At least one new place that I try during restaurant week ends up being not everything it’s cracked up to be. This summer that place was Ristorante i Ricchi. The staff that greeted us at the door and at the bar was solicitous as we were seated efficiently at a central table in what looked less like a stylish DC power restaurant and more like a slightly uppity Olive Garden.
Many restaurants seem to participate in restaurant week because they think they have to, when in fact they are not really planning on making an effort. If it is not worth a high end restaurant’s time to participate, then that’s perfectly acceptable to me. However, rather than entice new customers, they will only succeed in alienating the public if they do not participate in the true spirit of offering someone a high quality meal that is representative of what you do in your restaurant. I remember how after I visited the Oval Room for lunch in 2006 and they deigned to bring us lunch for $20 that was a sliver of steak or three small ravioli. It was such a disappointment that I’ve had not inclination to go back, although I have been to other restaurants in the same restaurant group.
Back to i Ricchi…
Our waiter laid the charm on thick. A little too thick, in fact. Our salesman of a waiter started talking about how i Ricchi had been there for over 20 years serving Tuscan food and how it was a replica of a Florentine restaurant. This was not Florence. The easy, folksy charm gave way to pushy sales: "the sea bass on a scale of 1 to 10 is 11," "the tortellini is to die for," etc. We asked to actually take a moment to see the menu and soon saw that the sea bass seemed to cost as much as the $35.10 for the restaurant week dinner. Our waiter wanted to check that each and everyone of us was ok with ice water and not mineral water and pushed us to order the tortellini to share in addition to our restaurant week meal. The soup was underseasoned, the gypsy steak tasty, and the chocolate torte was a little too hard. There was nothing to write home about.
Earlier, I tried to order wine and asked if he recommended a certain bottle and he asked if he would steer me to something more expensive. I said no. But there was a similar bottle for the same price as my original choice. In the quick exchange I didn’t recall the name of the new selection and was brought the wrong bottle. I took the difference out of his tip.
The lesson for diners may be to give up on restaurant week at very high end restaurants and stick to middle market establishments. For restaurants it may be that the experience still counts and that service remains paramount, even when serving the unwashed masses during restaurant week. Needless to say, I won’t be going back to this restaurant. I can say that this is not how things are done in Florence.