Locanda Verde [New York City]
It always makes me a little nervous when restaurants sell themselves as “affordable.” What goes into a $14.99 four-course seafood feast? Is it really advisable to buy five dumplings for $1? Why was I so ill after trying the foie gras at a discount buffet?
Locanda Verde, opened in 2009 and headed by Andrew Carmellini, describes itself as not just “affordable,” but “airy” and “comfortable,” all adjectives better suited for a Craigslist apartment shill than a restaurant. Apparently, New York post-2008 is still a city where “affordable” means entrees averaging $30. Keeping with the austere times, Locanda Verde feels like a trendy gastropub with its exposed brick and unabashedly crowded dining room. We were ushered to our seats next to a table of two bleating about Obama’s betrayal of the liberal base.
This was going to be a great night.
I was willing to overlook all of this, especially since what I’d heard was generally positive. Locanda Verde’s New York Times review even included the words “groveling penance.” And if Carmellini and company can get the Grey Lady down on her knees, well…good for them.
We ordered some fruity drinks to start, brought to us by a waitress whose attitude was best described as a lovechild between Regina George and your classic absent-minded professor. Luckily, it was the food that had to sit with us during the meal, and not her.
The duck meatballs, apparently an import from Carmellini’s A Voce days, came in a neat, tender row of three. It was as hearty as any homemade meatball dish, elevated with a dried cherry mostarda that didn’t overwhelm the star of the plate.
Next up, a minty lamb Bolognese served over thick ribbons of pappardelle and generously sprinkled with ricotta. Unsurprisingly, this is similar to the spicy lamb and mint love letters at Babbo. The pappardelle might even be better—though it lacks heat, it makes up for it with better texture and a more satisfying eating experience. Plus, it doesn’t have a ridiculous name, unlike the love letters.
But here’s where it gets real. I know what you’re thinking. What kind of idiot orders chicken at a restaurant? The kind of idiot who is dead-set on stuffing as much delicious garlicky poultry down her throat as possible, that’s who. The fire-roasted chicken for two is an enormous portion of moist chicken and greasy veggies that smells as good as it tastes.
In fact, it smelled so good that the two Obama defectors were compelled to waft it towards themselves and comment on how lovely it was. And lovely it was, though I may have been too preoccupied with shoving chicken into my face to actually reply.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. We tried get the check before our food comas rendered us incapable of figuring out the tip. This took precisely five times longer than it should have. And when the check did come, there were two items totaling $40 that we hadn’t even ordered. We flagged our waitress down again, using a combination of roadside flares, radio distress calls, and a megaphone.
“Excuse me? We didn’t order these two—“
“I DIDN’T DO THAT. IT WAS THE BAR, THEY SHUFFLED SOME THINGS AROUND. IT WASN’T MY FAULT.”
With that, the offending tab was snatched from our grubby hands, to return corrected an eternity later. Whoo hoo!
By now, you may be wondering how many Princeton grads it takes to calculate the tip. It turns out, approximately two—one to finish the drinks and the other to debate whether deducting tip for crappy service was the moral equivalent of donating to Dick Cheney’s super PAC. In the end, Cheney has as much a right to a super PAC as anyone else. A quick skim of Yelp reveals that our experience was not an anomaly, which is really quite a shame.
Would I go again? Sure, but I also wouldn’t expect the service to align with the quality of the food, or the “affordable” prices. See you next time, Regina.