“Ah shut up silly woman, said that reptile with a grin…”

by Katie Pizzuto on June 10, 2013

in Restaurants,Reviews

I have never, in my 42 years of life (unless there’s a childhood story my parents somehow forgot to regale me with), made a scene in a restaurant…until last week. I have never raised my voice at a server, argued with a manager or slammed my hands on a table…until last week. Countless times I’ve had to send things back that weren’t properly cleaned, cooked or served, sure, but it was always met with an apology and a quick fix. What went down last week pissed me off on such a primal level that my fingers strained from the pain of wanting to reach for my computer keyboard in some visceral form of retribution. I tell you this…I am most proud of myself for not cursing my face off as I’m sometimes known to do. But I am least proud of myself for not walking straight out their doors without paying a fucking cent, regardless of the food we did eat. But hey, it was raining and I was in heels, and given the brass set on the two women I dealt with, I guess I was afraid they’d actually catch up, take me down and swipe my purse from under my bruised body.

portobello

Portobello Feasts in Oakland, NJ sprawls itself across a corner of suburbia in a failed attempt to resemble a romantic Tuscan villa. The various sections of the restaurant have names like Sala da Pranzo, Cucina Rustica and Osteria that speak of its supposed Italian leanings, and yet there are spring rolls, coconut shrimp, Portuguese mussels and sushi on the menu. Fucking sushi, people!! But absolutely none of this has any bearing on what happened last week. None of it would ever have mattered if the folks that manage the place—the word ladies would be a stretch that would rival any 7th inning—had remembered that they were in the service industry. All would have been right in the Pizzuto universe had they done their jobs which, at the end of the day if a restaurant is to stay in business, is to make customers happy.

I had ordered Filet Mignon Oscar, medium rare, which was supposed to come with crabmeat, asparagus and a béarnaise sauce. I should have known the shit storm was about to begin when the plates arrived and my filet was served sliced. Anyone ever order a filet mignon that came presliced? Anyone? Beuller? Beuller? It didn’t look like it was medium rare but I gave them the benefit of the doubt and took a bite. That I politely spit into my napkin and wrapped up. It wasn’t anywhere in the same galaxy as medium rare. I asked the waiter to please have the kitchen refire the dish because it was definitely overcooked. And just like that the plate was gone.

And three minutes later, just like that, the plate was back, at the end of the extended hand of the maitre d’ who proceeded to tell me that if I would get out of my seat and go to her office with her, where I could see under “better lighting”, I would realize that the steak was, in fact, medium rare. That I was, in fact, completely wrong. That the kitchen, in fact, was refiring absolutely nothing. Of course I refused and continued to ask for a new plate, but she insisted that I was being fooled by the poor lighting in the dining room. So I (the fool, the idiot, the wrong customer) told her if that was their version of medium rare then she should just ask the kitchen to cook it rare. She continued to be belligerent, asking me if I knew what “rare” meant. I insisted that was fine, and just like that the plate was gone.

And three minutes later, just like that, there was a second hellhound that appeared tableside, standing next to hellhound #1, and the damned plate was back. “Ma’am this steak is definitely medium rare. If you’d just…” And that was the last word I heard before I slammed my hands down on the table, sending a half-empty glass of Chianti teetering on its edge. “That’s it!” I screamed. “Take the dish off the damned check and give it to me now!” The few diners there were in the upstairs room…the sala, the osteria, the whatever the hell it was…stared uncomfortably, wondering what could possibly have gone so wrong that an otherwise civil looking woman was ranting like a patient loosed from an asylum.

Not once but twice I had been told that I couldn’t have what I wanted. That they weren’t willing to try to make me happy. That I should get up and follow her to her office so she could prove me wrong. That I was a fool who didn’t know her degrees of doneness and should just shut up and eat what she was served. My rant at the restaurant was a mere ripple-causing pebble. The rant that ensued afterward on Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, Zagat, Yelp and now on this blog is the avalanche-starting boulder. If you are from Jersey, do yourself a favor and don’t give this restaurant a dime of your money. If you’re from Jersey and you have a conscience, feel free to tell everyone you know what assholes these people are so that they don’t step foot in the restaurant, either. It came as little surprise to read that the bosses at Portobello (aka Beviamo Corp.) are being sued by a former chef under claims that they habitually insulted him (a Latino U.S. citizen) with comments such as, “Get used to it, Taco Boy, because illegal(s) got no rights in this country; you guys are lucky we pay you.” Unless you like your meals served with a heaping side of Crudites, stay the hell away.

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Reverend Flash June 11, 2013

Good for you, Katie. I try to stand up for myself in bad food service situations, too. For instance, the other day, I was at the Barclays Center snack bar, and I brazenly ordered a Brooklyn Cheeseburger for $9.75. I made up for the overpricing by bringing some whiskey and covertly drinking it while walking from my parking space so as to not spend oodles on Barclays Brooklyn Budweiser. BUT, I did venture to spend an extra dollar (5 instead of 4) on the ‘souvenir’ soda. This way, I’d at least have a souvenir of the concert without spending upwards of 50 bucks on a damn t-shirt. Now, being that I was tanked a bit on a diet shake bottle full of Canadian Club and Hawaiian Punch (an internationally violent cocktail), I didn’t initially notice that my ‘souvenir’ soda was nothing more than a regular 20-ounce bottle of Coke Zero. After finishing my burger and beginning to sip my soda, the truth darkly dawned on me. So, during the intermission (McCartney warbling through ‘My Valentine’ to amuse himself), I joined the rest of the crowd in heading for the snack bar.
WELL, you’d swear the chicks working the counter were from Oakland or something as they gave me one unsatisfying excuse after another as to why I couldn’t get the actual souvenir container cup even though that’s what I ordered, paid for, and showed a receipt for. Well, I’ve been taken advantage of while drunk before, but not this time. I persisted with my own arguements until a team leader had the smarts to finally give me what I wanted before my face got as red as my eyes.
Okay, so maybe that wasn’t much like your experience, but the point is we need to be firm when we spend our money in any kind of food establishment, especially if a restaurant thinks it can serve up bull in lieu of decent cow. I’m going to immediately check my personal Places At Which To Eat list on my computer and make sure that Portabello Beasts is not on it.

P.S. As I was writing this, my computer mocked me by randomly playing ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want'(the Glee version, no less).

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2 Katie Pizzuto June 11, 2013

1. You had me at “canadian club and hawaiian punch”.
2. I’m the idiot that still pays $50 bucks for a shirt just cuz I’m such a music dork that I love collecting my tees.
3. Please do yourself the favor and never go within a stone’s throw of the place.
4. Glee? Seriously?

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3 Mike April 21, 2015

PORTOBELLOS IS A PATHETIC EXCUSE FOR A RESTURANT. EAT SOMEWHERE WHERE YOU WON’T GET FOOD POISONING. BEWARE EATING HERE.

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4 Mike Flood June 11, 2013

Being in the service industry of another genre, I can’t believe this.The ol’ customer is ALWAYS right. omg

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5 Kristen Menzella June 11, 2013

What an astoundingly horrific experience!! I have to say I absolutely cannot stand the audacity of these people…I detest when I hear of customers, the ones “buying” the food or product geting treated in such a way!!!! It’s called “Customer Service” for goodness sake….and good for you to put the word out there Katie!!!!!

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6 Kathleen June 11, 2013

No restaurant should do that. My husband would have made you another and would have bought you desert.

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7 Robbin June 11, 2013

I would have walked out and not bothered with them taking it off!

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8 Katie Pizzuto June 11, 2013

Really, really, really should have. I mentioned the heels and the rain, but honestly I could have taken those two barefoot.

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9 Lynda June 11, 2013

we had the same experience jeff and i years ago, and the owner embrassed us too. jeff knew the bartender 30 years, chris….we went there at least once a week…when i first moved to wanaque and went there for about 8 years….jeff ordered veal and it didnt taste like veal chops…it taste like pork…sent it back then it was ok…….next time we went in the owner came out with a raw piece of meat….and threw it in front of jeff at the bar and told him this is what he got last time……but it wasnt….Portbello we were told by many people that do not go there any more, has been cited for sub. meats, dirty kitchen and many complaints…shocked he is still in business…try travato in oakland very nice guy, tony

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10 Mellisa April 21, 2015

I have heard of the owner Frank coming out and pulling stunts like that. He acts like a thug from the streets who owns a restaurant. Portobellos is a sad pathetic excuse for a restaurant.

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11 Laurie June 11, 2013

OMG This is crazy! I am so sorry you had to deal with them. They are OFF our list of places for sure!

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12 Valerie June 11, 2013

OMG! We went there years ago and was not impressed. I can’t believe they are still in business especially after what you just posted and Lynda posted. Do they hv a FB page? It should be posted where their patrons can see it. Just terrible.

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13 Katie Pizzuto June 11, 2013

Interestingly enough no social media at all. No FB, no Twitter account, nothing. Not surprised.

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14 Jennifer June 11, 2013

I actually feel like the restaurant was better before they moved. Since they expanded it felt to me like it went downhill, but I never would have expected anything as crazy as that- nuts!!!!

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15 coupe 60 June 11, 2013

It’s quite obvious that this blog entry has been cooking for far too long…I am pretty sure that you don’t really know anything about the proper spacing of blog posts, and if you would only come to my office where you can view my calendar in better lighting you would know that the post is far over done…

To be honest, I’m glad somebody did something that got you writing again….Missed my Gonzo fix my friend…Very happy to read a Katie Rant….

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16 Katie Pizzuto June 11, 2013

Nice to be mised 🙂

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17 the ruminate June 12, 2013

well said….yes, good to have you writing again! So you were fooled by the lighting? Um…it’s a restaurant, isn’t it about *taste*?

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18 Katie Pizzuto June 12, 2013

tried explaining that to her but I guess my tastebuds needed better light as well.

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19 coupe 60 June 11, 2013

Hey… If you wanted something not cooked, you shoulda ordered the frigging Italian Sushi… Entitled Food blogger

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20 Katie Pizzuto June 11, 2013

Update: my review has apparently been removed from Yelp! Some hell is heading their way too.

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21 Phil Oxera June 11, 2013

You can’t do that yea Bozette. The maitre d’ is me first cousin!!! Totally traumatised so she was!

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22 Julius June 11, 2013

You should have barfed on the table and threatened to sue them for food poisoning.

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23 Katie Pizzuto June 12, 2013

Man, where are you people when I need you? LOL

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24 1WineDude June 12, 2013

LIKE!!!

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25 the ruminate June 12, 2013

well said….yes, good to have you writing again! So you were fooled by the lighting? Um…it’s a restaurant, isn’t it about *taste*?

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26 Katie Pizzuto June 12, 2013

This is to let everyone know that I received the following email from Yelp:

“I’m writing to let you know that we’ve removed your review update of Portobello. Our Support team has determined that it falls outside our Content Guidelines (http://www.yelp.com/guidelines) because it does not contain a new firsthand experience with the business.”

Not sure how else you would categorize an experience that happened directly to me, but the battle has begun. I’ll let you know what they say.

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27 coupe 60 June 14, 2013

Well in fairness, you did not eat your entree…how could you possibly be positioned to give a review of their food.

and really isn’t that what its should all be about?

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28 Katie Pizzuto June 14, 2013

Fuck no, that’s not what it’s all about. It’s equally about service. I wouldn’t go to a restaurant that had great food and terrible service. So reviewing that is just as important….or are you just being a PITA?

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29 coupe 60 June 19, 2013

I refuse to believe that you actually asked that question…perhaps we can go to my office where the light is better and maybe you will be able to see I was just breaking shoes

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30 Katie Pizzuto June 19, 2013

you mean ANSWERED that question? If you are going to bust something on this blog please make it balls and not the shoes you have to use on WL Forums so it’s not seen as cursing 🙂

31 SS Chris June 13, 2013

Katie, I love you!!

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32 Katie Pizzuto June 14, 2013

🙂

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33 SS Chris June 13, 2013

BTW, I’ve never been to Portobello, but the picture reminds me Joe and Theresa Giudice’s house. uggghhhhHHHH!! LOL

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34 Aslan June 14, 2013

A provocative ingsiht! Just what we need!

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35 coupe 60 June 14, 2013

As I re-read this story, I do think that the one thing that would have made it even more amusing was if the Maitre d would have been a man, and asked you to go back to his office to look at his meat under better lighting…

if this little vignette makes it to your book, please take poetic license and make that change 🙂

The TV adaption of said book will be that much more amusing….

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36 coupe 60 June 14, 2013

oh and try and get Kate Upton to play Katie Pizzuto in the TV adaption…Same name…

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37 Katie Pizzuto June 14, 2013

no doubt. I’d do Hunter Thompson proud to take such poetic license anyway.

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38 smokenmirrors™ June 14, 2013

I believe that if Hunter Were still alive and went through what you did dining at Portobellos, patrons would have been ‘ducking for cover’ sometimes one needs to go ballistic.
Welcome back Katie

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39 Katie Pizzuto June 15, 2013

You couldn’t be more right………maybe. That was the beauty of his writing. Sometimes he actually went ballistic and other times, well other times truth was stranger than reality 😉

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40 Mellisa April 21, 2015

I have heard so many horror stories about Portobellos just like this and WORSE. She is 100% right.

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