PAPAS DON'T PREACH
For the past several weeks, I have watched with morbid fascination as La Bella Napoli owner Sam Macbale barbecues any critics who dare question his kitchen. Like a wronged mobster, he vows revenge and exacts it by taking out advertisements that personally assault these reviewers, such as Caryn B. Brooks. Now Ted Papas of Greek Cusina has gotten into the act, darkly hinting at some kind of retribution through an association of aggrieved restaurateurs [page 47, WW, July 31, and "Feeding Frenzy," Aug. 7, 2002].
I don't know Brooks. Never met the woman. But her role, as reviewer, is to offer assessment of an establishment's food, service and ambience, among other criteria. You are both mistaken in the belief that effusive praise is the only manner in which a food critic can evaluate your restaurant, especially if such praise is unwarranted. And hyperventilating about a critic's lack of qualifications or training is code for your desire to serve only those critics who offer unending praise. Nobody wants to read a dishonest review like this. So Brooks didn't care for La Bella Napoli. Big deal. Discerning readers will read a review, whether positive or negative, and decide for themselves. To Sam and Ted, then:
Because of the viciousness and hysteria with which you have conducted your campaign, I will not be a patron at either of your restaurants. If someone in my party were to complain, would this person face execution on site? I am not willing to take this chance, no matter how good the food might be.
Southeast 16th Avenue
After seeing La Bella Napoli's third (!) notice to the public proclaiming their triumph over Miss Dish and the superiority of their tiramisu, I feel forced to respond. I was sympathetic when I read the first full-page notice accusing Miss Dish of a cruel and ignorant attack on their reputation. I love tiramisu, and I thought it would be fun to get in on the action, so I took them up on their invitation that Monday to prove Miss Dish wrong. Well, not only did the decor really bum me out (a bizarre mural of a naked woman), but the tiramisu did suck. It was very small, appeared to have been put on the plate with an ice-cream scoop, and my partner and I agreed it did taste like a pile of whipped cream. We ate it unhappily and wished we hadn't. Then we wimped out and didn't ask for our money back, as was due us according to the restaurant's challenge. I have to say it hurt to pay those six dollars. Then to see La Bella Napoli's subsequent notices/advertisements--I know I fell for a publicity stunt. Shame on them! Sorry I doubted you, Miss Dish.
Southeast Center Street
HOLD YOUR PEN HIGH
Miss Dish: I am flummoxed, flabbergasted, dismayed, upset, etc., by the overreaction of certain members of the restaurant community to your review of La Bella Napoli ["See Naples and Sigh," July 3, 2002]. I don't imagine it's much fun for you to sit quietly and watch as these yahoos buy full-page WW spreads and use them to trash you and your opinions. But please: Don't let the buzzards get you down.
In my humble opinion, you were simply doing your job (and doing it well). You have nothing to apologize for.
As for the owners of La Bella Napoli and Greek Cusina, two words: Grow up.
THE CHEESE STANDS ALONE
If ever the old adage "if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen" applied to a situation, the recent flak concerning Miss Dish and La Bella Napoli would be the one. A person can only wonder at the power of the press when a single reviewer can create such a hyped response. Truly, does a single review hold such sway as to make or break a great restaurant? Opinions are just that and rarely agree when excellence is not obvious. I would suggest that restaurant owners/chefs be more concerned with the quality of their ingredients and the preparation of their product than the printed word of a review. No matter if you call it Antipasto, Antipasta or Antipasti, not a single Italian restaurant should be using Danish Fontina for anything other than floor tile. Considering how easy it is to get Fontina Val d'Aosta D.O.P. (the true Fontina of Italy), as well as its lesser cousin Fontal, I cannot, as a professional of 15 years in specialty food/specialty cheese and a French-apprenticed cheese monger, begin to conceive of a reason other than ignorance of product or greed over food costs to justify using such a tasteless, industrially produced product. It is a wonder that Miss Dish even gave it credit as mozzarella (yikes--what kind of cheese do you people eat?). Trust me on this one: If such a lackadaisical choice was made concerning cheese, the public can only guess at what other ingredients made the menu.
Shannon Thorne, Cheese Monger
Northwest 23rd Place