review is at hand which may make them or break them. Without a skilled chef and good ingredients to start, just knowing one is being evaluated would not alone enable a 3 star rating. I am sure Mr. Leban enjoyed the high quality food and good service he tagged as 3 Bells.

              2. I thought it was strange that he really didn't talk about the service, which he usually always mentions.

                1. This should not come as a huge surprise. He has his darlings.

                  1. I had two 3 bell meals at Radice. I would highly recommend it. I'll give you the uninspired decor but respectfully disagree on less than 2 bells.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Den

                      Would you expand on your comments - let us know what you had and why they were 3 bell meals?

                    2. I usually agree with Craig Laban's reviews and this time is no exception.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: thehungrything

                        Went again last night, and I have to agree, it is not a 3 bell restaurant. Maybe 2. Granted, I've only had a couple of the pasta dishes and a pizza, but they're nothing exceptional at all. The gnocchi is good, but rather heavy. The tortelloni was a disappointment and seemed somewhat tasteless.

                      2. and again...i am reminded of the bad experience we had there...anchovy in the pesto that they served with the bread before ordering...servers not knowing enuf about the menu to answer questions....just really not a 3 bell spot in my opinion!

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: ilovesummer

                          I am excited that I will be trying Radice with my friend on Sunday night for our annual Christmas dinner. It was her call as she knows I have been dying to check it out. She went early on - a couple of weeks after opening - and there were some "kinks" in the service. So it will be interesting to hear her perspective too - if things have improved.

                          1. re: Betharu

                            I believe your update, should you choose to do so, would be of interest to quite a few of us here. I look forward to your comments. Keep your eyes open for LaBan he seems to love the place

                            1. re: Bacchus101

                              I will definitely post an update next week. I am looking forward to an excellent dining week - Radice on Sunday night and DeTerra on Thursday night. Combine it with Bluefin sushi last night and I am a happy camper.

                              Who needs the city?!?!

                            2. re: Betharu

                              I have eaten here several times and love the food. However, I would not eat there on a Saturday night. It's way too crowded (good for them!) but I believe the service does suffer. However, what this does show is that there is definitely opportunity for good Italian food in the Blue Bell area.

                              1. re: gardens4me

                                So here is my review of Radice -

                                [1] The decor is VERY stark and uninspiring. White upon white upon white. Totally sterile and unappealing. Some artwork on the walls - subdue the lighting a bit - some candles on the tables. Anything would be an improvement.

                                [2] MAJOR GRIPE #1 - we had a 6PM reservation - were seated promptly - and then ignored for 20+ minutes. After being seated, we chatted with a waiter that my friend, MB, knew. Sat another 5 minutes. The same waiter walked by - MB asked - "Is our waiter ever going to take our order?" She was in the back with a large party. He did get us some water and take a drink order for us. Another 5 minutes go by - thankfully, we now have drinks and some bread. Another waiter. Jim, stops by our table and ask if our elusive waitress has appeared. NO! OK - I'll got over the specials with you - and he explains some questions we have about the menu. Another lapse - finally Jim back - I'll just take your order. OK Jim - why don't you just be our waiter - because I am not tipping the elusive waitress for her service! Halfway into our meal, MB says to Jim, are you now our waiter? Yes!
                                I must confess - Jim was excellent. Very attentive and helpful. But 20+ minutes before getting food ordered - 15+ minutes before I get a glass of wine - give me a break. Particularly when the owner is wandering around - smoozing the crowd.

                                [2] The food was excellent! We shared 4 small plates and one pasta. The 1st two plates to come out were the sea scallops and the crab crepes (a special). The taste was wonderful - but the food was lukewarm (MAJOR GRIPE #2). The pasta course was the gnocchi with a gorgonzola cream sauce - again excellent but not very hot. The final course, a polenta with ricotta and the eggplant parm, were bubbling hot - so much that we had to wait 5 minutes until attempting to eat.

                                [3] The wine was good - and glad to see not overpriced on the menu.

                                [4] Again - the owner came over at the end of the meal to ask how things were. He should be more aware of his floor and how the servers are working. To see servers standing around as we were waiting 15+ minutes to get a drink order taken is unacceptable.

                                MB's proclamation - she will never return. She took me there for our annual dinner because she knew I wanted to try it. But, she is a stickler for service, as am I. When paying over $100 for a dinner for 2 people, it should be impeccable. The restaurant was not crowded - there should be no excuses. For the same reason, I will not return to Brasserie 73 - for $150+ dinner for two with NO ONE in the restuarant - you should not be pouring your own wine!

                                No way its a 3 bell rating!

                                1. re: Betharu

                                  Very comprehensive review, thanks! Sad to say you have had many of the same Gripes which have been noted earlier. One would think they would have had enough time to "get it right"; if they are capable of doing so. It seems the sacred trifecta of good food, good service and good value continues to elude them. Agreed no way 3 bells.

                                  1. re: Bacchus101

                                    Yes - sad to say - 0 for 3 on all fronts.
                                    Its why I frequent places like Mirna's and Bocellis. Food is always good - and if it is not, they will gladly accomodate you. I am treated like family and, for the money you spend, the value is excellent.
                                    For example - Mirna's always brings out a complimentary salad for myself and friends when we dine there. Usually, its the house Caesar. But, last time we were treated to a broiled lobster tail on top of fresh mozzerella, tomato and pesto. Delicious! Those are the little things that make casual diners - regulars!

                          2. I'm was interested to see what Mr. Laban said about my recent dining experience at Radice. Here was my Q and his A in his chat today!

                            2:22 [Comment From BethBeth: ]
                            Craig - went to Radice two Sundays ago for a holiday dinner. I must say - I was very disappointed. Service was horrible! Not acknowledged for over 15 minutes - no waiter, no water for the table, no bread. We then played musical waiters for 10 more minutes to get our wine and ask questions about the menu. While the food was excellent, two courses came out lukewarm. And there should have been no excuses - the restaurant was certainly not busy for a Sunday night at 6PM and the owner was very present and should have noticed the situation. Others I have talked to have had similar experiences. Hope they get their act together because bad service is a death sentence for high end restaurants!

                            Tuesday December 21, 2010 2:22 Beth
                            2:23 Craig: Beth - I'm sorry to hear about that Radice experience. I've had largely positive responses regarding the food, but service seems to remain a sticking point. Hopefully they will read this chat, and be concerned, or those three bells won't last forever

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Betharu

                              Nicely done, Betharu. Thanks for sharing. I consider service almost equal to food in my opinions of a restaurant. But, hey that is just me.

                              However it is interesting to note that the Michlin guide bestows it stars, or not, based only on what is on the plate and what is worth a (1") stop in if near by ("2)detour to dine there,(3") or drive there as a destination. Given the driving standards I would not walk across the street to a restaurant with bad service or too much attitude: wonder how many "black holes" that would get Radice??? There is still hope considering the food is good by most reports.

                              1. re: Betharu

                                I would never eat at Radice on a Saturday night! Service terrible. Try weeknight instead. Service and food are both wonderful on a weekday night.

                              2. totally unimpressed - the food was eh, but contrary to a lot of the other comments we had excellent service - Bethany was our server and she was great. In my opinion, this most certainly would not make my top 50 list. We have so much better in the city and suburbs.

                                1. I ate at Radice for the first time this weekend and thought it was great. The wine list was nice and well priced. Definitely, I thought their strength was the pastas-- over the other small plates. It was absolutely the best lasagna I've ever had. I also thought their gnocchi gorgonzola was excellent. Pizza margarita was great-- I loved the crust, but would have preferred more of a sauce rather than the chunky tomatoes. next time, I'll try a different type of pizza.
                                  I had just been to Cichetteria 19 on Rittenhouse 2 nights prior and I think they do a better job of the seafood small plates. However, I will absoltely be back for pizza, pasta, and wine.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: xtian

                                    Thank you! Someone who doesnt hate this place! I loved their lasagne and gnocchi. The minestrone is also very good, as is the salad with shaved fennel.

                                    1. re: thehungrything

                                      It is good to hear that some here, including "the Leban", do like the food served here. My experiences, though few, have not been quite as good. Thanks for a "try this" list of the lasagna and gnocchi which xtian also thought was excellent. Those along with Margarita pizza will be reasons to revisit Radice; while I remain a bit skeptical of the Laban stars allotment.

                                      1. re: Bacchus101

                                        I second the recommendation about the gnocchi with gorgonzola!