Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Roberta’s and Sixpoint Craft Ales: a night of highs and unbelievable lows

Roberta’s
$$
**
261 Moore St., Brooklyn
718.417.1118
http://www.robertaspizza.com/

Last week, Sixpoint Craft Ales celebrated their fifth anniversary with a week-long series of events throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, one of which was a Fifth Anniversary Celebration at Roberta’s in Brooklyn. When word reached Little Scarlet of an all-you-can-eat three hour event with “unlimited beers and unlimited pizza and organic salad plus assorted dessert offerings baked with Sixpoint beer”, for only $32 - it was a no-brainer!

Unfortunately, this event truly failed to live up to its promise and became a complete disaster.

I met up with some friends from my dinner club a few minutes before the event was scheduled to begin, since tickets were expected to sell out and attendees were advised to arrive early - “so you are not disappointed”, they said. The atmosphere upon arrival was great - long tables of dark, rustic wood lined Roberta’s industrial interior and the staff were weaving in and out of guests, serving pizzas and salads family-style. Growlers of Sixpoint beer were brought to the tables just like the pizza, and the outside bar on the backyard deck was charming, with a bonfire nearby and a light flurry of snow just starting to come down.

So far, so good, right? That’s what we thought. Just wait.

The pizza was good - great, even. Roberta’s pizza belongs to the school of thick, doughy crust, slightly charred in places from their wood-fired oven and with a generous one-inch rim of crust on each 12-inch pie. Their Margherita pizza is satisfyingly saucy, cheesy, and chewy, with the great flavor that only fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil can deliver.

Margherita pizza

Roberta’s topping combinations are creative yet impressively simple, as in their “Madd Martigan” pizza, with mozzarella, mushrooms, pesto, and artichoke, and a special pie for the Fifth Anniversary Celebration, consisting of mozzarella, crispy prosciutto cotto, red onions, and mushrooms.

Madd Martigan pizza

Sixpoint Craft Ales Fifth Anniversary Celebration “special” pizza

Their bibb lettuce salad, full of toasted walnuts and gorgonzola, is brightened by a splash of sweet-tart dried cherry vinaigrette, and Sixpoint’s beers are on point, as always - full of great flavor and exactly what you wanted to go with Roberta’s straight-from-the-oven pizzas.

Again - so far, so good, right? This sounds awesome, what could possibly have gone wrong? Get ready, because here it comes.

Apparently, it turns out that “3 hours of unlimited beers and unlimited pizza” was more of an advertising gimmick than an actual guarantee. After enjoying some pizza and beer for a little over 1 hour, we were asked to leave to make way for people who had shown up late and were waiting to sit down. We were surprised to hear that the event had been oversold and that we were “hogging” the table - being savvy New Yorkers, we had shown up early and expected to get what we paid for. But while being asked to leave early didn’t seem right, we were sympathetic to the latecomers’ plight, so we asked for one more pizza and promised to leave right after. One of our friends had been outside refilling our growler of beer during this exchange and upon his return, our harried waiter had “had enough.”

Before we knew what was happening, this waiter-on-a-power-trip took away what was left of the pizza, our full glasses of beer, and told us to “Get the fuck out.” Stunned and confused, we stammered that we had been peaceably enjoying the evening and weren’t sure why we were being forcibly thrown out. Our waiter revealed that he was, in fact, the owner and threw our money ($160 in cash!) at us, telling us to never, ever come back.

Well, Roberta’s, point well taken. The food is good, good enough that I could have been convinced to make the long trek out to Bushwick a second time. But if that’s how the owners want to run their business, there’s more than enough great pizza in New York to keep me from returning.

Bottom line? If Bushwick’s not too far away and you want good pizza, go ahead - give Roberta’s a try. But if they throw any events in the future, I’d be sure to stay far away.

Unless, of course, you’re looking for a good story to tell.

28 comments:

  1. Hahahaha

    He threw you out just like that? Why was he so pissed?

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  2. Good God! Sounds like he's unhinged! That is so so SO bizarre...and RUDE!!! Well you've certainly convinced me not to EVER go there. I think we should find a Roberta's-like pizza place in Manhattan that won't end with "Get the fuck out" :)

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  3. Wow! That's ridiculous!

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  4. There are no words for this kind of treatment. The customer is always right. Period. End of story. As a small business owner, that guy had better learn that lesson fast.

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  5. Restaurant owners are stars of their own movies, and tantrums like this (Eli Zabar was famous for his in-store whoppers!) should be thrown out of sight of paying customers. If Roberta's owner can't keep a growing hysteria out in the alley behind the kitchen, he should find a new line of work. Shame, though - beer and pizza done this well are better than sun and sand.

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  6. And you say this was a 5th Anniversary gig? How did these folks make it through those long years?

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  7. That is absolutely INSANE! Apparently the owner does not actually want repeat business?! It is not the fault of the customer that they oversold the event. If you paid for three hours, you should actually be able to enjoy three hours.

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  8. nytimes just posted a link to a promo video for roberta's (http://vimeo.com/9475657) and around the 2:00 mark there's a guy holding up a big wad of cash - just like the one that got thrown at us when he told us to get the f* out!

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  9. Every time I tell this story...EVERY time...the listener is shocked and awed by the audacity of the owner. After they recover, they swear off going there ever again. It's a neat trick.

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  10. this sounds like nonsense to me and you hardly read like a savvy new yorker. additionally, it is statistically impossible for customers to be always right.

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  11. @Anonymous above: I never said the customer was always right, but I do think you should get what you pay for. And I think most New Yorkers would agree.

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  12. the event was $30. For unlimited beer and pizza!!!??? GOOD PIZZA??!!! GOOD BEER!!!!???? How much beer did you have? I bet more than $30 worth. Stop whining.

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  13. Sounds like you told an exaggerated side of the story, it lacks any kind of logic. I know the owners, they are nice people, they built that restaurant with their bare hands. You must have been major douchebags for them to kick you out. What have you ever created in your life? Besides critique of other peoples creations.

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  14. Also read the description of event which you linked to.

    "There will be plenty of food for everyone,
    but not everyone will be eating simultaneously,"

    I'm pretty sure they weren't kicking you out initially, they just wanted to let other people sit and eat. I guess you were too savvy to share you table.

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  15. @Anonymous, two above: You're right, the story does lack any kind of logic - which is what makes it worth mentioning. I didn't have anything bad to say about Roberta's, the review of the food and the restaurant itself is full of praise. Your friends did a great job on the place. Sometimes people snap when they're having a bad day and I'm sure that's what happened on this night. But it's still worth mentioning in a review.

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  16. why dont you haters re-read the review? they were one drink away from getting up from the table when the sh*t hit the fan, so its not a question of following the rules or being douchebags. if you ask someone to leave and they say can i finish my food and you say yes.... what kind of business are you running when you lie and throw them out? as someone who was there that night and saw this go down (unlike you guys), i can tell you the owner acted totally out of line.

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  17. There is no need to be hurling insults here, that's just inappropriate. Maybe the owners really are great people, and, there's no arguing that great people get stressed. But they could have handled their stress with a little more grace and class. Also, let he who has never whined about poor service cast the first stone...

    Oh and, @anonymous #9, ("you must have been major douchebags...") It takes one to know one.

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  18. This story doesn't make much sense.

    Can you give more info about how long you were there, what your bill was, etc.

    If it was a more than full event, and the invite included that "not everyone will be eating simultaneously," I can see where asking for an additional pizza before moving (pizza ransom?) -- especially if you'd had more pizza/beer/salad than the other guests, and/or were insisting on not sharing your table at a come-one-and-all family/style event -- would invite a request to leave. How it got into a refund and harsh words, who knows. That's where/why it sounds like pieces of the story are missing. If you're sore about whatever happened, it wouldn't surprise me to see that spill into this medium. The circumstances aren't really very clear here, and neither is the nature and tone of the exchanges the preceded it.

    Anyway, I know I sound doubtful. I just have no idea who you are, but having been there, the story just doesn't make sense. Whenever I hear a story told this aghast, and with no insight into the exchanges... I don't know, your 'review' just sounds more like revenge (a continuation of the tangle) than dining advice. As such, I'm skeptical.

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  19. I commented a minute ago.

    I just wanted to add that a bit part of my skepticism, stems from your friends/table mates commenting on here, with a really juvenile egging tone ('look at this video with money just like he threw at us..", 're-read haters', 'lie and throw them out', 'swear off ever going back. Its a neat trick', 'takes one to know one' -- not sure if this reader is included.)

    Also, your walking back/softening of your sentiments, after a few readers remarked about the place's creative success and the possibility that you were being asked and refused to share table space, is what makes me think there is more to this story. When someone honestly distills and makes public their opinion, it comes without reservation. When caveats emerge, its because they rushed to speak (and the reason/motivation for that is usually a big part of the story.) Elements of the review and the pool of comments from your friends has an adolescent tone to it (no goading or offense intended, just being honest.)

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  20. As someone who was there that night, I want to address some of the comments above. The issue is not with how kind the owners of Roberta's are, nor the quality of the pizza or beer. The issue is that they advertised three hours of unlimited beer and pizza and could not deliver. To one of the commenters above: what made the whole night so bizarre was that it DID degenerate from "give your table to those arriving late" to "get the fuck out" within a five minute timeframe. Everyone at the table was sober, quiet, and polite. We indicated that after the last pizza, we would vacate our table and enjoy the outside patio, but we weren't given the opportunity to do that. It's not necessarily about what's right or wrong, but what was advertised and paid for vs. what was delivered.

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  21. @Anonymous, above: Thanks for the thoughtful comments. Obviously, I don't have a hand in the Comments people choose to leave, but with respect to my own, I haven't said anything down here in the Comments section that I didn't also say in the review. I haven't backpedaled or softened my statements, and I stand by what I said - good food, good atmosphere, bad service at this event. The restaurant is reviewed independently of the event specifically because of the evening's Jekyll-and-Hyde aspect. It is fair to recommend Roberta's for lunch/dinner out, but with the admonishment that they are not even hosts and if you go for an event, you're taking a gamble.

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  22. people seem pissed because you said in the comments that you think they flipped out because they oversold the event, but you don't mention this in the review. i say, so what? you don't need to make excuses for someone else's bad behavior to give accurate "dining advice". when i read bad reviews other places (and really, this review is hardly a *bad* one), i've never seen the author say "oh the service was really bad - but you know they were probably just having a hard day."

    i live just off the L in brooklyn and you know what? i'll still go to roberta's for the occasional slice, although i now have my own skepticism about events they might hold in the future. let's just ease up everyone.

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  23. I think this arguing is ridiculous! If you don't like the reviews, don't go there! And if you enjoy hearing other peoples opinions and are still capable of making your own, then even better! It seems likes its a restaurant that was good, and had lousy service that day. I currently reside in VA but grew up in New York, and there are places all over the south that are like that. They either make it or they don't! People have good days and bad days. Who cares if you know the blogger or the owners personally.

    Grow up and let it lie.

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  24. It does seem silly to argue about this. And I do not understand the suggestion that the reviewer should not include a situation like this in his/her review of a restaurant. Clearly, regardless of the awesome pizza and beer (which was certainly praised in the review!), the entire evening and experience in the restaurant was changed by what happened. I don't think this is "revenge"- if I had heard only a good review and received this type of service when I went to try the place out, I know I would be upset that the reviewer did not mention it! I realize you cannot have the whole story, but it sounds to me like the restaurant could not actually host the type of event it tried to run. And that really should not be the fault of the customer!

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  25. you are all a bunch of herbs

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  26. How much pizza were you trying to eat after being there for over an hour? Binge eating is bad for you.

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  27. @ Whoever Knows the Owners, having just read through the comments I'd be interested in hearing what the owners have to say. If they gave away a bunch of cash that night I'm sure they remember what happened.

    I know many restaurant owners who have built their businesses from scratch and I can't imagine what a customer would have to do to get the owner to react as stated above, so I'd like to hear from their perspective what happened.

    Questions to get the juices flowing: 1) was the event advertised as "all you can eat/drink" with no restrictions, and did you limit the diners? 2) what did the diners do to elicit cursing, refunding, and kick the diners out (if that is what happened - feel free to add your perspective)? 3) do you think this is a good business practice and would you take the same course of action in the future?

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  28. Wow, this comments section has just about as much drama as that night did.

    Portia's recollection of the night's events are written in a very kind light compared to how most people would react after the same type of treatment. For those who read the article with skepticism, please know that the entire article is true. (What about it is so unbelievable?) And to set things straight, our group is not loud, rude or petty. We're not mean spirited, obnoxious, or egocentric. We happen to be regular everyday people (with a strong affinity for enjoying food and drinks.) We're the ones who thank the servers, watch the kitchen in awe and respect the food that is served. We were there that night to celebrate, eat, drink and have fun. It's just unfortunate that it was cut short by what was probably a misperception.

    I think getting kicked out of Roberta's meant something slightly different to each of us. To some, it was not being given something as advertised. To others, it was having food and beer snatched out of our hands and being told to "get the fuck out" because we were being "dicks."

    We got our money back and words are only words.

    For me, it was the owner's complete lack of professionalism and his adamant ignorance to his actions that rattled my nerves. If anyone from that night witnessed this event, I was the one talking with the owner during the aftermath of this debacle. I first tried to speak with him as he asked us - oh so kindly - to leave. He called me a "dick" and wouldn't give me a chance to say a word. We weren't shouting at him. We weren't fighting back. We all just stood up quietly, grabbed our coats and left. As my friends exited the restaurant, I stayed behind and explained to him very calmly that there had been a misunderstanding. He wouldn't budge from his judgment, but I pressed on. We spoke for more than 15 minutes about how things had unraveled and he eventually calmed down enough to say that we are welcome back another time. We shook hands and I left.

    The fact that it took me over a quarter of an hour to explain to a restaurateur that a timid group of food lovers were not a threat and have him realize that cursing at us was not the best solution is just plain ridiculous. I guess the idea that an insulted guest would stay behind and calm down an irate owner (and not the other way around) is a bit bizarre too. But most of all, the outcome of this event is truly disappointing because the food at Roberta's is outstanding and I would love to go back. But then... I realize that we live in New York City and they're not the only outstanding restaurant in town. :)

    Oh well.

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