We’ve been to this place a dozen times over about five years and always liked it. It’s incredibly noisy and they don’t take reservations so (because, I think, it’s mentioned in guidebooks and also pretty good eating) there may be a bit of a lineup. But generally it’s been worth it.
The menu is simple italiano, and we have usually ordered the specials, always a pizza and a pasta. Good solid basic noodles and pizza crust, and toppings mixing salty and savory things like prosciutto, buratta, olives, clams, pecorino. Lots of olive oil, and also lots of casual friendly irreverent fast-moving knowledgeable sexy service. Fun.
By the time you get out of there with a decent bottle of wine for about $80 (in the past they always seem to have wonderful barolos), it isn’t a breathtaking bargain, and you might shake your head a bit at the …dunno… $150 with the nice tip these people deserve.
So we return to our favourite little place after an absence of maybe almost a year, and find things have changed a bit. The food is still very good. We had buratta salad and delicious sausage pasta along with an Umbria wine recommended and served up at $75, and couldn’t have complained. But the guy behind the bar, instead of chatting colloquially and intelligently about food and wine while he prepares delicacies like we were used to, is slick and unresponsive. Answers to questions are cleverly sales-oriented, and he’s in a hurry. No longer are the delicacies prepared in front of your nose like a sushi bar. Mr. maître d’ behind the bar is strictly concerned with glad-handing and reeling off food and wine descriptions with a combination of boredom and a strange reverse-snob arrogance. Like most of the people here are regulars and what the hell are you doing asking questions?
Does this kind of thing matter? Of course it does. In retrospect the reason we loved this place was that ineffable fun, along with the reliably tasty food. Well you can get reliably tasty food and be patronized like a fool for quite a bit less money elsewhere.
Maybe they just hired one off-message employee. But maybe the whole philosophy and management has changed. We will give it one more chance. This time: ambience 6.1, service 5.2, food 7.8, overall value 5.2.