When you pull into Puccini’s and park, you know why you have never been there. The nondescript store front is easy to miss. But I like that, it made me feel this place is special, like you are being let in on great secret. Once inside two of your senses are immediately assaulted. First, your smell, the garlic, the onions, the fresh herbs…wow, then your sight, our reservation was for 730, it was still bright outside, so when we walked in the door, we were blinded with sudden darkness, but once our eyes adjusted we saw a spacious front room, and a romantic wall of candles. So good so far. We were the first of our party of 6 to arrive, therefore when we were escorted to our table, past the open table/kitchen I took advantage of being early and seated myself so I could see the chef cook. I would like to interject here that I am a chef as well, I have an expensive culinary education, that I am still paying for.
We decide that we wanted to open our bottle of wine then, to let it breath, as the rest of our party arrives, with more bottles of wine. Puccini’s is BYOB, and they don’t charge a fee, and I like this, it’s like his website says “We want YOU to worry about the wine and let us concentrate on the food!” No problem there.
A young woman presents us with menus, tells us of the additions for the evening, and fills our water glasses. Meanwhile, the chef is in his kitchen, which is in the middle of the restaurant, slicing mushrooms, and pounding veal to order. At this point I thought I was in heaven. The menu may have been limited, but there was something for everyone, meat, chicken, and seafood.
Then the young woman came back to take our order…this is where the problems began. One of our friends wasn’t terribly hungry and asked if she could have the mussels appetizer as her entrée, and the young woman told her that because they don’t serve wine or liquor, that the chef prefers that you at least order an entrée. But the problem would be solved if you ordered two appetizers. This makes no sense to me, but we went with it, because we still had high hopes at this time. When another one of our friends, expressed her concerns about ordering her steak to the young woman, we were assured that the chef would cook the steak to her desired temperature, we were satisfied with her assurances and carried on.
I ordered the mussels in red sauce for my starter, but when the server/manager(?) put it in front of me it was mussels in white sauce, I told him what I ordered, and he returned the mussels to the chef, who then looked sternly at the mussels, and then to the ticket, realized his mistake, returned the original mussels to a hot pan, ladled on some red sauce, flipped them around a bit, put them back in the original bowl and sent them back to our table. This doesn’t really offend me because, I know the difference between white sauce and red sauce for mussels, and it’s just white wine, so I am willing to over look this. They were delicious.
When out main courses arrived, we oooo’d and ahhh’d at the presentation, and the aroma’s, and we waited only a short time for one entrée, and that was our friends steak. Yes she ordered it medium well, and yes we understand that that takes longer. When she cut into it…it was rare, perfect for me, but not for her. We called over the young woman, she picked up the plate took it back to the chef…who rolled his eyes in our general direction, and mumbled “amateurs” to the young woman, and thru the steak back on the grill. The chef was at this point visibly agitated with us, and continued to bang pots around, and berate the servers. This is when I lost my appetite. I felt like I was personally attacked by the chef. I believe, even though I like my steak cooked medium rare, that if a customer orders a steak well done, the steak should be cooked well done. This is not a matter of a something being over cooked. This is a matter of a chef with an ego so big, that he is going to serve you his food his way, regardless of the customers wants, blatantly, and unapologetically. I felt like this one chef is making the rest of us look bad. The way I see it is HE IS THE AMETEUR, I mean seriously, how can you not know how to cook a steak to order?
After we paid our bill, and were heading out the door, one of our friends pulled the server/manager over and told him what we experienced, that we are not “amateurs”, that we will never return, and that we will tell all of our friends not to bother coming here.
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