If You Can’t Say Something Nice…

Then you shouldn’t go to Fratelli Tratoria.

What to do on Saturday night with a thirteen year old in tow? Our old reliable Porter House was out of the question. Smoky bars and kids don’t mix. And when we called another local restaurant, Janice, we were told that it would be an hour and a half wait for a booth! Sorry, the food isn’t that good. Actually, I wouldn’t wait that long for any restaurant on the planet. To be fair, Janice is a nice bistro, with some well-made food, if you order carefully. My suggestions were quickly dismissed. Barbecue? Who would eat barbecue on Saturday night? I would, happily, and maybe even for breakfast on Sunday morning. But that was not to be. We weren’t out of choices however. How about a really crappy Italian restaurant that makes you feel like you are eating in a crowded, loud bar, but without the benefit of, you know, booze? And to make it just perfect? The service is really bad. Great choice! 

The last time we ate in this restaurant, the waiters started putting the chairs onto the tables around us as we were eating. Admittedly it was late, but it was before closing time, and we weren’t the only people in the place. So I knew what to expect, and I wasn’t disappointed. We were seated quickly, and the table was set correctly, and with clean linen. This was the highlight of the meal. Our waiter offered us sparkling or still water, and in our naiveté we said “still,” assuming that it wasn’t going to come out of an overpriced bottle of filtered municipal water. We were wrong. And when we told the waiter that all we wanted was tap water, he went off in a huff. We had to ask three times before we got what we wanted, and the last request was in my “I am leaving if I have to ask again” voice. In his defense, he was probably instructed by the boss to sell as much over-priced water as possible, if he wanted to keep his job.

Yes, yes, you say. So the service was awful. Most restaurants in America have awful service. But how was the food? My wife ordered Bruschetta. It was soggy, although the toppings were nice. I ordered Polenta al Funghi, which sounded pretty good; “mushrooms sautéed in white wine and herbs served over grilled polenta.” But in reality, the white-wine-and-herbs was canned gravy, and the mushrooms were…I have no idea what they were, but they didn’t taste much like any mushroom I have eaten. Although that might have been because the sauce was so salty my mouth dried out. The polenta wasn’t bad. It wasn’t grilled either. Oh, the Caesar salad? Resoundingly mediocre.

Shockingly, they partially redeemed themselves with a fairly good Margherita pizza. Nice crust, the sauce wasn’t too sweet, and the cheese didn’t overwhelm the rest of the ingredients. My ravioli Bolognese will be left to your imagination. However, I can say with complete confidence that they did not use Marcella Hazan’s recipe for Bolognese sauce. We also got a side of spaghetti with a plain tomato sauce that wasn’t awful, although it was better the next morning fried up with some prosciutto, parmesan cheese, and a couple of eggs.

This kind of food is not difficult to prepare. These are simple dishes, and executed well are wonderful to eat. But in the interest of maximizing profit, some restaurants will skimp and cheat and take the easy way out. Combined with indifferent (or, more accurately, bad) service, one would expect a brief life. But this is the ‘burbs, where any restaurant, no matter how bad, has a decent chance of survival, and in this case, success. But not with our money anymore.

4 Replies to “If You Can’t Say Something Nice…”

  1. i don’t understand the popularity of this place, other than the fact that many many people don’t care about what they’re eating. nothing wrong with that. i don’t care what i’m wearing, and i’m sure that baffles a lot of people.on my last visit here, i ordered the steak sandwich. i requested that it be served on the italian bread that they have, rather than the bread that was on the menu. the waiter said that wouldn’t be a problem. before the apps came out for my guests the whole lot came out, and that was before the water was delivered. the steak sandwich bread request was obviously ignored, and the steak was about 3 ounces of the thinnest steak you’ve ever seen. and it was around 12 dollars. i was reminded why i don’t go there. drew nieporent, the NYC restaurateur, has mentioned this as a local favorite of his (he lives in Ridgewood). maybe i’m missing something. the pizza, isn’t all that bad, so maybe that’s what he’s eating. and maybe he gets better service because, you know, he’s drew, and i’m not.

  2. I have eaten in a few of Nieporent’s restaurants, so I can vouch for his skills. Maybe he just doesn’t want to think too much about it when he is at home. Or, perhaps he is friendly with the owner and doesn’t want to say what he really thinks. Who knows? Actually, I know that I won’t go back, unless coerced.

  3. he, is not a chef. he’s a businessman. so i wouldn’t be surprised necessarily if he doesn’t have very good taste. his does have a couple of good restaurants for sure.now if mario were to say that Fratelli is one of his favorite, well gee i don’t know what i’d do.

  4. I find it hard to believe that he can’t tell the difference between good food and crappy food. I think he can, but just doesn’t care. Or, as I mentioned earlier, he has some personal connection and doesn’t want to insult a friend’s restaurant. Mario is a real chef. He may be a good businessman as well, but it is obvious that he can cook, and that he loves eating.Either way, Fratelli is not good food.

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