Last week, The Boyfriend and I decided to try Vito’s by the Park in Hartford (by Bushnell Park…get it? get it?) before heading to a show at The Bushnell. Both of us had been there many, many, many years ago and had not been terribly impressed. In fact, we’d been so unimpressed that it took seven years and a $25 gift certificate to get us back there.
I realize that Vito’s has been by the park for a really long time but I can’t come up with a decent explanation as to why. The atmosphere is a little dated and just misses the mark on charming. From the looks of it, their clientele is on the older side so keeping the place hip and funky looking would probably turn them off…understandable. However, the service left more than a little to be desired.
First, the bus boy (who may or may not have had a learning disability so I’ll be gentle here since I think all people should be able to work) got lost bringing the bread to the table. The real problem though was the wait staff interacting with him; they were not helpful or polite or even nice to him in plain view and earshot of customers.
Our waitress at first seemed like she’d be fine. She was initially pleasant but it soon became apparent that she possessed the grace and social abilities of a crustacean…with none of the cuteness of The Little Mermaid’s Sebastian. She was brash, abrupt, and borderline rude. There was no hint of solicitousness in service as one usually finds in wait staff–even at Friendly’s.
I watched her with other tables, thinking maybe it was just us because we were younger than the normal guests and had a gift certificate. While this shouldn’t affect the service, it sometimes does. Nope, she was just as uncouth with the older crowd sans gift certificates–her phrasing when taking away plates (“You’re done with this, right?” rather than “Can I get this out of your way?”), her tone of voice, even her body language, and pace suggested that we were in her way and she was doing us all a favor. It wasn’t particularly crowded and there were other wait staff on duty, so it didn’t appear to be because she overwhelmed.
The food also left something to be desired. It wasn’t terrible, but just okay…like Olive Garden. The fried calamari didn’t come with marinara, but with ketchup-like cocktail sauce. The sauce was cold, weird and made me wonder what chef thought that this would be a nice “twist” on the traditional because he must have been high.
When the dishes arrived (50…count them, FIFTY minutes passed since we ordered) and our server brought the obligatory fresh parmesan, her stellar serving skills shone once again. I will be the first to admit that I am one of those customers who leave servers with carpal tunnel from grating cheese. I like a lot of it, but have cut down as of late. There clearly was not enough left in our server’s grater as very little came out. Rather than go and get another–which I know they can do in restaurants as I’ve seen it done–she stopped and said, “That’s enough, right?” I wanted to say “WRONG MISSY!” but she had already taken off–and frankly, I didn’t want to inspire an even worse attitude.
Our main dishes were okay (remember I’m using Olive Garden as the standard). I had the lobster ravioli and The Boyfriend had chicken Marsala. Seriously, nothing to comment on and not a thing to call special…it was passable and…okay. However, after waiting almost an hour for them to come out, I would have eaten just about anything.
There was no way in hell we were going to try for dessert, so I can’t say whether their desserts might have redeemed the entire experience, but I’m going to hazard a guess and say no.
Vito’s by the Park gets half a salt shaker because there’s nothing salty about sub-sub-par service (and apparently it was rampant in the place because I also overheard the manager chastising the wait staff for standing around when there were three tables to be cleared), and mediocre food. But neither of us got sick, so it’s got that going for it.