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Scampo: A big oily disappointment :(

Scampo was a colossal disappointment for us. Yes, yes, I know, it's Valentine's Day and we shouldn't have high expectations. Still, at this price point, it was a huge let-down.

It was my first time going; I was really looking forward to it, based on all the hype. Plus, I live right around the corner from it, so it was high time!

-I thought the space was nice enough, One teen-tiny niggling complaint is that the 2-top tables were arranged parallel-wise (not tilted diagonally), i.e., my DC and I sat far apart from each other instead of on two consecutive sides. Whatevs.

-Yes, I know we're in Boston, and we love our Hockey, but the flat screen playing the Bruins game was too much. How tacky. First, it's Valentine's Day, talk to your date, and go to the bar next door if you want to watch the game.

-We never received the famed breadsticks and fava bean/pine-nut puree that I'd read about. Boo! I didn't think to ask until our meal was well underway. I just hate feeling neglected, though, ya know? Show me some breadstick love.

-Ordered the roti to start ($4 plain, $10 with curry chicken on the side). They brought out with the $10 curry-chicken version, which I promptly sent back: I was not in the mood to be upsold against my will for $6 of chicken. This was supposed to emulate the crispy, light and flaky roti canai, ubiquitous at Malaysian restaurants. What arrived was one huge tasteless, unctuous disc of stale-tasting roti. This stuff was literally dripping in oil. Seriously, like, translucent in oil. I don't know if the oil wasn't hot enough, but the roti soaked it up like a sponge. You shouldn't be tasting the oil itself, but we did, and it wasn't a pleasant taste.

-Pizza with melted stracchino with sausage crumble, potato, and peppers. This was simply OK. The sausage was a tad bland, and couldn't cut through the starchiness of the potato and crust. I guess I haven't been a huge fan of schmancy pizzas lately - maybe I'm just a simple mushroom kinda guy. The crust was nice and light, though.

-Tempura green beans with two dipping sauces. Huge clumsy clumps of green beans, loosely coated in greasy tempura fry batter. Again, so extremely inedibly oily. Also, it only came with one dipping sauce, which was merely a weak aoili. I hate to admit it, but P.F. Chang's has a rendition of tempura green beans with spicy sauce that is amazingly addictive and made this seem nasty.

-Spaghetti bolognese. It was unremarkable. Lots of (pancetta?) bits, and no discernible heady umami liver-y taste that I have been looking for. Sigh. I NEED to get over to Sportello to try their bolognese.

-Spaghetti with cracklins and hot peppers. I know this dish gets frequent raves, but I thought mine was just OK. Greasy and rich, yes, but it's cracklins, so what do you expect. However, the cracklins themselves were tiny chop bits, like little pencil erasers. I had looked up pictures of this dish online beforehand, and they all seemed to come with big lively strips of porky goodness. It tasted better as leftovers the next day.

-Tiramisu, which we got to go, because at that point, we were very disappointed and just wanted to get back. Nice coffee taste, but the lady fingers were soggy dripping and made a normally light dessert, seem heavy like a tres leches cake.

Besides the weird roti upsell, and the breadstick neglect, the service was fine; waitress seemed pleasant.

Sadly, I was very let down considering all the good experiences I've read about Scampo on the board. Considering its price point, I don't think I would want to go back for a re-try. :( Very disappointed with my experience.

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  1. Yucko! I've not been and your review and Scampo's price point makes it unlikely to go. A quick stop at Penang for roti canai followed by Teatro for bolognese a block away.

    3 Replies
    1. re: gourmaniac

      Penang is my favourite restaurant that I forget about most. Let's go !

      1. re: Nab

        happy to meet. I work around the corner.

      2. re: gourmaniac

        Taking a small detour from the original post...B and I were let down by Penang recently. What do you like? We sampled a few iconic dishes - roti canai, asam laksa (too fishy - not nuanced enough...we had to choke it down), chow kueh teow (actually ok, but we wanted more heat from the wok), nasi lemak (our second favorite - B had a really bad version when we visited Penang in December so I was happy that this version turned him around on this dish). I think our favorite was the roti. But if there are other gems on the menu, please let us know. We're happy to dive right in!

        To get back on topic, we had a really fun experience at Scampo in Dec one night after work. Scooted into two seats at the bar and were taken care of by the two bartenders that Thursday night. I don't recall the details but we liked the lively room. We're sports fans so the TV didn't bother us one bit. We still could focus in on the food and each other, with appropriate glances at the game.

      3. For as much noise as they make about their breads and the oven, frankly I think it's the weakest part of the menu.

        I was there earlier this week. I'd had some spectacular campari tomatoes at home and figured, what the heck, let's see about a caprese in February just for fun. Not only were the tomatoes mealy and lifeless, the mozz was cold, firm, and devoid of flavour. The cracklin spag featured the tiny nubbins as you had, and the spaghetti aglio e olio was a near-perfect, harmonious version. In this case, the oil was a major highlight of the dish.

        I pretty much only go for spaghetti and few glasses of tinto, then I scamper.

        1. that sucks, but it is a terrible night to go out. the whole "holiday" seems carefully crafted to rake in every possible dollar for crappy food and weak service.

          the tv thing drives me insane. it makes me apoplectic when you are trying to talk to someone and when you go to make eye contact they are looking past you over your shoulder.

          the only thing worse is people looking at their phones, recently i have just stopped talking to people when they do this, at times right in the middle of a sentence. they look up and say "what?!?". its horrifying.

          4 Replies
          1. re: hyde

            Yeah, I know, I feel bad that I had to experience the place on a Valentines Day. I'm sure it's great when running on all 8, and Lydia in the kitchen.

            1. re: Prav

              I've only been twice, and both times Lydia was in the kitchen (or schmoozing), but only about 3 or 4 cylinders were running. Based on the atmosphere and the food I've had, it puzzles me how many people consider this place great.

              1. re: pollystyrene

                Perhaps their vegetarian offerings (which may have been what you had? Correct me if I'm mistaken) aren't as strong as their non vegetarian offerings? Although I do remember enjoying their corn ravioli and winter corn crema, their English pea ravioli, and their fried zucchini strings (all seasonal specials).

                1. re: barleywino

                  Possibly. It's disappointing, though, since most Italian places are safe havens for vegetarians (good memory, barlywino). I wish that corn ravioli had been on the menu when I was there; I'm a big sucker for a good version of that. Maybe I'll try them ONE more time.

          2. Perhaps you should send this detailed review to Scampo. My family who were at Mass General that day ate at Scampo for lunch. They loved the bolognese. I am confused that you didn't expect pancetta but rather a liver tasting bolognese. Liver in bolognese is rare (i expect you are thinking chicken livers which are a rare addition to the traditional dish). Pancetta is the norm.

            As far as the Roti, I rather doubt they were trying to upsell you. Considering you expected chicken livers in your bolognese, you clearly do not have an aversion to chicken. I am sure you could have simply told them that you ordered it plain. Since it was their mixup, I think it highly unlikely that they would have charged you for the addition. And if it looked oily on the original presentation you should have declined a redo.

            I'm sorry you had such a lousy experience. You should have been pro active and asked for the forgotten breadsticks mid meal to try.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Bellachefa

              Re: Roti - I did clear it up with them immediately, and they took the $10 roti off (and charged me the $4). No biggie. They were cool about it.

              Re: Bolognese - you're correct, I meant 'chicken' livers. Forgot to mention that the dish was a tad watery (which mirrored Nab's experience with this dish) which was a downer, too.

              I should express that, despite my experience (what with it being V-day and all), I would still tell folks to give it a try, based on the overwhelmingly positive things I hear about it when it's running on all cylinders, as they say. I'd be happy to give it another shot, if someone treats. :)

            2. Bummer! Do you know if Andrew was in the house? The place was running on all cylinders the night I was there. I definitely got the sense he was on top of things and paying attention to customers.

              1. "I had looked up pictures of this dish online beforehand, and they all seemed to come with big lively strips of porky goodness."

                I have had this dish (Spaghetti with cracklins) no fewer than half a dozen times in the last 2 years and never once had "strips" of pork. In my experience, the cracklins have been, at largest, the size of a dime and usually a tad smaller.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Gordough

                  The cracklings on the dish we had the other night were not "big, lively strips," they were small pieces.