I'd like to enjoy Stella, I really would. It's one of my locals and I'd love to be able to support them.
They have a great location, right across the road from a grassy park and the beach. Parking is easy and the good food makes up for the very high noise level.
On the most recent occasion, a week night a few weeks ago, we were a party of 4 and were happy to have a table in the bow window.
We shared the Antipasto, which was very good. The veal in the Saltimbocca was overcooked; the Spatchcock was fantastic, and 2 had the Mussells - plump & delicious - with the sauce calling for an extra serving of bread to enjoy the last drops of it.
And that, as the joke goes ... is where the trouble started. Well, continued actually, but we'll get back to that.
Trying to attract our (any!) waiter or waitress's attention above the hubub of a full restaurant without waving like octopuses (octupi?) is impossible and eventually we succeed with our marine impersonations. We ordered a serving of bread and asked our waitress to bring us the wine list so we could order another bottle of wine, having enjoyed the Pike's Riesling and now deciding we'd have a red. And the jug of water we'd ordered when we first arrived, for which we were still waiting.
We didn't think either would take long - having finally convinced our waitress that we didn't want garlic bread - just plain bread or a roll, to soak up the now cooling mussell soup. We were wrong.
Eventually, we hailed a waiter and he went off in search of our order/waitress/the Elgin Marbles.
At this stage we were in severe danger of dehydration and finger drumming was providing an accompaniment to the babble. The mussel soup was clearly going to be a new version of vichyssoise.
Finally, I got up, found our waitress and asked where our order & wine list were. This was a good 5-10 minutes after the waiter had gone off to enquire - and by now something approaching 20 minutes since our first request. "I've been busy!" I went to the Bar, picked up a wine list and was on my way back to order it, when she arrived at our table with the bread and banged it down.
No wine list in her hand, I might add. I gave her our selection and asked her to bring it immediately, please. She did, with an attitude I last saw on a 13yo thwarted in her desire to go to a "Limp Bizkit" concert.
One of the men went to the Bar and came back with a jug of water & 4 glasses.
The cheese platter was excellent, and the sweet-tooth declared the Zuccotto one of the best he's had anywhere.
We thought we were home free ... a nice drop of red, good cheese, the noise level diminishing with the exit of other diners & we regained our bonhomie. By now the farce with the waitress had become the material for hilarious re-telling at future lunches & dinners.
And then came the coup de grace. The bill showed $15.60 for corkage
What? The wine was bought here! We had brought our own white, but decided the corkage cost made it a more sensible deal to have their Pike's at $38 and save our own. Ours was still in the wine carrier under M's chair.
Our bill was around $250 (excluding the $15.60 corkage!) Needless to say, there was no tip.
Anyone can have an off night and our waitress was outstanding in her efforts. I wish I could say hers was an isolated example, but three out of four occasions with "fairly off-hand" being the most complimentary description of the service is "3 strikes & you're out" as far as I'm concerned.
As a group & individually, we eat out a lot. We like good service, understand things can & do go wrong, and I don't think any of us could be described as overly precious. With Stella, the noise really is quite a factor, but the food is easily good enough to put up with that - but they do need to back the food up with reliably good service, and that's just not happening.
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