Joanne and Amy write:
Ah, the holidays: overly ambitious social calendars, rapidly depleting check book balances and suburban shopping mall gridlock more typical of midtown Manhattan than Manchester. Clearly, venturing toward said area at this point--two days before Christmas-- is an exercise in frustration and should be avoided at all costs...Unless, of course, you are Amy or me, who might even brave a New England blizzard and gridlock for a holiday wine toast and to try a new restaurant, which is why we went to Bertucci's yesterday at the Buckland Hills Mall.
I got there first and ordered a half carafe of Sangiovese. At $11.50 this was a bargain for a 2+ glasses of decent wine. When Amy arrived a few minutes later, she did the same. I passed her the menu and told her she could decide on the pizza we would share.
We ordered "The Sporkie," a traditional crust pizza baked in a brick oven and topped with sweet Italian sausage, tomato sauce, and ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. We chose the large over the individual size, and when it arrived, Joanne and I just looked at each other, wondering how we were going to eat it all. It was much larger than we expected, but we'd just take some home after we finished. The menu had promised a "light, crispy crust," and while it was tasty, I found it to be thicker and more chewy than I would have liked. The tomato sauce was sweet as was the crumbled sausage. The ricotta seemed to have been placed in tablespoonfuls randomly around the pizza and was not spread well, but it imparted a creaminess to those bites that contained it. We each had two slices and were each able to take two home for a midnight, or perhaps next-morning snack.
Our service fell apart when our server, whose name we learned only when we asked, had given us our check before we were done with our dining experience. It was our Christmas celebration, after all, and we wanted a little liquid something for dessert. However, once she had packed up our leftover pizza, she put our check firmly on the bartop. I turned to Joanne to say, "I guess we're done," at the same time as she said, "Is she rushing us out of here or what?" We thought about leaving and having our dessert somewhere else, but couldn't face attempting to park again. We asked for the menu again, and taking our chances with more bad service from the bartender, ordered limoncello martinis. As we sipped the well-made drinks, we toasted the holidays and exchanged our gifts, both of us laughing at the coincidence of giving each other cookbooks. It was at this inopportune point that the server attempted to engage us in conversation. Alas, we were no longer interested.
Our experience at Bertucci's is exactly why we will begin, in 2009, giving separate grades for food and service. Our pizza and wine earned an admirable-for-a-chain-restaurant B. Our service, on the other hand, plummeted from a C to an F when our server held up our respectable tip (especially for her quality of service) to her sidekick and said "OMG," while we were putting on our coats, both within earshot and eyeshot...
Oh, yes, she did.