Usually, I sit on unfavorable reviews for a week or so. But if i could emit steam from my ears, I would have because Sabrina and I were fuming after we left Novita. So obviously, in the past 12 hours, I’ve been giving alot of thought as to how I would blog about our experience. I decided that writing a letter to the chef and owner would best capture everything.
This letter is long, so I will sum it up in this paragraph:
The food was superb. Novita clearly understands how to cook pasta. But great food can only get you so far and it’s no wonder how a restaurant with such impeccable food has found itself virtually unrecognized since its inception in 1994. The server was beyond rude to the point of insulting and worse- the manager didn’t give a crap. Novita may have received a favorable review from The New York Times, but the review clearly omitted the service element. If you’re considering dining at Novita, I’d highly advise you to think twice, or to at least read the reviews regarding the service on Yelp. I am not one to care that highly about service, but clearly my experience went beyond that “subpar” service encounter. I walked out of the restaurant feeling insulted. It is a pity- even heartbreaking- to see a restaurant with such potential in its food throw it all away because it doesn’t care about its service.
You can have the greatest food in the world, but if you don’t change the way you treat your patrons, you’ll never make it beyond mediocre in New York City.
Dear Chef-Owner Marco Fregonese,
Where to start?
Let me begin by telling you that I’ve passed by Novita, day after day, for six months. I lived on 23rd and 3rd and often walked pass what I think is a gorgeous and architecturally well designed restaurant. At night, I’d peer through the ornate windows, past the candle-lights and patrons. I promised myself that one day, I’d dine here. A few months later, Novita received a favorable review from the New York Times, earning a coveted “very good” from Sam Sifton. After another friend went for brunch only to tell me that “I must go to Novita,” I finally began planning for a dinner at your restaurant.
It was difficult to procure a reservation, especially after the Times’ review. But yesterday night, I secured a seat for two at 6pm. We were extremely excited because we read about all of the rave reviews and knew that the food wouldn’t disappoint.
We walked in and even at 6pm, the dining room was half full, a testimony to the strength of your food. We were seated within seconds, handed menus within another few seconds, and our server, D-, asked us about drinks. All of this happened within a minute. For any restaurant, this was the perfect scenario- the timeliness of the execution affirmed the need to turn over the tables quickly, which is completely understandable, and we disregarded how rushed we felt.
D- came back promptly to tell us about the specials. He rambled on in his authentic Italian accent, and out of the six dishes or so that he featured, I caught about three of them while Sabrina couldn’t understand a single word. D- seemed distracted and disinterested, as if there was a party going on in the kitchen and he was missing out. Was it because we looked like college kids or because we were only a two-top that caused this “attitude,” I don’t know. But even at this point, we brushed away D-’s rudeness.
Eventually we ordered our pastas. D- was clearly an experienced server. His arms were folded while we ticked off her orders. D- nodded, concealed a little yawn, and went off to the kitchen. Seriously? Should I have sang out that order?
The appetizer was spectacular. Let me tell you- I don’t even like shrimp, but I thoroughly enjoyed the crispiness of the pan-fried shitake and how well the flavor of the shrimp complemented the mushrooms. I even gave D- points for telling the kitchen to split the appetizer by giving us separate plates. It was a kind gesture.
Spaghettini Neri Ai Frutti di Mare black spaghettini with mixed seafood and spicy tomato sauce ($22) & Gramigna Alla Carbonara special macaroni with eggs, pecorino romano, guanciale and black pepper ($18)
Our entrees arrived in a timely fashion and once again, the food was amazing. Sabrina was impressed at the perfect al-denteness of her spaghettini and how the pasta fully absorbed the flavors from her sauce. I was equally as impressed at the texture of the macaroni. It was boyant and springy, a bit too al-dente, but clearly appropriate for the dish. I appreciated how the carbonara wasn’t too creamy and had just the right amount of cheese and bacon. It was everything that I could have asked for and I would have gladly forked over the $18.
But while your food was impeccable, your service was not. Halfway through the meal, D- bumped into Sabrina’s chair and almost tripped over her shopping bag. Instead of politely asking her to place it underneath her table, he rudely mumbled something discernible, but we caught the latter end of it which sounded something like, “move your bag because I just tripped over it.”
After the runners cleared away our food, D-, prompt as an alarm clock, came by and dropped the dessert menu without a single word and just left. No, “would you like any dessert,” or “how was your meal?” Never once did he ask if we wanted anything or how our food was. We forgave him for that. But to just drop two menus on our table and walk away as if we were undeserving of being spoken to is just outright rude. Furthermore, after we informed D- that we didn’t want dessert, he dropped the check within seconds. We left two credits cards and and he took them without even acknowledging how the check should be split. What if we weren’t splitting it evenly?
Sabrina tipped D- $2.70 more than he deserved and I $3.00 more than he deserved. Honestly, D- deserved no tip. We tipped a bit over 10% as a respect to the runners.
And as we were leaving, we dropped a word with your manager, informing him of the service. Your manager didn’t give a crap. He gave us a fake attempt at a “I’m sorry” and we heard him mumbling in Italian after. Never have I heard an apology so insincere.
I would rather dine at a restaurant with food less superior to yours, but where my business is at the minimum, appreciated.