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how to address a bad meal? and lack of manager attention.

We went to a Italian restaurant in Hatboro on Saturday 1/5/13 at 5 pm intials PF. The service was ok, but the food was not. everything on the menuu was al la carte and very overpriced for a macaroni and gravy iIalian restaurant. We ordered a "special" salad which cost $9.95, it was a mozarella cheese, avocado and tomato salad with a garnish of olives and roasted peppers. the 4 pieces of mozarella were the size of 1 piece of Bonbel cheese, the avocado were 4 slivers, the tomato slices were small and the olives were tiny and the peppers were right out of a jar. We tried getting the attention of the manager, but he was too busy handing out complimentary bruschetta to every table, except ours and ignoring us. He honestly avoided every attempt we made to get his attention. My husband's special broccoli rabe, sausage and orrichette was ok, but had at least 2 inches of grease in the bottom of the bowl and cost $18.95, my rigatoni with marinara wa $13.95 and half of the pasta was overecooked and the other half was not even al dente. Should I call this restaurant or just write it off as a bad experience and not go back to this restaurant. This actualy was our 3rd visit to the restaurant.

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  1. How were you last two experiences? I would definitely contact them. They are local and small if I am correct. They need all the business they can get! I am personally all done with paying top dollar to dine out and being served subpar food.

    1. If I owned this restaurant I would want to know and if the letter were written respectfully and the details concerning the poor quality were detailed and sincere I would comp 2 meals. I would also be pulling time sheets to see who was working.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Tom34

        Tom34, you are correct- even if you didn't offer a comp. If somebody has a complaint, you need to hear it and make amends if necessary. You'll be bombarded by assholes looking to get a comped meal, but you can tell those types, most likely, if you're a restauranteur. Oh man, those comp scrounges are so horrible to me.

        1. re: EWSflash

          That was my thought pattern...as an owner, you have to know and correct the problem so it doesn't keep happening and at the same time make good to the customer. As I posted below though, usually, if there is a problem with a meal, it is quite apparent from the start so inform MGMT after a few bites, NOT after it looked like a dog licked the plate clean! The latter will most likely result in it being the most expensive meal you ever ate after a Judge nails you with retribution, fines and court costs.

          1. re: EWSflash

            About a year ago, we were dining at a very up-scale NYC restaurant. My wife's crab dish (early on in the tasting menu), had a bit of crab shell in it. As we are from New Orleans, and are used to such, regarding crab, I hesitated, but whispered my observation to our service captain, just to alert the kitchen that some shell had escaped their eyes.

            In moments, we were presented with another dish, plus a wine for THAT dish, over the "sommelier's pairing" for the tasting menu. I pulled her aside again, and complained, as all I wanted to do was point out a potential issue. She looked into my eyes and stated "We expect 100% perfection from our kitchen, and greatly appreciate your observation. This is our way of saying 'thank you,' and hope that you enjoy. Then she shaved a giant truffle on that "replacement" dish, and poured an extra wine. Not only was that replacement dish missing from the tab, along with its wine, but she reduced the price of the Chef's tasting, and Sommelier's Pairing, to remove that dish, plus its wine.

            Wow, not what I had expected, nor anticipated. I only wanted to wave a tiny flag to the prep stations for the crab. Nothing more.

            Even with a tiny bit of crab shell, I could not have asked for that much, and certainly no more.

            Some management is just better, than others.


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              Nice story. Not every restaurant can afford to do what this particular restaurant did, but they can use this as a model for best practices and do something in a similar vein commensurate with their budget.

        2. Personally i would just never go back

          1. BTW what did you have previous visits that made you want to visit again?

            The price points on the Pasta Fazoul menu are reasonable.. 15 dollars for pasta and 5-7 dollars for salads. This is not trying to be haute cuisine by any means. Perhaps you just learned never to order the specials here.

            1 Reply
            1. re: cwdonald

              Agree with CWDonald.
              Frankly, I think you should not entertain the idea of returning. There are many other restaurants to choose from. You realy don't need this particular one and they will survive fine without you.

            2. Write a very nice letter, mentioning that it was your third visit. Explain your frustrations and see what they do. If they care, they'll reply. If not, nothing lost.

              1. I tried e-mailing them on their website and the "contact us" link did not work. i will snail mail them and tell them about our experience and see what happens. i will post the results.

                1 Reply
                1. I suppose one had to be there to full appreciate all your issues. However, I believe I would have insisted that the wait person send the manager to your table. If that did not work, as you had identified him, walk up to him and ask for his attention to your issues. After 2 previous visits and the return for a 3rd, one might think that it was just an outlier experience. I would make note of it and perhaps phone the manager during an off hour to understand his position on the situation. At other establishments which have fallen below my expectation or previous visits; I have noted that to the management and sometimes follow with "I expect an adjustment". Most frequently an apology and an adjustment , of some kind, is forthcoming.

                  1. Depends on what you hope to achieve.

                    An apology? Something comp'd? An opportunity to get it off your chest? An assurance that if you go again, the chefs will be able to cook properly? An assurance that in future you'll get more food for your money?

                    I can only recall one time when I've contacted a place. And that was because, on our way out, the chef/owner asked "how could we improve things" (it hadnt been at all bad, by the way). I didnt have a ready answer but thought about it overnight and emailed him next day with some suggestions. Never got a reply. I'm happy to write off a less than stellar experience - there are many new places to try and many old places to go back to.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Harters

                      A comp would not really help because I really do not want to go back to the restaurant. I would like an appology or even a response from the restaurant. I am not anticipating a response, but we will see.

                      1. re: buggysmom

                        Plenty of other places to go so if you never intend on going back treat it like a bad date and move on.

                        1. re: buggysmom

                          Sounds mostly like you want to get it off your chest.

                          If that is the case, write your letter, state your disappointment, tell them you DON'T want a comp, and that you'll be taking your dollars elsewhere.

                        2. re: Harters

                          I have a similar attitude toward bad restaurant experiences. Really, if the food or service is that bad, I don't have much confidence in the staff's ability to correct it, nor do I wish to suffer from their well-meaning attempts to do so, so I'd rather just let it go. I've wasted money on worse things, life is short, and good restaurants are plentiful.

                        3. "We tried getting the attention of the manager, but he was too busy handing out complimentary bruschetta to every table, except ours and ignoring us. He honestly avoided every attempt we made to get his attention."

                          Why did you not actually get up and ask him to come to your table? If it was really that important to you, you should have done that. When I want something, I proactively go after it. If just sitting at your table and attempting to get his attention did not work, the situation then called for you or your husband to take control of it. Sitting there and complaining to yourselves about undercooked food that you are paying a good price for is unacceptable, in my opinion.

                          1. If you felt that the place was "very overpriced" why would you consider returning after the first two visits?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: foodieop

                              the first two times we went to the restaurant we were attending birthday parties and the hosts had picked out the food choices and no menus were offered.

                            2. I would go with a formal letter, stating all concerns.

                              Good luck,


                              1. As a former restaurant owner operator I find it hard to believe the manager didn't know what was being served. It's unlikely that only you received crapy meals that night. I'm guessing your 'body language' told him to stay away from you. IMO I wouldn't go back. Chances are he's had more than enough complaints to get the picture but apparently didn't do what was necessary to change things.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: Puffin3

                                  You are probably right about the body language, I guess I did scare him away. He may have had a kitchen problem that night and believe me I do understand that, but if he was having a problem in the kitchen, he was too busy sucking up to his regulars to address it. We have a family member who works in the food service and I shared our experience with them and they were horrified by the cost of the food, the lack of quality and quanity.

                                  1. re: buggysmom

                                    I said it up above and I still do not understand: why did you just not go up to him? I don't mean in a confrontational way, but in a a polite "excuse me, may I speak with you at our table?" way.

                                    1. re: ttoommyy

                                      Yeah, you darn well would have heard from the MGR if you demanded a bill reduction at the cash register.....so your right....its a 2 way street and as long as its non confrontational it shouldn't be a problem.

                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                        The point is that she shouldn't have to.

                                        1. re: PotatoHouse

                                          Of course she shouldn't. But is sitting there with poorly cooked food and being aggravated a better alternative? Sometimes life does not go exactly the way we assume it should. Getting up from one's chair, politely asking to see the man when he is free and sitting back down at one's table is not that much of an inconvenience and would have helped to rectify the situation then and there.

                                  2. I had the worst restaurant meal of my life thus far at a mid-scale place in my town last fall. Dried out chicken, sauce that had congealed in tepid clumps on my plate, over-nuked vegetables. I called the waiter back and explained the problems. He did not look the least surprised, immediately took it off the bill and offered me a gift certificate for another meal, which I will never use because the food was so bad I don't want to chance it again. You have every right to contact them with your complaints, but just don't go back if you don't want to.

                                    1. One thing to keep in mind is the "reasonable prudent person theory" for terrible food. In practicality it goes like this: If you take a bite or two and immediately advise the server of a serious problem and the problem is not fixed you don't have to pay for that meal. On the other hand, if you eat 1/2 the meal & then complain and refuse to pay a Judge may well find Probable Cause for theft of services complaints. I know this is extreme for this situation but something to keep in mind for the future.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: Tom34

                                        I never understand people who suffer through a bad meal, eating most of it, fume about it, then decide to complain. If something is wrong with the food after a few bites, as you said, or if service is bad within the first 10 minutes of being seated, I say something. Why would anyone sit there and accept it? I wish someone could explain this to me; I am honestly puzzled by this behavior which I read about over and over again on these boards.

                                        1. re: ttoommyy

                                          Yeah, its puzzling just what some people complain about and just as puzzling what they don't complain about at the moment when they should complain. Couple bourbons here so I hope that made sense.

                                          1. re: Tom34

                                            And after a couple of bourbons...what's to complain about? :)

                                            1. re: Tom34

                                              Perfect sense, but then, I have moved from white wine to red, so might not be functioning at 100%. Still, I agree, FWIW.


                                            2. re: ttoommyy

                                              Good point. If it's bad, do not eat it. Call a server over, and quietly explain the problem. If they cannot handle it, then ask for the incident to be escalated up to a "captain," or owner.

                                              Do NOT eat bad food.


                                          2. If I were the owner I think I might just ignore your letter.

                                            Your statements "at least 2 inches of grease in the bottom of the bowl" and "half of the pasta was overcooked and the other half was not even al dente" are both hard to believe to be literally true and not stretches of your imagination.

                                            I would tend to believe that the rabe and sausage may have left a liquid residue with some of the extra virgin olive oil added to finish.

                                            I would also believe that it is possible that some of your rigatoni were unevenly cooked, it would not be possible that 50% of the rigatoni were under cooked and 50% were over cooked.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: GraydonCarter

                                              I actually appreciate your comments, but unfortunately my comments were not exagerations. All of the comments I made were spot on. My daughter is a trained cook and I posted my comments after I consulted with her. We did not take home the remaining orrichette, but did take home the rigatoni which she tasted and agreed with my assessment of the pasta, about 1/2 of the rigatoni was less than al dente and the rest was overcooked and mushy. I wish I could have praised the meal and be very anxious and very eager to return to the restaurant, but I don't and I feel that I do have legitimate complaints about the meal and the manager.

                                              1. re: buggysmom

                                                You had a bad meal, you already know "management" doesn't care, you don't want to go back, so don't go back. Write a letter if it makes you feel better, do not expect a response.

                                                1. re: julesrules

                                                  I decided that it was not worth the effort to follow up with anything to do with this restaurant. I just won't return. I did notify the people who had introduced us to the restaurant for their birthday parties and they said they would probably not return either.

                                                2. re: buggysmom

                                                  This specific response about the al dente/mushy pasta intrigued me. Many years ago, when I was thinking about getting into the restaurant business, I did some prepping in a very busy, popular restaurant in North Beach (San Francisco). If you know North Beach, they have more than a few Italian restaurants, and as you can well imagine, they had a large section of the menu dedicated to various pasta entrees. I spent a good hour or two portioning a huge amount of pre-cooked pasta to a specific weight, then wrapping the portions in Saran Wrap, to be finished off for service when the orders came in (drop portion in pot of boiling water, finish with sauce etc). So if the restaurant you dined at was smart and utilized that prep method, it would be difficult for there to be 2 different degrees of doneness. If they didn't precook the pasta, then it suggests a kitchen lacking not only in organization (prep) but as you say, ultimate execution.